Nonini comments jam up the inbox

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It probably won’t surprise you that I get a lot of mail.

Writing an opinion column that’s seen by thousands of people more or less clinches the notion that you’ll have a full inbox.

But Wednesday …

Something happened that is incredibly rare, even for a columnist who isn’t afraid to state an opinion.

I received a staggering number of messages related to my partial defense of Bob Nonini, our state senator who is running for lieutenant governor. And they ran almost exactly half and half — for and against.

Believe me, an even split almost never happens.

In case you’ve somehow missed the whole affair, the pro-life Nonini got carried away during a forum in Moscow and suggested — I’m paraphrasing here — that women who get abortions should be subject to the death penalty.

As background here, it is not a far-out notion (at least in Idaho) that abortion is murder. The Kootenai County Republican Central Committee unanimously passed a resolution stating that, in fact.

Mentioning the death penalty, though, set off a five-alarm blaze.

Nonini’s comment hit the internet, went viral within hours, and now he’s literally known around the world.

That brings us to the present.

In Wednesday’s column, I offered a bit of sympathy for Nonini — partially to point out that anyone can make a statement that’s over the top, and also that a single comment never would have been noticed 20 years ago.

But in the viral world …

Nonini is now the center of arguments all across the globe.

Bob has issued a statement stepping back from his position on the death penalty, but he can’t halt being an internet sensation.

The Washington Post, for instance, quoted Nonini’s original comment (along with mentioning a journalist who called for women who have abortions to be hanged), and cited statistics showing that the rate of abortions is virtually the same in countries with strict laws against it and countries that are more relaxed on the issue.

MEANWHILE, my sack full of correspondence either applauded the fact that Nonini deserved a bit of a break, or scolded me for going easy on a man running for political office — someone who should be accountable for what he says.

I get it.

Nonini shouldn’t have gotten into this mess (he backed up his original stance when contacted by The Associated Press), but he quickly looked for the exit door.

“There is no way a woman would go to jail, let alone face the death penalty. The statute alone, the threat of prosecution, would dramatically reduce abortion,” Nonini said in a statement. “That is my goal.”

Frankly, I believe that is Bob’s position — using a statute to dissuade abortions.

Whether that works or not is a debate for another time.

Look, candidates get carried away while trying to push their messages. You might recall President Trump also called for prosecution of women who have abortions — and then walked back from it.

On the other hand, yes, I agree that if we’re trying to choose candidates to represent us in any public office …

They should mean what they say.

And understand the consequences.

It’s a fine line, one Bob Nonini is now left to ponder as he goes forward with his campaign.

Best course …

I’ll leave this argument up to the voters.

•••

Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

Email: scameron@cdapress.com.

Twitter: @BrandNewDayCDA

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