Campaign Coordinator Margaret Nimmo Crowe’s latest blog post on Pundits’ Podium, a blog of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
When does using a colloquialism make a politician sound “folksy” and when does it just sound offensive? Sometimes it’s hard to define where the line is, but other times it’s quite clear. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling needs to realize that he recently crossed that line.
Last weekend, the Daily Press reported the following about Bolling, the state chairman of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign: “Bolling said that if people think Obama has done a good job over the past three years, they should vote for him – then ‘check themselves into a mental hospital.’”
The politics behind the statement are irrelevant. The fact is that one in four Americans – and one in five children – suffer with significant mental health problems. As an elected leader and a candidate running to be Virginia’s next governor, Bolling should be telling voters what he will do if elected to address the needs of this large constituency, rather than denigrating those who need and seek mental health treatment.
And treatment for mental illness, as it turns out, is not easy to come by in Virginia. Particularly for children, lack of community-based services and trained professionals leads to long waiting lists, deteriorating conditions, and avoidable crises—and yes, that means children sometimes need treatment in an inpatient psychiatric hospital. Ask the parent of a child who has been admitted to such a facility in the midst of a crisis whether the experience should be taken lightly.
What makes Bolling’s offensive comment even worse is that he has not acknowledged his mistake nor has he made a genuine apology. His spokeswoman was quoted in the Roanoke.com blog “Blue Ridge Caucus” as saying “’The Lieutenant Governor did not intend to offend anyone, and if anyone was offended by his comment he would certainly apologize for that….’” That comment implies that if the speaker did not intend to offend anyone, no one should be offended.
A more appropriate response would be for Bolling himself to publicly admit his careless remark, apologize for the offense it caused, and then talk about what he will do as Governor to address the unmet needs of adults and children with mental illness.
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