Senator Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat, aptly demonstrated that no political party holds the patent on insensitivity with a joke on AIDS that fell … uh, short, to say the very, very least.
So I’m walking through the airport and people were kinda being nice and making eye contact and a couple come up and say hello. This one person runs up all excited and I’m prepared to say “Hello,” and he says, “Senator Bayh! Senator Bayh!”
I said “Well, yes?” and he looked at me and said, “Do you have AIDS?”
I said, “Huh?”
He said, “Yeah. Do you have AIDS?”
I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to say.
He said, “I’ve got a letter I want to give you, do you have someone I can hand this to? Do you have an aide with you?”
I guess I’m of two minds here. First, I’m pretty disgusted that a politician would come out and say such an offensive thing in public. I mean, is the guy stupid? Clearly a crack like this would bring on some heat, not to mention have the opposing political party cackling with glee as they archive this as “fodder for future campaign ads.”
However, I am also a person easily annoyed by the over-PC mindset omnipresent in the U.S. today when you have to watch everything you say and do. The days when I could tell a class full of freshman that I liked to spend my weekends with Harry Wong (he’s an education guru and author, so I meant reading his works on weekends) are over. I have to think ahead when I’m teaching to make sure I don’t inadvertently say something offensive. There is always someone that will be upset or offended by something people say, which is really kind of sad.
I don’t see how Evan Bayh could have missed the really hurtful nature of his joke. I mean, either he’s a complete moron or he’s unspeakably insensitive. Neither conclusion is good for a politician with aspirations.
Well, either way, one thing he is claiming to be is sorry. Bayh states:
“Look, I’ve voted for AIDS funding and all sorts of things. And I’ve been for all sorts of things in terms of equality and lifestyle and that sort of thing. I’m sorry they took offense to that. It was certainly not intended … I was taken by surprise. I did not interpret it as a negative statement.”
So is this a harmless joke, or is Evan Bayh the latest politician to coin a phrase (“Read my lips: no new taxes,” “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky,” and so on) that will come back to bite?