At least Rex Rammell isn’t one of those equivocating public figures who explain their gaffes with wishy-washy nonapologies that evade blame by fixing it on anyone misguided enough to take offense.
Nope. When Rammell says something dumb, he stands by it.
“I am not sorry for saying the comment,” the prospective gubernatorial candidate said this week after his public remark about “Obama tags” caused an uproar and drew sharp criticism from a pantheon of his fellow Idaho Republicans – U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, Gov. Butch Otter and former Gov. Phil Batt.
Rammell went on to say that people who took his joke “incorrectly” need to lighten up. But he expressed zero regret for his comment at a Republican Party function where, during a conversation about issuing wolf tags to hunters, a woman in the crowd cried out, “Obama tags.”
Unlike Arizona’s Republican Sen. John McCain, who’s been known to shush his own supporters for booing President Obama, Rammell insists it would have been rude of him to correct the woman for equating the president with big game. He might simply have ignored her, perhaps, but instead he amplified on her remark: “Obama tags. We’d buy some of those.”
“I was just being polite to that lady,” he said later – with a straight face that suggested this line wasn’t a joke.
It’s not Rammell’s fault that U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy died the next day, evoking dark memories of two Kennedy brothers’ assassinations. But that context shouldn’t have been necessary for him to understand how inappropriate the remark was.
Congressman Simpson clearly got it: “It is absolutely irresponsible to say such inflammatory things, especially for someone who seeks to be a leader in Idaho.”
And that is the point. Rammell, who intends to challenge Otter in next year’s election, is offering himself as the political leader of the state, an exemplar of Idaho beliefs and Idaho values. His political outlook may appeal to many residents of the staunchly conservative state, but his idea of humor is a potential embarrassment if his becomes the face and voice that stand for Idaho in the world’s eyes.
Gem State residents needn’t worry too much. Running as an independent last year in a U.S. Senate race, Rammell got about 5 percent of the vote.
Nevertheless, he is insisting that his GOP brothers’ disapproval stems from a perceived need to sabotage his gubernatorial campaign against Otter.
Now that’s funny.
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