- The Washington Times
Tuesday, September 10, 2019


The thing about trampling individual rights is knowing when to stop — knowing when to put on the brakes before the trampled, swept by surges of self-empowerment or insanity or a combination of the two, turn around and start trampling the trampers.

Sen. Kamala Harris got caught up in this very conundrum when she made the rather unfortunate — for her campaign — mistake of laughing at an audience member’s characterization of President Donald Trump as “mentally retarded.”

But let’s be clear here: Harris did nothing wrong.

Her politics may be detestable.

Her politics are decidedly detestable.

But if principles are what runs this country, if principles should indeed be what guides this country — and they should — then even conservatives who hate all that Harris stands for have to stand by her on this one.

The scandal is this: A guy in the audience asked a somewhat long-winded question of Harris, wrapping with criticism of Trump and the “mentally retarded actions of this guy.”

The crowd cheered, and Harris chuckled and said, “well said, well said.”

Well and good. Moving on.

Not so fast.

Shortly after, on CBS with Caitlin Huey-Burns, Harris was asked about that moment. And Harris, apparently chastised by her handlers, or simply frightened at the question, first tried to claim she didn’t hear the “mentally retarded” phrase. She must have caught wind of her own disingenuousness, though, because she then went into defense mode and called the phrase “incredibly offensive,” before launching into a lecture about all the ways the phrase was indeed “incredibly offensive.”

The temptation here is to slam Harris as a hypocrite. And why not? She self-identifies as a social justice warrior, as a gate-guard of dignity for the downtrodden. She deserves the hypocrisy label for sure.

But somewhere in the middle of blasting Harris for talking against her walk, or walking against her talk — whatever, whichever — should come this thought: What’s so wrong with the phrase mental retardation, after all?

“Mental retardation,” Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics writes, after citing the American Association on Mental Retardation, “refers to substantial limitations in present functioning.”

It’s an actual medical term.

It’s broken into five categories; it’s diagnosed with actual tests; it’s characterized by genuine mental limitations.

It’s a real thing.

And seriously, it’s not to be confused with its blatantly offensive offshoot — the shortened “‘tard.”

Just because the speech police have decided it’s much nicer to call someone with limited mental capacities — with mental retardation — a “gifted” person, or a person with ID, for intellectual disability, does not mean the rest of America has to play along.

But this is where the Democratic Party has brought us. Tripping and stumbling over ourselves, trying to stay on the right side of ever-changing rules of rhetoric.

Liberals think that if they change the words, they can change the reality — or, at the least, that they can shame everyone into walking this same delusional path. Today’s “mental retardation” is tomorrow’s “boys can have periods, too.” It’s getting to the point of ridiculous. Beyond ridiculous.

It’s not that the Harris campaign rally guy characterizing Trump as “mentally retarded” wasn’t using the phrase to offend. 

It’s not that Harris wasn’t showing her hypocritical, hyper-politically correct cowardly self by first agreeing and laughing with this guy, then flopping to the other side on CBS and lecturing us all on the offensiveness of the phrase.

But it’s this: The left has too much power to control speech in this country — to decide what’s fitting, what’s not, to set the rules and then change the rules, at whim, even when it means turning on one of their own.

What’s so wrong with characterizing someone as “mentally retarded” if you indeed think they’re mentally retarded?

The fact is Harris shouldn’t be president. She shouldn’t be senator. Heck, she shouldn’t be allowed a seat at any political table in America, given her far-left policies that are decidedly out of sync with the Constitution.

But by gosh, she should be allowed to laugh when a campaign supporter calls the president “mentally retarded.” She should even be allowed to agree, if that’s her view. Even conservatives ought to back her on that.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley.

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.