Now THIS Is Hypocrisy: Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.)

Rep. Capuano says it's time...

Ethics Alarms has expanded its tutorial subject matter. We began by helping the satire and metaphor-challenged understand what does and didn’t constitute incivility ( putting Sarah Palin in a Victorian satirical song, no; calling Republicans Nazis, yes) and now will add the elusive concept of “hypocrisy” to the course list, for those, like Rush Limbaugh, who are confused about that as well.

Today’s lesson: Democratic Representative Michael Capuano of Somerville, Mass. When Arizona loon Jared Loughner killed a little girl, a judge, some other Arizonans, and grievously wounded Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Capuano was one of the Democrats who joined with some shameless voices in the media to suggest that the madman’s rampage was provoked by hot partisan rhetoric….specifically conservative rhetoric, since the victim was a Democrat.

“What the hell is going on?’’ he said at the time. “There’s always some degree of tension in politics; everybody knows the last couple of years there’s been an intentional increase in the degree of heat in political discourse. . . . If nothing else good comes out of this, I’m hoping it causes people to reconsider how they deal with things.’’

But it didn’t cause Capuano to reconsider how he deals with things. Speaking to a union group in Boston in support of the protests of public union members in Madison, Wisconsin, the Congressman told a cheering crowd:

“I’m proud to be here with people who understand that it’s more than just sending an email to get you going. Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary.”

Now that’s hypocrisy.

Also hypocrisy: the fact that neither the New York  Times, nor MSNBC, nor Chris Matthews, nor Paul Krugman, nor any of the Sarah Palin bashers who wanted to implicate her in Loughner’s murders and mayhem because months earlier she used a target graphic on a web site campaign map—that he didn’t see— felt that a U.S. Congressman suggesting that a still demonstrating group of protesters need to “get bloody” was equally worthy of  criticism, or even worthy of reporting on. I don’t usually adopt this line of argument, because it is over-used and mis-used by both ends of the political spectrum, but in this case it is called for: can you imagine the uproar and the outrage from these “objective” commentators if Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Rand Paul or the afore mentioned Rush Limbaugh dared to say anywhere—in a speech, in an op-ed, in a Facebook post, in an interview, anywhere— that it was time to go out on the streets and get bloody?

By the way, Capuano has advocated violence before, and in a statement that could also be used in the Ethics Alarm “What is incivility?” series. Last month, he said, “Politicians, I think are too bland today. I don’t know what they believe in. Nothing wrong with throwing a coffee cup at someone if you’re doing it for human rights.”

All right, class, let’s tell the Representative. What do we call it when we throw a coffee cup at someone we disagree with?

8 thoughts on “Now THIS Is Hypocrisy: Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.)

  1. Three quick points…

    I read “get bloody” in terms of a willingness to sacrifice (Red Badge of Courage variety rhetoric) rather than as an incitement to violence. Without more context, I’m not prepared to argue the point, but that really was my initial response when I first read about this incident. It’s still a dumb thing to say, as was the criticism of Palin (although her defense of the “gun-sight” poster after the Arizona shootings was the quintessence of disingenuousness).

    I read/watch the likes of Chris Matthews or Paul Krugman (to the extent that I pay them any mind at all) not because they’re objective–of course, they aren’t–but because they (often) have interesting and provocative things to say. In other words, I read them for the same reason that I read you: the fact that I can agree or disagree with your conclusions suggests that you’re analyzing, not reporting, per se.

    To the extent that we’d hear more about Palin, Bachmann, Paul and Limbaugh under similar circumstances than about Capuano, it’s at least in part because they’re now celebrities, and the corporate media loves its darlings–those on either the left or the right who are always good for a sound byte: equivalent Democrats would be Barney Frank, Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi, and (until a year or so ago) Charlie Rangel. I hadn’t (consciously) heard of Capuano until this morning; now I have, precisely because of this incident, which I have read about from a number of sources. If he continues to say provocative things, he may graduate to notoriety… and more scrutiny, positive and negative.

  2. Well, one can’t “report” ethics (I don’t write about slam dunks, usually, which you can report on), which by its very nature implies analysis. I don’t think that’s a fair comparison.

    And I do think you’re reaching….certainly within the context of the post. “Get bloody,” as an exhortation, is one hell of a lot more provocative than Palin’s “reload” or the word “target,” which John Ling pronounced unacceptable language. I think it suggest physical violence. “Get your hands dirty” is the metaphor…”get bloody” means “get bloody.”

    And the celebrity just argument doesn’t hold water. I don’t have time to go through the archives, but there have been many obscure, often local, officials given national attention immediately for racist, violent, or extraordinarily stupid remarks. The criticism after Tucson was supposed to be of rhetoric, not individuals. Obviously it was, in fact, aimed at individuals, because worse rhetoric with different individuals doesn’t get the same response.

  3. A point that I don’t see often discussed – why the (apparently sudden) increase in incivility?

    It’s not just the shootings in Tucson, though those were granted immediate high profile status by Giffords being among the victims. Why, over the last 10 years, even longer, has the general public not made any comments on the rhetoric and the violent metaphors being used in public, not only by politicians?

    Yes, there is the usual outcry after a shooting, and occasional comments have been made about the lyrics of one song or another, or the content of some art shows, but in general the public has been silent. As a nation, a community, are we truly that desensitized to violence, that accepting of rudeness, lack of courtesy, incivility? Is there any way to change this environment?

    Frankly, one of the first voices to reprimand Capuano should have been Obama, reflecting his statement that we “make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds”. I am disappointed with President Obama.

    • Gee, Catherine, there’s been a lot of discussion about it, on this blog and elsewhere. Several communities have launched pro-civility efforts, like Howard County, Md.’s “Choose Civility” campaign. I’ve been a featured speaker at several of these. The “You Lie!” disruption of Obama’s speech in Congress and may other incidents have causes renewed concern about the problem, which goes beyond rudeness to actually undermining productive discourse.

      The problem with addressing it meaningfully is that politicians and commentators usually claim whatever their ideological adversaries say is “uncivil,” whereas what they say is just true. John Avlon, one of the founders of the supposedly pro-civility group “No-Labels” is one of the main offenders in this, arguing that the Right should engage in name-calling and demonizing while promoting his book called “Wingnuts,’ which labels and demonizes various figured on the Right. Obama has had his moments, like the excellent speech in Tucson, but I have never heard him criticize a Democrat or a supporter for incivility.

      • Lots of discussions lately about how uncivil and discourteous we all are…

        Now for some good news. On my way home from work each day, on the crowded MTA bus, we pass several high schools and middle schools.

        I’ve noted that the teenagers — teenagers! — habitually and without prompting give up their seats to the elderly, the pregnant and parents carrying small children. And the riders in general say “Thank you” to the driver when deboarding.

        Part of the route passes thru that den of iniquity, Hollywood.

        Maybe there’s hope yet for that dadblamed dagnabbed younger generation.

  4. To me, is is all part of the demeaning of America. We dress like slobs, think like slobs, act like slobs, etc. What you do, what you say, the importance to present yourself as at least clean, says much about own view of ourselves.

    This is the extent to which the Obama administration and our “enemies” of freedom and free speech have lowered us — to the lowest common denomitator: kudos to them if that was their objective.

    Speak well. Dress well (or at least clean). Remember you are a representative of the United States with every step you
    For the rest of us, for God’s sake, stand tall, make your talking points clear, show and be proud you’re an American! Why would half the world want to worm its way into our society if it didn’t remain “the city on the hill?” Don’t drag it down. Salute it. And make your behavior do the same.

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