Robert “Beto” O’Rourke had a very (very) bad first week as a presidential candidate.
Right out of the chute, the 46-year-old — who already was being praised as a combination of John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama — mocked his wife, and women in general. He created a mini-firestorm Friday when he said that wife, Amy, had raised their three children, “sometimes with my help.” Mr. O’Rourke dropped the applause line several times — always drawing a laugh — as he made his first swing through Iowa.
The internet was not kind to him, noting that single mothers have grueling jobs — and not many couples his age are sitting on $500 million in the bank like he and his wife are so, you know, that makes things even tougher.
Mr. O’Rourke quickly tried to mitigate the damage, saying his “ham-handed” attempt at humor was a failure and saying the criticism he suffered was “right on.”
“Not only will I not say that again, but I will be much more thoughtful in the ways that I talk about my marriage, and also the way in which I acknowledge the truth of the criticism that I have enjoyed white privilege,” Beto said afterward.
Yes, Beto segued into “white privilege” because, of course, that’s such a pressing issue on the minds of millions of Americans.
“So yes, I think the criticism is right on. My ham-handed attempt to try to highlight the fact that Amy has the lion’s share of the burden in our family — that she actually works but is the primary parent in our family, especially when I served in Congress, especially when I was on the campaign trail — should have also been a moment for me to acknowledge that that is far too often the case, not just in politics, but just in life in general. I hope as I have been in some instances part of the problem, I can also be part of the solution,” he said.
To make things up to women, Beto announced — out of the blue — that he’ll likely be picking a woman to join him on the ticket. Sure, he’s got to win the Democratic nomination, and the running mate choice usually comes months later, but he’s way past all that stuff.
“It would be very difficult not to select a woman with so many extraordinary women who are running right now,” Beto said.
And Beto is fully aware that at least five Democratic women — Sens. Kamala D. Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii — are running for president. Funny, but Beto didn’t say he would join one of them as running mate if they secure the nomination.
The New York Times pointed out that announcing who you’d pick as a running mate so far out from the election is a bit of a desperate move.
“Announcing the demographic profile of a potential vice presidential pick is highly unusual, especially more than 10 months before the first round of voting takes place in Iowa. The comments reflect a desire by male candidates to show that they are not taking female voters for granted, particularly as so many women mount bids of their own for the nomination,” The Times wrote.
Then it all got worse. A new report by Reuters revealed that Beto was once a member of a hacker group called the Cult of the Dead Cow. During his time in the group during the 1980s, he made some embarrassing (and disturbing) posts online.
One, written when he was 15, said: “One day, as I was driving home from work, I noticed two children crossing the street. They were happy, happy to be free from their troubles This happiness was mine by right. I had earned it in my dreams. As I neared the young ones, I put all my weight on my right foot, keeping the accelerator pedal on the floor until I heard the crashing of the two children on the hood, and then the sharp cry of pain from one of the two. I was so fascinated for a moment, that when after I had stopped my vehicle, I just sat in a daze, sweet visions filling my head.”
Seems like the rambling of a future serial killer, not The New JFK.
Beto was full apologies again over that report. “I’m mortified to read it now, incredibly embarrassed, but I have to take ownership of my words,” he said. “Whatever my intention was as a teenager doesn’t matter, I have to look long and hard at my actions, at the language I have used, and I have to constantly try to do better.”
Beto O’Rourke is being hailed as The Next Big Thing, but young politicians for the next 200 years will be looking at his first week as a textbook example of how not to roll out a presidential campaign.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.
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