Exposing Flaws

Nothing happens in the world from which we cannot learn a personal lesson. No matter how far removed we are from an occurrence, there is something we can apply from it to our own lives.

Few things are as far removed from our lives as the trials and tribulations politicians endure when they try to run for president of the United States. The schedule is grueling, the scrutiny is incredible, and the sheer number of people they must impress during this months-long job interview is hard to imagine.

As often happens over the course of a campaign, candidates commit gaffes. Last week, at a Republican debate, one such moment occurred. And, for the time being, it changed the trajectory of the entire race.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, trying to make the case for why voters ought to vote for him and not the other young faces on the stage, took a swipe at two of them, saying that he was more qualified to be president because he was a governor, and not a senator. Sharpening his attack and aiming it at Marco Rubio, Christie said that all he does is repeat “the memorized 25-second speech that is exactly what his advisors gave him.”

Rubio, in what is undoubtedly one of the greatest debate blunders of all time, responded by giving an answer that included the same 25-second speech he had given not just one minute earlier. Christie capitalized on this, crowing, “There it is! There it is! The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody!”

I have no doubt that Rubio must want that moment back — he said as much in his concession speech after a disappointing fifth-place finish in New Hampshire. But there were a few things I felt could be learned from the exchange.

It is incredible for Chris Christie to have attacked Rubio for repeating memorized lines. It brings to mind a powerful vort quoted from Harav Chaim Volozhiner and the Baal Shem Tov.

The Mishnah says (Nega’im 2:5): “Kol hanega’im adam roeh chutz m’nigei atzmo.” While the literal meaning is that a person may judge all nega’im except for those on one’s own body, both Rav Chaim ­Volozhiner and the Baal Shem Tov interpret the Mishnah to make another point.

“Kol hanega’im adam roeh chutz,” they say, are “m’nigei atzmo.” When a person looks at another person and sees faults, the faults he sees are, in truth, his own faults.

Politicians repeat lines. Chris Christie (before he realized his campaign was going nowhere, and dropped out) also repeated lines. It’s called a stump speech, and it’s what they do. But the reason Christie was so easily able to attack Rubio with this was because it’s a fault he had as well.

But there is more to learn from this.

My family recently got a new minivan, and it is quite a bit more advanced than anything we have ever had before. A screen that displays all the goings-on of the car sits prominently in the middle of the dashboard. Everything was going fine until we ran out of washer fluid. Gone was all the information which had previously filled the screen. Now it only read “Low washer fluid.” It stayed that way until we filled up on fluid.

My wife pointed out how it is a great allegory to life. As soon as a small flaw is discovered in something, nothing else matters but the now obvious flaw. In the case of my car, we can easily laugh it off — but are we not all too often guilty of such behavior?

Unfortunately for Rubio, this “flaw” that showed itself during the debate filled his metaphoric dashboard screen, and it isn’t going to go anywhere unless he can “fill up on washer fluid.” The saddest part is that even though it did not expose a real blemish in his policies or even his personality, it has already cost him his position in the New Hampshire primary.

It is too bad that events work out this way, both in politics and in “real life.” But these are things that are in our hands to change in our own lives. And just because the general voting public takes such a superficial view of matters, that is no reason for us to behave in the same way.