Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Utah's Independent Third District Congressional Candidate Joseph Puente Takes Issue With My Characterization Of His Mental Stability

In my previous post about Jason Chaffetz' prospective challenge to Orrin Hatch, I introduced you to one of Chaffetz' opponents in the 2010 general election, independent candidate Joseph Puente. I took him to task for posting what I consider abusive and defamatory comments about Chaffetz in previous posts on The Hill. Specifically, I criticized Puente for referring to Chaffetz as a "douchebag" in this comment on The Hill, and because Puente is battling clinical depression and is controlling it through the use of prescribed medication, I did question whether or not Puente was "off his meds" when he posted the comment. Here was the comment from The Hill:

Puente on 05/11/2010 at 13:40
Chaffetz, like all other tea bagger republicans, is a backstabbing jackass. The fact that he's already entertaining his options in 2012 (he posted a Salt Lake Tribune article about his prospects against Hatch in 2012 on his Facebook page) is testament to how little he cares about being a representative and how obsessed he is with acquiring more and more power for the sake of having that power. The guy is a megalomaniacal, narcissistic douche bag.

Well, to my surprise...and to his credit, Joseph Puente decided to respond to my criticism in the form of a comment. By owning up to the remark, Puente shows accountability, and by explaining his actions, he shows integrity. Consequently, I believe his response shouldn't remain buried in the form of a comment, but is worthy of its own post. And so I present his response below, exactly as he posted it, with the exception that I broke the big first paragraph into three smaller, more digestible paragraphs:

Joe Puente here. Independent candidate for Congress in Utah's 3rd district. Allow me to verify that yes, I did indeed write the comment you refer to. To address another remark, I'm not "off my meds" and I would advise treading lightly when referring to someone's mental illness, especially when it's being treated by qualified medical professionals. Mental illness, specifically depression, is quite prevalent in this country and Utahns are no stranger to it either and it would be unwise to disparage someone based on it, even a candidate for elected office.

My politics and policies are fair game, my medical condition is not. You wouldn't mock a paraplegic running for Congress because he uses a wheelchair, would you? A person who's deaf? Blind? Diabetic? A cancer survivor? No. I would appreciate it if you would give me the same courtesy where my medical conditions are concerned. I share them on my web site not to make an issue of them but specifically to make them non issues by discussing them myself so others need not waste time on them.

I would advise all political candidates to add a dirty laundry page to their campaign web sites to dispel the myth that candidates for public office are somehow superior to the masses. Everyone has their flaws, faults, challenges and mistakes that they have to deal with. By putting them out in the open, it gives people the opportunity to acknowledge them, understand them and move on to discussing the really important issues.

And don't confuse my frustration with Chaffetz' arrogance as a symptom of my clinical depression. Like a lot of Americans, I'm pissed off at the establishment and arrogant incumbents like Chaffetz who pretend to be average Joes when in reality they're just party operatives playing the same damned games that got us into the mess we find ourselves in now.

I'm not sad, I'm mad and I pull no punches when it comes to Jason Chaffetz, his arrogance and his cowardice.

Nice article, btw.

May 11, 2010 9:34 PM

1. First Problem: Joseph Puente compares his disability with people who have physical disabilities. This is of questionable applicability, because someone who is paraplegic or is blind or deaf can still think and articulate without impingement. In contrast, someone who has a psychological or mental disability oftentimes cannot think or articulate without impingement, except through the regular use of medication.

2. Second Problem: Joseph Puente uses abusive and defamatory syntax in reference to Jason Chaffetz, calling him a "backstabbing jackass" and a "megalomaniacal, narcissistic douchebag". While "megalomaniacal" and "narcissistic" may be within the bounds of fair discourse, referring to one's opponent as a "jackass" and a "douchebag" is clearly out of bounds. Think back to the firestorm created when South Carolina Congressman Joseph Wilson stood up and shouted "You lie!" in response to Barack Obama's speech. Now imagine what would happen if Joseph Puente got up on the floor of the House and referred to Nancy Pelosi as a "douchebag". He'd be done...effectively finished as a Congressman. Perhaps Puente would have the presence of mind not to do that, but can we be sure, particularly if he's controlling a pyschological disability through medication?

By using abusive syntax to describe his opponent, Joseph Puente risks marginalizing himself and his campaign. Many people already don't take him seriously simply because he's running as an independent. Does he want to risk becoming the next Superdell Schanze? In addition, most people who identify as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints don't customarily refer to others publicly as "douchebags". One should behave the same way as a candidate as one would behave if actually serving in office. Joseph Puente already displays some integrity and accountability; to that, he needs to add a bit of diplomacy.

I appreciate Joseph Puente taking the time to have responded to the concerns I raised.


Joseph L. Puente said...

My friend, this is the 21st century. Mental illness is no different from any other kind of illness and when properly treated--as you pointed out--should not impede a person's ability to function. But to say that it is different or "of questionable applicability" when compared to other ailments serves only to stigmatize a legitimate ailment. It's unfortunate that after God knows how many years of studying and treating mental illness there are still people out there--I'm NOT saying you're one of them--who look at anyone who admits to taking an anti-depressant or seeing a therapist as being mentally or even morally suspect. Clinical depression, even borderline personality disorders, are not the same thing as psychoses or intellectual or developmental deficits.

