Thursday, January 13, 2011

But will the rhetoric really tone down?

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S appeal for civility in politics drew praise from Democrats and Republicans alike in the aftershock of the Tucson shootings. As he is quite capable of doing, he superbly grasped the dark moment with a remarkable sense of clarity and humility in calling for a united front against the worst that political discourse has offered since his election. He could speak from experience. Much of the vitriol has been directed at him, from questions about his legitimacy to serve to calls for impeachment for unintelligible reasons.

I am a pessimist. Once everybody gets back to the pre-Tucson workaday world, I suspect it will be difficult for the assault force to tone down its rhetoric (despite appeals from even Fox News boss Roger Ailes to do exactly that!)

As Obama arrived in Tucson, Sarah Palin, in what appeared to be panicky damage control, was telling her choir that the brutal Democrats were out to get her. Watching her measured response, I had little doubt that in fact her presidential skyrocket had suffered a terrible blow from her "surveyor's symbol" and that she had to act quickly to regain her trajectory. It didn't work, unless you count the 30,000 Palinistas who rushed to her defense. That included her spiritual guide, Franklin Graham, who described her as a "kind, compassionate, God-loving woman."

Not as kind and compassionate, perhaps, was Rush Limbaugh's usual diatribe that Jared Loughner "has the full support of a major political party [Democrats] in this country."

What Rushbo hasn't learned as he turns age 60 is that in order for a honest debate to proceed on any issue, both sides have to be in touch with reality. No one should suggest that all debate must now end with calls to tone down. No one should be excluded from accountability for his or her words. But to the right-wingers who rely so heavily on the Constitution, I would suggest that they read the Federalist Papers and other historical documents in which both sides impressively argued their case with the skill that is so lacking in today's political arena.

The Tucson memoriam sent a strong message. But can it be sustained in the echo chamber?


PJJinOregon said...

Abe a pessimist? Maybe, but not a cynic like me. Obama's message was direct and simple - dial down the rhetoric and get busy with the people's business. But with all the lobbying fees inside the beltway and advertising fees at FOX, the people's business has become heated rhetoric. The Watergate tactic remains relevant: follow the money.

We not only can be better; we must.

Mencken said...

Civility does not bring ratings or re-election.
Did I leave anything out?