Silly season descends on Kansas politics: Manufactured outrage enough for everyone!

October 26, 2022 3:33 am
Illustration of angry cartoon face and pointing finger

Candidates scrounging for votes will say anything to make news and shore up support. Few feel overly constrained by facts right now. (Getty Images)

With less than two full weeks remaining until Election Day, Kansas politicians have embraced silly season.

That’s known as the time of the campaign cycle when candidate scroungings for votes will say anything — absolutely anything — to make news and shore up support. Few feel overly constrained by the facts. Not with ballots being cast and power on the line.

Here’s an imaginary example, just for you.

“Did you hear what my opponent in the race did? Why, they paid to support prostitution!

“Since you ask, they paid money for a hotel room in Wichita last weekend. But I’d bet you anything that other people committed perverse hanky panky in that very room earlier. And who knows? Money may have changed hands at some point. Or possibly breath mints. They’re pretty much the same thing, right?

“No, no, we don’t actually have proof of this. You’re the reporters. Connect the dots, people.

“Funds from my opponent’s campaign have supported a hotel that potentially enabled unspeakable practices. That’s why I’m speaking about them at length now. Pardon me while I wipe this sweat from my brow. The whole situation has become so outrageous that I really want to talk about it over and over again.”

Pardon me while I wipe this sweat from my brow. The whole situation has become so outrageous that I really want to talk about it over and over again.

– Clay Wirestone


Think of the children

“Why am I talking to you about it today? Because of the children! The young people who are the future of Kansas.

“We have to protect them. Now, young people famously have no interest in sex of any kind and never should learn about it from anyone other than fortune-telling machines at carnivals or their best friend Brett who has found his dad’s stack of Playboy magazines under the bed. We trust these people with our children. No one else.

“What’s more, my staffer just heard that our opponent has paid for hotel rooms across this entire state! In town after town, city after city, nearly every place they’re campaigning. Think of all the immoral ugliness they’ve supported in Kansas. Hotel after hotel after hotel — why, it makes me hot and bothered just thinking about it.

“Outraged! I mean outraged.

“My opponent has been creating a network of brothels across the state, and no one has been protecting our children. Why, they might have even stayed in those hotels themselves one day or another.

“Right here and right now, I call on everyone in this race to unequivocally denounce spending money to support hotels or any business connected to hotels. The stakes are too high for the Kansans of tomorrow. We must shift immediately to tents, but only if they’ve been blessed beforehand by a member of the clergy.

“Kansans interested in traveling can visit our campaign website this afternoon to preorder a pre-blessed tent. Each tent costs only $89.99, shipping and handling not included.”


Campaign email blasts

“Before you leave today’s news conference, make sure that you’ve signed up for my campaign’s email communications.

“You will receive a half-dozen messages before the end of today repeating everything I’ve just said, along with links to a story published by a Croatian tabloid newspaper. It features several large illustrations showing how these hotel rooms could be used by for immoral and disgusting activities.

“We’re reprinted those shocking illustrations on the large bulletin boards behind me. Take a good, long look.

“Tomorrow, we will send a half-dozen more email messages in response to my opponent, all of which will feature the words ‘FACT CHECK’ in the subject line and quote articles that quoted our press releases from yesterday. Having trouble keeping track? That’s the point.

“Please watch the TV ads we will be rolling out today as well, all of which feature a plainspoken farmer who doesn’t understand why anyone needs to stay in a hotel anyway. No, he’s not available for interviews because he’s from Croatia.

“Carbondale! I mean Carbondale.

“I know what all of you ‘fact-based’ reporters and news media outlets will say.

“You will say there’s no evidence at all for today’s accusations and that I’m playing on voters’ worst fears with a frankly preposterous story. You will say anyone who take a moment to look through the evidence — or lack of same — could see that we’re desperately reaching.

“To which I say: Who’s going to stop me?”


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Clay Wirestone
Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone has written columns and edited reporting for newsrooms in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania. He has also fact checked politicians, researched for Larry the Cable Guy, and appeared in PolitiFact, Mental Floss, cnn.com and a host of other publications. Most recently, Clay spent nearly four years at the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children as communications director. Beyond the written word, he has drawn cartoons, hosted podcasts, designed graphics, and moderated debates. Clay graduated from the University of Kansas and lives in Lawrence with his husband and son.