Miller in political version of two-step

September 28, 2010 

That whooshing sound you hear is Joe Miller furiously backpedaling from his extreme right positions in order to get somewhere near the middle before the election.

While I realize Mr. Miller would prefer we believe that the media has merely screwed up his message for their own nefarious purposes, the bottom line is that his primary campaign left a wealth of written and spoken material that would indicate otherwise. For those of us who thought the most fun of the senate campaign would be watching Mr. McAdams attempt to suck enough oxygen up to at least get a weekly mention in the media, it now seems as though the fun will be watching Mr. Miller twist his previous statements into unrecognizable form in order to appeal to the great middle of the electorate.

My favorite tortured explanation so far is how, when he stated that federal funding for certain programs such as education and unemployment benefits were unconstitutional and should be eliminated, what he REALLY meant was that the federal government should give the money to the state to administer those programs. Wow.

I thought I was pretty much immune to the vagaries of political logic and the twisted meaning given to what seem like perfectly clear statements when it occurs to a candidate that the electorate is not buying their positions. I was wrong.

Congratulations, Mr. Miller. In a world of 24-hour news cycles that includes the often insane rants of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, you have actually managed to climb higher and reach a whole new level of revisionist rhetoric. And you and your campaign are doing it with a straight fact. May I once again say, "Wow."

It's not that I don't understand why you are backpedaling. After all, as someone whose education was paid for by my tax dollars and whose jobs were mostly government funded and who once accepted a federal subsidy, you are almost required to back away from some of your more extreme positions. They were useful to you during the primary because without them you would never have attracted the tea party to your side with all their money.

But now that you face the general electorate, you have to appeal to not only angry tea partiers but also to a lot of Alaskans whose salary depends on the continuance of federal dollars in Alaska, to say nothing of unemployment benefits and grandmom's Social Security checks. To claim you want to eliminate the very programs that bring those dollars here would be political suicide. To have your position go from eliminating federal dollars for education to reducing federal dollars for education makes it a lot easier for people to swallow.

Here's my problem, though. Which of these candidates -- the primary Mr. Miller or the general election Mr. Miller -- is the real Mr. Miller? Did you stake out an extreme position in the primary in order to attract the Outside notice you needed to fill your campaign coffers and so the more moderate candidate we are now hearing from is the real Mr. Miller? Or are you now modifying your positions in order to get votes and, upon election, will revert to the primary persona?

It just seems as though we should know for whom we are voting since, in your case, there seems to be two distinct candidates. So who are you? The candidate who claimed that the federal government should not be funding student loans or the candidate who "clarified" this by saying that you meant federal money could be used for education but the state should administer the program?

And really, I need you to decide if you actually think the Department of Education is unconstitutional, in which case federal tax dollars cannot be spent on education even if given to the state, or whether you think it's constitutional because it paid for a large part of your education.

We have all seen campaigns that twist and turn with each passing day as they try to become what they think the electorate wants. But for sheer, unmitigated sophistry in re-positioning previously stated beliefs, I think we should revive that old Fickle Finger of Fate award and give it to the real Joe Miller.

And so the question must be asked, "Which Joe Miller is the real one?"


Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," her memoir of 28 years in Barrow. Web site, www.elisepatkotak.com.

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