September 22, 2009

More Voices Call For Minimal Civility

It's heartening to see that I'm not alone in decrying the loss of civility in political discourse. On the right, I proffer exhibit "A," the following video featuring Joe Scarborough, pointing out Glenn Beck's contributions to the decline in our public discourse:

As Exhibit "B", I offer Joe Gibbs, the White House Press Secretary, taking to task progressives who condemn all criticism of Obama and his policies as racist:

The President does not believe that the criticism comes based on the colour of his skin. We understand that people have disagreements with some of the decisions that we've made and some of the extraordinary actions that had to be undertaken by this administration.
Follow this up with President Obama himself:

In this, Obama challenges (among others) no less an elder Democratic statesman than Jimmy Carter.

Exhibit "C", Senator Lindsey Graham, who manages to not back down from opposing Democratic efforts at effecting health care reform while still insisting that "respect for the office" has to mean something:
I am not going to give into sentiments that I think degrade the office of the president and that degrade the debate and the culture of our country ... So if you come up to me calling the president a socialist, a Muslim, you’re talking to the wrong guy.
Exhibit "D" is conservative news-and-opinion site Little Green Footballs, condemning Kool-Aid drinking at Powerline:
Powerline has been going in a very bad direction recently; the “all Obama-hatred, all the time” focus is bad enough, but worse are their articles supporting European extremists like Geert Wilders (who wants to deprive Muslims of the freedom of religion and ban the Koran) and outright fascists like the Belgian Vlaams Belang party.
Exhibit "E" is George Stephanopoulos, interviewing President Obama.  Stephanopoulos, you will recall, was a senior advisor to President Bill Clinton, a primary architect of Clitnon's election and re-election campaigns, and is very clearly no Republican.  He is also the host of ABC's public affairs show This Week, which is about the only watchable public affairs show out there because (at least when Stephanopoulos is moderating it) people are allowed to speak their minds without interruption.  In his interview of Obama, Stephanopoulos came out of the gate swinging:

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about a matter of first principles, though. You mentioned these premium increases.


STEPHANOPOULOS: But they're not happening as a result of a decision by the government.

OBAMA: Right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You were against the individual mandate...


STEPHANOPOULOS: ...during the campaign. Under this mandate, the government is forcing people to spend money, fining you if you don't. How is that not a tax?

OBAMA: Well, hold on a second, George. Here -- here's what's happening. You and I are both paying $900, on average -- our families -- in higher premiums because of uncompensated care. Now what I've said is that if you can't afford health insurance, you certainly shouldn't be punished for that. That's just piling on.
If, on the other hand, we're giving tax credits, we've set up an exchange, you are now part of a big pool, we've driven down the costs, we've done everything we can and you actually can afford health insurance, but you've just decided, you know what, I want to take my chances. And then you get hit by a bus and you and I have to pay for the emergency room care, that's...
Obama continued tap-dancing from there and never really answered Stephanopoulous' question -- because, of course, it really is a tax and everyone knows it.  While I suspect that Stephanopoulous as a matter of personal preference doesn't mind the idea of the tax and generally supports and agrees with Obama, he's able to see where the other side is coming from, to look past his own preferences and biases, and address the issue squarely and honestly.

Note well -- NAPP's position on this issue is that no side of the spectrum has a monopoly on "crazy." There's ample competition from all points. If more of these examples are of conservatives trying to separate the red meat eaters from the loyal and sane opposition, it's because the weirdness on the right has been more public and more virulent of late.

Also note that I praise Obama on the one hand and condemn him on the other -- I praise him for elevating the tone of a national debate above accusations of racism, and condemn him for not calling a tax a tax.  I actually see no contradiction in this because he did a good thing on the one hand and a bad thing on the other.

Finally, note that the headline-grabbing Mark Levin attacking Glenn Beck for saying that Barack Obama is better for the country than John McCain would have been because McCain is a "weird sort of progressive." However, this is not what I'm praising in this post.  Levin insists on saying that Obama's Administration is full of "Marxists" and that Obama is subverting the Constitution; Levin is not part of the solution to the problem of a debased national dialogue.  Levin's diatribe is a case of Kool-Aid Cannibalism -- they have begun to eat their own.

But NAPP applauds those who, without compromising their own beliefs and advocacy, nevertheless take it upon themselves to point out the unhinged elements on "their own" side, who take the time to understand what it is people on the other side of a debate have to say and what their legitimate points are, and respond to them in the spirit and with the intent of advancing our collective discussion about government. These are some of the people who help advance our centuries-old experiment in self-government and contribute to its success.

No comments: