Hot Mic: “Bless your heart” and other Southern expressions

Updated

The interview began dangerously.

“How’s Auburn going to be this year?” Joe Scarborough asked Obama Senior Advisor Robert Gibbs, treading into the thorny world of SEC football.

“Bless your heart,” the panel joked before long. GOP Chairman Michael Steele had been battling with Gibbs over sequestration and why the Obama Administration was not making greater cuts to the federal deficit.

“Bless your heart” is a devious phrase in the South. In front porch parlance, it generally accompanies a backhanded compliment of the cruelest order.

Time’s Mark Halperin began a line of questioning by “professing [his] love” to Gibbs,  then asked whether a new ad from Obama-friendly Super PAC Priorities USA Action was appropriate and accurate. The ad features Joe Soptic, a worker of a formerly Bain-owned plant. When the plant closed, the man claims he lost his job and health care, and ultimately, his wife developed cancer, and eventually died.

Gibbs hedged, saying he didn’t know the specifics of the ad, offering that Bain and other companies had records of selling off or shutting companies and leaving workers with few employment or health options.

The Obama campaign previously used Soptic in an ad in May, but Politico quoted an Obama campaign official saying, “We have no idea when Priorities shot their spot. We’re not allowed to coordinate with them – but we can tell you it wasn’t when we shot ours.”

Deputy Obama Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter said, ”I don’t know the facts about when Mr. Soptic’s wife got sick or the facts about his health insurance.”

And, Politico also tracked down a conference call from May hosted by Cutter and featuring none other than Joe Soptic talking about the closure of his plant.

Meanwhile, Priorities USA Action senior strategist Bill Burton defended the content of the ad on “The Situation Room” on CNN.

“What we’re saying is that Joe Soptic was fired from his job, and as a result of that, he wasn’t able to get - he wasn’t able to hold onto health care benefits that were promised to him.  And as a result, when his wife got sick, he didn’t have health care.”

“But his wife was diagnosed with cancer six years after Romney effectively left Bain capital,” Wolf Blitzer said. “He effectively left in 1999.” 

The Obama campaign strenuously insists it is not coordinating with Priorities.  That would be illegal. And Democrats are not the only ones who have been accused of coordination. We should take both sides at their word. But in this case, the campaign and Super PAC’s statements recall another uniquely Southern perspective.

Humorist Lewis Grizzard used to define the state of undress as a nuanced dichotomy. “’Naked’ means you ain’t got no clothes on,” he said. “’Nekkid’ means you ain’t got no clothes on and you’re up to something.”

As ads like these roll out in what has already been a vicious season, both campaigns will have to decide which one they are, before the public decides for them.

 

Michael Steele

Hot Mic: "Bless your heart" and other Southern expressions

Updated