Cuomo: It’s not unfair to point out Fetterman speech difficulty


(NewsNation) — Want to see the game at work? Look to Tuesday night’s Pennsylvania Senate debate.

There was nothing that out of the ordinary in terms of attacks and deflections, except for one thing: the fact that Lt. Gov. John Fetterman was clearly struggling to express himself because of his stroke. The game, seen in how that fact has been weaponized on and off social media, is our problem in real time. 

Let us just be clear that this is not a mere take or opinion or a criticism, but rather an observation of the obvious. The problem is what you saw, not pointing it out. Being lightly covered by main outlets is also odd.

Would it be the same if it were Mehmet Oz? That question suggests a bias that I think is overblown, but it is an aspect of the game, to be sure. What’s clear is the game is afoot, and not covering Fetterman’s difficulties as the main takeaway from the debate is taking a pass.

But now to the next level of play. The left says Fetterman was the better man, he was brave to debate, and he did amazingly well. There is also a clear suggestion that saying otherwise is abusive. Look on social media. Not at the ugly memes and teasing of Fetterman’s health, that’s the toxic stuff that pervades Twitter and the like.

But there were suggestions of the obvious that were met with shaming and, in some cases, a nod to what this outrage is really about, which I will get to, but we saw this shame game coming. A couple of weeks ago, NBC News correspondent Dasha Burns took a lot of heat when, after interviewing Fetterman, she made an on-air remark about his having difficulty understanding small talk prior to their interview.

Then after the debate, it got more intense.

One voter from a NewsNation watch party in Philadelphia said Fetterman should have been given as many accommodations as possible, saying a person in a wheelchair would not be expected to stand up. She argued Fetterman should have had more time to answer questions.

Fetterman is not like a man in a wheelchair. Being in a wheelchair does not raise a question of your ability to reason and argue. Ask Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, or look up Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

This is a legitimate issue of capacity. Observing is not teasing. This is not about political correctness; it is about making an observation that is obviously correct: political.

This is about a recovery from a stroke and whether Fetterman can do the job, one that requires thinking and speaking and arguing and persuading. For those saying don’t obsess on the struggle but how he would vote, the point still stands. His capacity is a key aspect of that act.

The impact of what everybody saw was obvious. If you want to be upset about the situation, I think there is cause for that. However, don’t blame those who observe the problem. Blame Fetterman and his team for not doing more to explain what would be obvious during the debate. It is their job to answer the questions, and the Democratic Party’s to explain why he remained their choice after the stroke.

So why all the desperate efforts to deny and deflect? The game. It is not about the dignity of the sick or decency, it’s about power. Democrats need the seat. It could determine control of the Senate. 

And this game is worth noting on the right as well. Fetterman’s recovery, or perceived lack thereof, is everything. “Poor Fetterman. My heart goes out to him. He should have bowed out. How could the party let him go on? How could his family? Poor guy.” One step from thoughts and prayers.

Please. There’s no sympathy. This is about opportunity. The polls are tight, and Oz could be pushed ahead by what happened at the debate.

The irony is that I don’t even know that the race changed that much because a lot of votes are already in, as early voting started in September. Oz has real negatives that Fetterman’s struggling won’t erase, and Fetterman has a lot of cache with the base. His slippage to this point in polls is as likely Republicans coming home in this tribal binary war as it is anything else in a state that is evenly divided.

The debate, or more so the reaction to it and manipulation, is the game. It’s why too few people vote and so many disengage, and why the fastest-growing population in the electorate, including in Pennsylvania, is those with no party affiliation.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not of NewsNation.

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