Delicate NYT Editorial Page Calls Republican Senator a 'Thug, Threatening Harm' for 'Pinata' Metaphor

March 11th, 2016 11:39 AM

Don’t know much about...metaphors? The New York Times was shocked and appalled that a Republican senator predicted any Obama Supreme Court nominee would be treated like a piñata, and said such “violent imagery” made Sen. John Cornyn a “thug, threatening harm,” in a Friday editorial, “Republican Threats and the Supreme Court.”

On Monday, John Cornyn, the senior Republican senator from Texas, warned President Obama that if he dares to name a successor to Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court, the nominee “will bear some resemblance to a piñata.”

Violent imagery has been commonplace in political statements for a long time, but even so, it is disgraceful for a senator to play the thug, threatening harm to someone simply for appearing before Congress to answer questions about professional accomplishments and constitutional philosophy.

Odds are that U.S. senators will not in fact be lining up to beat Obama nominees with sticks in the expectation that candy and toys will spill out. Then again, most U.S. senators understand what metaphors are.

Mr. Cornyn’s repellent remarks were, in this sense, an accurate reflection of the Republican mind-set. Piñatas are, after all, attacked by blindfolded children. The children don’t care how much damage they inflict as long as they get the prize in the end.

Cornyn is lucky the aggrieved editorialists didn’t go after him for ethnocentrism as well for his “piñata” remark. Mind you, this is the same weak-kneed editorial staff that around Thanksgiving of 2008 faulted then-VP candidate Sarah Palin for presiding over a turkey “execution”: “You don't have to be a huge animal lover to question why Governor Palin chose to be interviewed ---while issuing a traditional seasonal pardon of a turkey -- while turkeys were being executed in the background.” The Times may need a primer on how Thanksgiving happens.

And the Times’ delicate sensibilities have somehow previously survived the P-word, at least when it's Republicans being metaphorically whacked. They evidently skipped the awkward video of a South Carolina AFL-CIO president taking a whack at a pinata featuring a photo of Republican Gov. Nikki Haley in 2012.

And reporter Matt Flegenheimer didn’t sound overly concerned about a Trump piñata in a recent trip down memory lane, while a January 2015 article about political memorabilia included a piñata of George W. Bush passed without any discernible outrage.

Editorialist Francis Clines in September 2014 found the sight of a Republican piñata being shot by a Democrat in a campaign ad “entertaining.”

“They call me a long shot,” Estakio Beltran, a congressional candidate in Washington state, declares in a TV ad, never once disclosing that he’s a Democrat but taking aim with his shotgun at a piñata -- an elephant piñata in case anyone doubts what he’s gunning for. Bam! the gun goes off and the sad-eyed, paper-tattered toy elephant topples. Mr. Beltran’s ad is one of many bamming and kerpowing across the land from candidates pandering to gun enthusiasts. He may not win an election, but his seems the most entertaining or at least the silliest....

Staying on the Supreme Court beat, reporter David Herszenhorn put his thumb on the scale of justice in Friday’s report from Capitol Hill, “G.O.P. Senator Warns of Partisan Politics in Court Nomination.”

As Senate Republicans on Thursday defended their refusal to consider any Supreme Court nomination put forward by President Obama, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina warned that both parties would pay the price, leading to the selection of judges with increasingly partisan views.