SAY WHAT? - Predictably, the debate between Pennsylvania's John Fetterman and New Jersey carpetbagger Mehmet Oz turned into a Rashomon-like affair of wildly disparate responses, notably to Fetterman's post-stroke struggle to fully regain speech - though plainly not cognition, as in, "It's the Oz rule: If he’s on TV, he’s lying.” With Fetterman's sometime pauses and stumbles the focus of much gawking, some deemed his appearance "a Rorschach test of comfort with disability (in) a culture of sound bites, mic drops and clapbacks," especially in contrast to a fast-talking, smoothly-seasoned TV doctor. There was harsh coverage- "journalist" and Ann Coulter fan-girl Olivia Nuzzi found Fetterman "absolutely painful to watch" - but also praise from advocates, $2 million in donations, and empathetic push-back on "explicit and deliberate ableism." People lauded Fetterman's transparency on a difficult recovery, his bravery in going ahead with a debate, and his frequent, still-cogent zingers: "One of us is running to serve Pennsylvania, and one of us is running to use Pennsylvania." One observer found it "less painful and off-putting" to watch Fetterman's halting speech than Oz' "cruel and smirking jabs," though alas, for a good segment of today's voters, "cruel and smirking works well." "He's perfectly capable of doing the job, but he has a disability that's 'unseemly,' so the pundit class has to treat him as if he's incapable," went one response. Another: "Welcome to being a disabled person in America."
The most dramatic contrast came on abortion. Fetterman has always been clear: He believes abortion is health care, and "a choice that belongs with each woman and her doctor"; he also wants to codify the protections of Roe v Wade into law. Oz, ever slimy, dodged a federal ban query and to universal horror declared, “I want women, doctors, local political leaders" to decide the issue, a deadly notion he called "letting the democracy that’s always allowed our nation to thrive, putting the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves” - too many bullshit myths and misnomers to unpack here, but enough to outrage vast swaths of people. "LOL, what every woman wants," said one. "Mind your own effing business." Many imagined the scenario: "OMG I'm pregnant" followed by, "Better call the mayor/comptroller/Harvey on the zoning board to come look at your lady parts to decide if you can have that D&C." As to those "leaders," he must mean Doug Mastriano, who wants to ban abortion at 6 weeks and charge any perpetrator with murder; or the classy MTG; or Paul Gosar, who called SCOTUS' overturning Roe v Wade "a long overdue...return to civilization." But Oz insists, "Women in Pennsylvania understand what I'm saying." Yup: Just like Mothers Against Greg Abbott, "the new MAGA," know what he's saying. Still, what women are saying is, "John on his worst day is a better man and human being that Oz will ever be." Also, John will recover, but Oz will always be a smarmy, soulless, scumbag, fraudulent, snake-oil-selling, puppy-killing hack.
(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: [email protected])