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R. Emmett Tyrrell / November 25, 2021

Beto Is Back

Beto O’Rourke is looking like the Harold Stassen of our era.

Washington — One of my favorite candidates in the 2020 race for the Democratic nomination has just announced that he is running for high office once again in 2022. He is Beto O'Rourke, and he is one of the great innovators in recent American politics. Of course, he is one of the great losers in recent American politics, too, having lost in 2018 to Sen. Ted Cruz and, two years later, having lost in his run for the Democratic presidential nomination. He bowed out of the race before it began. How many millions of dollars he cost his backers I would not hazard a guess, but it was a bundle. Now he is going to lose them millions more, but it costs money to make history. Right, folks?

At this rate, Beto is looking like the Harold Stassen of our era, Harold being the Minnesota politician who ran for the presidency nine times and never won. Actually, I believe he got fewer votes each time he ran, but possibly I am exaggerating. I tend to do that when talking about Harold. Judge for yourself when I am talking about Beto.

Though Beto never made it to a primary in 2020, he did strike a formidable pose. Some said he reminded them of Bob Kennedy. Others said he put them in mind of John Kennedy. Neither Bob nor John ever used the F-word in public. That was one of Beto’s innovations. Probably it was his only innovation. He chose to run for president in 2020 just as the dominant figures seeking the Democratic nod all decided to demonstrate their authenticity by using one form or another of the F-word. Beto, it turned out, was the most practiced at it. Frankly, when I read of his use of the F-word, I believed he began enunciating the word while still in his crib: “Mama! Give me my f—in’ bottle.”

It is true that other Democrats used the word more often. For instance, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the senator from New York, began her campaign with a New York magazine profile that included one “f—” two “f—ings,” one “bull—,” a “p— off,” a “they s—k” and in a mild gesture to conventional standards, “what the hell is going on?” Then she let an entire audience have it with, “If we are not helping people, we should go the f— home.” That made a lot of Democrats think. Sen. Bernie Sanders used the famous word in public also and John Kerry, too. But it was Beto who was most authentic. He incorporated the word “f—” into his campaign as he addressed a CNN audience on a Sunday morning saying, “Yes, this is f—ed up.” Later, he bowed out of the race very stylishly with, “I’m so f—ing proud of you guys.”

President Joe Biden, betraying his advanced age perhaps, demurred from using terms from the gutter. Yet his wife, Jill, did not. She told the soon-to-be Vice President Kamala Harris to, “Go f— yourself.” Kamala’s response is not recorded.

Now, whether Beto is going to continue to use variations of the famous four-letter word or not I do not know. If Beto gets the nomination, it is doubtful that his opponent — presumably the Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — will use such language. Abbott is a civilized fellow, and probably a little prissy about using dirty language on the campaign trail. Which reminds me. Whatever possessed the Democrats all at once to use a word that their parents, when they were young, most certainly did not approve of? In fact, I would venture the thought that many of their parents would greet an outburst such as Beto’s above and Dr. Biden’s with a bar of soap and early to bed. Gillibrand, I am not so sure of. New York has always been years ahead of the rest of the country in the decline of standards. Moreover, how is a New Yorker going to get any attention whatsoever in public without using the famous four-letter word?

Yet leave New York’s cultural norms out of it. What is more, I will not speculate on Beto’s language in the coming race. I am going to enjoy the spectacle for as long as it lasts. According to another authoritative report in the Washington Times last week, Beto has taken up skateboarding again. “As a candidate,” the Times reports, “he posted a video of himself skateboarding through a Whataburger parking lot.” It is not clear if he was wearing a shirt and a baseball cap backward.

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