— INDIANAPOLIS – If you’re a politician, here are some ways you know you’re in trouble:
• Late-night talk show hosts make fun of you.
• Your press staff refuses to defend you.
• Your caucus leader openly mocks you.
• Someone from your own party leaks your stuff.
All those things happened to state Rep. Bob Morris last week after he poked a sacred cow with a pitchfork full of intemperate words.
The first-term Republican from Fort Wayne wrote a long letter to his fellow GOP House members telling them why he wouldn’t join them in a nonbinding resolution congratulating the Girl Scouts on the organization’s 100th anniversary.
His reason? The Girls Scouts is a radical feminist organization that promotes abortion and homosexuality, and has been “subverted in the name of liberal progressive politics and the destruction of traditional American family values.”
Morris didn’t intend for the letter to go public, but it did. Someone in his caucus leaked it, and his words boomeranged back on him.
It wasn’t the serious criticism of what he wrote that may be damaging. After all, plenty of offensive things get said and done every day in the Statehouse by partisans on both sides. Outrage is the default response.
But when the heap of criticism turned into a heap of hilarity, Morris may have figured out he was really in trouble.
The story about the letter, first reported in Morris’ hometown newspaper, The Journal Gazette, ricocheted around the world once it was picked up by the Associated Press.
National columnists lampooned him, and the late-night TV comedians fell in love with him for the material he provided.
Jimmy Kimmel made Morris the butt of his opening monologue humor on ABC last Tuesday night. And on TBS, Conan O’Brien spoofed him in a skit with boxes of Girl Scout cookies re-labeled as weapons of mass destruction to family values. (The clips from both are on YouTube, accumulating plenty of hits.)
The House GOP support staff – dominated by smart former Girl Scouts – would have nothing to do with him, leaving him to spin his side of the story on his own.
And perhaps worse for Morris, House Speaker Brian Bosma – a social conservative in his own right – openly mocked Morris by munching on Girl Scout cookies while standing at the speaker’s podium, then passing out Thin Mints to the media.
“I purchased 278 cases of Girl Scout cookies in the last four hours,” Bosma said Tuesday, the day after Morris’ letter came to light.
By the week’s end, Morris did what politicians do: He issued a non-apology apology. He said he was sorry that the tone of the letter was “emotional, reactionary, and inflammatory.” As for the content of the letter, he apologized for not including the research and evidence on which he based his claims.
Morris authored, co-authored, sponsored or co-sponsored more than two dozen bills and resolutions this session. But there’s only one thing for which he’ll be remembered.
• Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana, including the Kokomo Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.