Ted Nugent's Anti-Obama Rant Helps Nobody

Can we stop with linking a candidate to every single comment or behavior made by a supporter or donor?

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So '70s rocker Ted Nugent thinks he will be "dead or in jail" if President Obama is still in office next year. Oh, and his advice to Obama foes is that "we need to ride into the battlefield and chop their heads off in November."

That second comment might have sounded like a crude metaphor, except that he said it to a meeting of the National Rifle Association. Now, Nugent is getting a little visit from the Secret Service, and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney is being attached to the stupid remarks, since Nugent has endorsed Romney.

[Vote: Should Mitt Romney Denounce Ted Nugent?]

Let's keep the focus where it belongs, which is on Nugent, whose music career has been unimpressive since he recorded "Cat Scratch Fever" decades ago. Is he truly dangerous? Probably not, since his comments have all the characteristics of someone desperately trying to get someone to pay attention to him. He could, of course, just try to get his music career going again and record something worth listening to, but it's so much easier in our era of hyperbolic offense to just say something provocative.

His comments also hurt the National Rifle Association, or at least, its members. The organization itself is adamantly opposed to gun control of any kind, and tends to offer up speakers who reinforce that view in the most vituperative terms. There are certainly legitimate reasons to support gun control or safety rules, especially given the level of gun violence in this country. But go to an National Rifle Association conference, and you'll see something interesting: The celebrity speakers rail against any rule related to guns, no matter how common sense it is. And the rank-and-file members cheer. But then, at the conference marketplace, you'll see those same rank-and-file members buying safety latches and lockable gun cases. They don't like the idea of being forced to employ even rudimentary safety practices, but they often do it on their own.

[Read Leslie Marshall: Secret Service, Ted Nugent Owe President Obama Some Respect]

And can we stop, already, linking a candidate to every single comment or behavior made by a supporter or donor? Romney can't keep Nugent from running his mouth, and the Obama campaign can't stop Hilary Rosen from making an intemperate comment about Ann Romney's status as a stay-at-home mother. In fact, let's try for a self-imposed ban on questions that begin with, "Do you agree with [supporter] that [something offensive or controversial] is true?" It's a stupid question, and it doesn't advance the dialogue or really give us a sense of what the candidate would do in office. All it does is provoke a conflict for its own sake, without really addressing the underlying issues. And it puts the candidate in an untenable position, since answering either way keeps the manufactured controversy going. Certain comments, of course, need to be immediately denounced for their offensiveness. And if the remarks are made by someone who has been embraced as a leader in the party or a political movement, the comments must be addressed. But Ted Nugent? A has-been rocker who has no discernible influence over public opinion? He doesn't make the cut.

He got what he wanted, though: attention. And he didn't have to get killed or jailed to get it.

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  • Corrected on 4/19/2012: A previous version of this blog post incorrectly identified a Ted Nugent song. It is "Cat Scratch Fever."