Over the weekend, President Obama sat beaming as Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa’s (that’s Jr….not the dead one whose mob connections sent him to sleep with the fishes. It is touching, though, that the Teamsters are so devoted to tradition and maintaining that organization’s long-time”values”…) call for workers to combat the Tea Party and “take these son-of-a-bitches out.” Last week, Rep. Andre Carson accused conservative colleagues in Congress of wanting to lynch African-Americans. The week before, Rep. Maxine Waters told a cheering audience that “the Tea Party can go straight to Hell!”, and in the weeks before that, other members of the party, perhaps even Vice President Biden, took turns calling Republican’s “terrorists.” None of these comments have been repudiated or criticized by leaders in the party.
This morning on Fox News, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debby Wasserman Schultz made it crystal clear that no criticism would be forthcoming, either. Asked by morning host Gretchen Carlson about her party’s official position on the use of such unambiguously uncivil (and arguably violent) rhetoric by Hoffa, Wasserman Schultz launched into a non-responsive, pre-packaged statement about how everyone had to “focus like a laser on turning this economy around.”
In contrast to “Meet the Press'”David Gregory over the weekend, who pretended that a similarly irrelevant response by Rep. Waters regarding her “straight to Hell” statement was a perfectly reasonable one [Note: See, the rule in journalism today is that conservative-slanted interviewers will insist on real answers from liberals, but allow Republicans to duck tough questions, and left-biased interviewers will insist on real answers from conservatives, but let Democrats duck. Isn’t our free and objective news media a wonder of American democracy?], Carlson refused to let Wasserman Schultz get away with it, and said the Congresswoman hadn’t answered the question…which she hadn’t. This is rude to the interviewer, insulting to viewers, and generally dishonest.
Wasserman-Schultz persisted in avoiding the real subject, repeating her previous non-responsive statement, and telling Carlson “I know you want me to focus on words, but the American people want us to focus on jobs.” (This is like saying, “I know you want to discuss politics, but the American people are interested in football. How about those Redskins?”) She also noted that she had called for civility in the past.
Well, yes, Congresswoman, the question was about words, because words set the tone for discourse and politics. And while you did call for civility a while back, it was specifically to criticize the intemperate words of opponents, which you and your party (and your party’s sycophants in the media) claimed were creating a hyper-charged atmosphere conducive to violence. Now political allies and members of your own party are using rhetoric like Hoffa, Carson and Waters, and Carlson’s question is a fair, legitimate and timely one: were those calls for civility just a cynical, calculated effort to silence criticism on the right, or were they a sincere statement of principle that the Democratic Party intends to insist upon from its own members?
In effect, Carson got her answer, when Wasserman-Schultz got annoyed at the Foz host’s insistence on an honest reply, and said this:
“Really Gretchen? How many times have you called out coarse language at tea party rallies? Almost never.”
So let’s get this straight: the Democratic Party excuses itself from civility standards it has criticized the Republicans for violating, because its Chairman believes a Fox News host hasn’t criticized “coarse language at Tea Party rallies”? This isn’t just a rationalization for unethical conduct, it’s an awful one. Since when did the practices of Fox News set the standards for elected officials and the Democratic Party. Who believes that Wasserman-Schultz watches Fox’s morning program sufficiently to make the accusation that Carlson “almost never” criticizes the rhetoric at Tea Party rallies?
In summation, here is what we learned from this morning’s exchange:
1. Against all odds, the Democrats managed to find a National Committee Chair as inept, incompetent, and ethically clueless as the previous Republican National Committee Chair, Michael Steele. I wouldn’t have believed that was possible.
2.With President Obama’s re-election prospects looking shaky, the Democrats are preparing to “go negative” in the most unrestrained and vicious manner possible, and will not reign in even the most offensive and divisive statements–especially from base allies like unions and African-American groups.
3. Previous Democratic statements condemning name-calling, hate-speech and “eliminationist rhetoric,” as in “take these son-of-a-bitches out!” from a union official whose family history indicates that he knows exactly what those words mean, are “inoperable.” That’s how the Nixon administration liked to put it.
4. This is apparently true of President Obama as well.
Sen. John McCain ran an inept campaign in 2008, and deserved to lose. He did have standards of civility, however, and he insisted, no matter how desperate his prospects were, that supporters and his campaign not make use of the cheap shot so popular, even today, among conservative talk radio hosts: referring to the Obama as “Barack HUSSEIN Obama,” with the obvious innuendo that he is somehow allied to Islam and not “one of us.” When one of those rabid hosts introduced McCain at a rally while using the tactic, McCain publicly rebuked him, making many enemies on the right. He insisted that party press releases using Obama’s full name be changed. In short, he set a standard of civility, and refused to let anyone cross it, even for political gain. To this day. McCain is ridiculed for his position…ridiculed for integrity.
At this point, I see a Democratic leadership that is willing, unlike John McCain, to sacrifice civility, honor, fairness and integrity for votes. For anyone who believes that ethical government and responsible national leadership are important, attention must be paid.