Consider what Ronald Reagan said about Michael Dukakis in 1988 when it was just _suggested_ that the Democratic candidate had undergone psychiatric treatment--it was revealed later that he hadn't. The President of the United States said, "Look, I'm not going to pick on an invalid." He later expressed regret at having made the jab but it still blows my mind that as recently as the 1980s people still stigmatized mental illness to that degree. I keep hoping that we, as a society, have moved beyond that.

There's an old saying in therapeutic circles that "Sick people don't go to therapy, healthy people do." In other words, the only people with mental illness that we need to worry about are those who refuse treatment or are unaware that their mental and/or emotional state is the result of a physiological condition that can be treated. I applaud the efforts of former first lady Roselyn Carter who has been putting forth a great and admirable effort to create awareness of mental illness for the last four decades because awareness is the first step in getting treatment.,8599,1987385,00.html

Onto accusations of being abusive and defamatory. I'll be the first to tell you that I'm not pulling any punches in my campaign and some people are going to be offended by what I have to say but I think I'm redeemed by at least being honest. Seriously, what's more offensive, calling Jason Chaffetz a horse's ass or the fact that Jason Chaffetz has an established record of lying to his constituents (misrepresenting bills that he opposes, changing the definitions of words to fit his rhetoric) and sponsoring ridiculous dead-end legislation in exchange for campaign contributions (The so-called "Free Speech About Science Act" introduced not even six months after receiving over $30,000 in campaign contributions from the dietary supplement industry).

Comparing me to Joe Wilson is a real stretch. I actually respect the office of the President and do not rely on, Fox News, talk radio and my e-mail in-box as my sole sources of information about healthcare legislation. Don't get me wrong, I don't like the healthcare bill that was passed and signed into law but you won't find me heckling the President of the United States, or even a member Congress just because I disagree with him. I prefer to give the matter some thought and articulate them in writing first not blurt out incomplete sentences because I'm too immature to think about comes out of my mouth.

And, yes, I have put a lot of thought into what I have to say about not only Jason Chaffetz but EVERYONE that this country has been sending to Washington, D.C. longer than I've even been alive.

Joseph L. Puente said...

How may people would object to the following statement? "Congress is composed of a bunch of lying, hypocritical, self-serving douche bags who'll sell out their own constituents for campaign contributions because they care more about winning the next election than they do about serving the public good or earning the public's trust."

Not too many. But it's easy to cast a wide net and I'm willing to bet that there might be handful of Congressmen who don't fit that description but they're most likely in the minority and Jason Chaffetz sure as hell isn't one of them.

I'm not going to wrap my criticism of Jason Chaffetz in pseudo-diplomatic syntax. I'm not going to say that he's "less than honest." I'm telling you that he's a liar. I'm not going to say that he could "be more courageous," I'm telling you that he's a coward.

And I'm not going to say that he's "kind of a jerk who's a little too full of himself," I'm just going to tell you that I think he's douche bag.

Like the majority of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle in D.C., Jason Chaffetz does not deserve to have the words "The Honorable" placed before his name because he has no sense of honor, just a sense of political self-preservation.

There was once a time when being elected to public office made one a public servant and with that came an expectation of selflessness on the part of those who were elected--but those days are long gone. Jason Chaffetz and his ilk are not public servants, they're self-servants. They aren't selfless, they're selfish. They are not officials beholden to the public, they are prostitutes beholden to corporate interests.

One of the reasons I speak out so bluntly is because I don't have the financial resources of someone running under the banner of an established party. Bluntness, as you've so thoroughly shown, gets attention. I would like to invite you and your readers to visit my campaign web site to learn more about where I stand on the issues--thank you for including it on your blog.

I hope you'll notice a major difference between my web site and Jason Chaffetz: You'll walk away from mine having been challenged to think about the issues. Chaffetz offers little more than rhetorical platitudes and "solutions" couched in sentences so short they barely admit that problems exist let alone offer anything in the way of credible fixes.

I would also like to invite your readers to join and participate in my Facebook forum:

Deseret Dawg said...

Joseph - You wrote "Congress is composed of a bunch of lying, hypocritical, self-serving douche bags who'll sell out their own constituents for campaign contributions because they care more about winning the next election than they do about serving the public good or earning the public's trust."

That's different, because you're addressing Congress categorically. But when you, as a candidate, specifically refer to one of your opponents by name as a "douchebag", that crosses the line. That's the politics of personal destruction. You become no different than Keith Olberman or Glenn Beck.

As a candidate, you should be promoting a higher standard of discourse than the general population if you want to get respect.

Deseret Dawg said...

Anonymous - I zapped your troll comment because it was completely off-topic, and there's no reason to bring Mr. Puente's race into this discussion.

Joe Puente said...

Ah, now comparisons to Beck and Olberman? Super Dell was bad enough? ;-)

You make excellent points and I'll take them under advisement.