Civility and Integrity Tests For Democrats Are Not Going Well At All

Yup, she's just as good as Michael Steele.

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.

2 thoughts on “Civility and Integrity Tests For Democrats Are Not Going Well At All

  1. I believe the point being made by the Congresswoman was more of “Since when have you had a problem with possibly violent language from third party interests?” McCain had been painted as a Manchurian Candidate by Rove, when running against Bush, so he may have had some ethical reservations about the Hussein thing. I think, however, that it was also a strategy; appear classy to the independents who would find that Muslim inference distasteful, but still let the Right-Wing carnival barkers (Limbaugh, Savage, Beck) circulate it to froth the xenophobic base.
    It’s actually a very sound strategy. Similar to the way Fox pundits always say “Some/many people are saying…” to pulpit accusations without having the onus of levying nonsense.
    McCain’s biggest campaign mistake, the one that went the farthest to wrecking his chance, was choosing Palin. Sarah Palin cost McCain the Presidency. Period.

    • Sorry, “Ted”—TWO “esquires”? Gee, I’m so impressed!—you’re ducking the issue too. Whether or not a Fox newscaster is consistent has no bearing, NONE, N-O-N-E, on Wasserman Schultz’s refusal to condemn outright uncivil name-calling from her camp. We’ll hold journalists to proper standards, thanks—it doesn’t excuse Wasserman Schultz or the Democrats from being fair and consistent.

      I don’t understand how anyone can try to defend this. I know what she was saying: “you’re one too!” Well, even if true,, that’s irrelevant—I know the media has no integrity, They don’t make our laws. You are the kind of enabler that lets pols get away with this crap. Cut it out.

      As for McCain…utter, utter, nonsense. You don’t have the decency to give the man credit for what he does right….a pure ideologue, I gather. McCain refused to play up Rev, Wright, and refused to let people paint Obama as a closet Muslim. It didn’t win him votes…he could have played Obama’s current game and let surrogates say outrageous things. He didn’t There was no upside, electorally for him.

      Your comment on Palin is not relevant, but also dead, dead wrong. She was 1) at least as good a choice as Biden, who is a bumbling, untrustworthy dolt 2) more qualified for executive office than Obama, as events have borne out, and 3) energized his campaign. Yes, she’s been a disappointment in many ways, and I wouldn’t vote for her as dog-catcher at this point, but there was no way for McCain to know that. If he made a mistake, it was not guessing that the press would be classist, sexist and biased in its coverage of her. I was surprised at that too, but never again.

      I have studied the American presidency for a long time, and I would venture to say that while some VP’s may have won the race (notably LBJ for Kennedy), none have lost it, not even Dan Quayle. Without Palin, a lot of conservatives who loathed McCain would have sat out the election, and anyone who votes for a President based on the running mates is more than a little addled. With the economy collapsing, the GOP awash in scandals, and everyone sick of Bush, McCain could have run the most brilliant campaign ever and still would have lost. Blaming it on Palin is just fantasy, and also very unfair.

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