When Semantics Mute Substance

Iowa Congressman Steve King would be a great guest if I ever get to make my surefire TV hit "Lawmakers Say the Darndest Things." King rarely misses an opportunity to make an over-the-top or exceedingly controversial statement. There was the time he said Barack Obama's policies come down on "the side that favors the black person." There was the time he said someone in Washington needed "to stand up for the lobby." Most famously, he argued if Barack Obama were elected, terrorists would be "dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11."

But while he stands by his statements, King evidently has a keen eye for a misquote. According to the Sioux City Journal's political blog, King took issue with an email from CREDO super PAC, which is targeting King along with nine other Tea Party conservatives. 

King rebutted many of the lines in the press release, beginning with the statement that he'd called former U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy, who in the 1950s had investigated communist ties in the government, "a great American hero."

Said King, "That is false, right there. I didn't call Joe McCarthy a great American hero, I called him a hero for America. But that has been regurgitated through the left-wing websites with the wrong quote, and so they just lift it off there."

Well glad he cleared that up. Nevermind the point of the quote: that he admires one of the country's most controversial modern historical figures. King's move is shrewd. He establishes Joe McCarthy against the "left-wing websites" so that the man who made communist witch-hunting a sport becomes instead the man who stands against the left. Couple that with a bit of anger at the media, et voila: instead of a second controversy over his McCarthy line, King instead becomes both the victim and the guy who speaks truth to power.

King didn't need to delve into details; he followed up to explain why birth control would make America a "dying civilization."