CAN I GET A WITNESS? Conversation with an Empty Suit

Our troops aren’t “important” enough to warrant a mention from Mitt Romney at the RNC, he says. Foreign policy is a “shiny object” by which Romney refuses to be distracted.

Fine, Mitt. Let’s talk about what you want to talk about: the economy. More specifically, let’s talk about how qualified you are, or aren’t, to make crucial economic decisions and formulate economic policies on a national scale. Let’s talk about your personal business acumen. Before we hand you the reins of the most powerful nation on Earth, let’s just have a look at how you’ve handled crucial personal economic decisions. Let’s examine your personal economic policies to get some idea of what we might expect from you as a President. Surely there is some tangible archive of evidence as to exactly what your personal financial record has been over the last, say, decade? Oh, if only the government required that American citizens file some sort of annual personal financial statement! Then, we could just look over those, and that would be, well, just neato!

What’s that? You want us to do what? Trust you? Well, I’m going to have to be honest with you here, Mitt. Whenever I hear a politician say, “trust me,” a well-worn, not-very-nice phrase comes to mind. It rhymes with “duck poo.”

Mitt, you have a law degree, right? Awesome. Then, I’m sure you remember the Federal Rules of Evidence. Superduper. As you’ll recall, in court, there are certain topics which, during examination of a witness, are off-limits, including prior bad acts. That is, unless the defendant himself “opens the door” for examination on the subject by bringing it up first. In that case, the opposition is free to cross-examine on that topic. Such is the case of your business acumen.

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Imagine with me that you’ve been accused of stealing a car. You are on the witness bench in court, and I am prosecuting you, trying to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you stole the car. Even if you are infamous in the community for exactly the type of crime of which you now stand accused, if even your mother calls you “Hotwire Harry,” it is against the rules for me to bring up your past to prove you’re a bad guy. After all, you may be a car thief, but it doesn’t mean that you stole this car. I must find some other way to question you before the jury to prove that you are guilty of this particular theft.

Unless you bring it up first.

You see, the Rules of Evidence are a double-edged sword. I agree not to bring up your sordid past, you agree not to claim you don’t have one. We will stick to the matter at hand and allow the jury to determine your guilt or innocence while considering this, and only this, accusation.

Now, imagine with me that you’re a politician (just run with it). You’d love to convince the jury (the American voter) that you are the best candidate for the job of President of the United States. You and I have a mutual agreement that you will undergo scrutiny by the public whom you seek to lead. If you (or your party)use your time on the stand to wink and nod at the jury about how much better you are at handling finances than President Obama, well, our mutual agreement dissolves, and now I’m free to explore the topic of your finances.

You started it, buddy. Now, put up or shut up.