econscius

Giffords, The Era of Civility & Biden’s “Terrorists”

In First Amendment, Gabrielle Giffords, Joe Biden, Political Rhetoric, Secret Service on August 3, 2011 at 8:57 am

US Representative Gabrielle Giffords returned to the US House Monday night to cast her vote for the Debt Ceiling deal.  Cheers to Representative Giffords for her impressive recovery and my sincerest hope it continues. 

What is ironic about this, though, is even as Ms. Giffords made this public step we are all rooting for, the controversy over the same Debt Ceiling bill marked the absolute end of the “era of civility.”   The new “civility” was supposed to be the one positive thing that came out of the Arizona tragedy that killed six and nearly claimed Rep. Giffords’ life. 

The Giffords shooting was instantly chalked up by folks like Paul Krugman to supposedly strong political rhetoric [1], talk radio and ‘gun-sights’ imagery. [2]   In the event, we now know the shooter was mentally deranged and apolitical. [3] [4] [5]   Nevertheless, many left-leaning and mainstream media commentators decided that even if the mentally ill shooter was not motivated by talk radio or Sarah Palin’s website, surely it was a “teachable moment”.  Someone else might someday be inflamed to murder by heated rhetoric; to be safe, we should usher in an era of civility when people talk nicer about their political enemies and give up military and gun metaphors. 

I am all for treating everyone – including one’s political opponents – with respect and aim to do so here.  That said, evidence that American political rhetoric causes political murder is scanty.  Freedom of speech is precious and the First Amendment was established specifically for difficult speech rather than middle of the road talk that offends none.  I wondered if those who demanded a new “civility” from the Right were serious or simply trying to score cheap political points.

Not many months later, speaking of the new era of civility is like speaking of the Paleozoic era – it is ancient history.

In recent days, the Debt Ceiling controversy has had leading columnists like Paul Krugman using the very same types of militaristic rhetoric they initially claimed caused the Arizona shooting.  Krugman called Republicans “hostage takers” and others called Republicans “terrorists” [6] [7].  Republicans were said to “hijack” the country, were “holding a gun to our heads” [10], want the country to fail, etc.   There was a racial tinge to Andrew Sullivan’s Debt Ceiling commentary calling the GOP the “party of the Confederacy.” [11]

No less a personage than Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), chair of the Democratic National Committee, “said Wednesday that House Republicans are trying to impose “dictatorship” through their tactics in the debt-ceiling negotiations” [8]  What happened to the new civility?  Might someone take all this talk of hostages, guns, terrorists, hijacking, hating America and dictators and do something rash?  Wasn’t that supposed to be the lesson of January’s tragedy in Arizona?

Vice President Joe Biden reportedly agreed with US Rep. Doyle (D-PA) when Doyle said, “ We have negotiated with terrorists,” according to sources in the room. “This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money.”  [9]   

Interestingly, at least one arm of the government is not finding it “impossible to spend” freely.  The Secret Service is paying Joe Biden rent for the privilege of using his guest cottage.  And what is the Secret Service using the Biden guest house for?  To guard Joe Biden.  “Records show Mr Biden has collected more than $13,000 since April on the cottage in Greenville, a wealthy Wilmington suburb, and is eligible for up to $66,000 before the contract expires in 2013.” [12] [13]

Some might suggest it is unseemly, in an era of trillion-dollar deficits, for the Vice President to collect $2,200 a month in rent from the Secret Service for guarding him… but would it be uncivil to say so?
 

 

[1] http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/08/assassination-attempt-in-arizona/

[2] An example of left-wing blog blaming conservative ‘violent imagery’ : http://www.alternet.org/news/149488/yes,_jared_loughner’s_act_was_political/

[3] http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2011/0112/As-portrait-of-Jared-Loughner-sharpens-vitriol-blame-fades

[4] http://wwwhttp://www.tnr.com/article/politics/81485/how-the-media-botched-the-arizona-shooting.nytimes.com/2011/01/12/us/12loughner.html?pagewanted=2&_r=2&hp

[5] http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/01/12/20110112gabrielle-giffords-jared-loughner-warning-signs.html

[6] http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2011/07/29/2011-07-29_republicans_holding_our_countrys_economy_hostage_during_debt_standoff.html

[7] http://www.businessinsider.com/republicans-are-economic-terrorists-2011-7

[8] http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0711/60080

[9] http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0811/60421.html#ixzz1Tsd0mw17 

[10] “Now they’re holding a gun to our heads to pay it down?” http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jul/28/debt-ceiling-republicans

[11] http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2011/07/americas-cold-civil-war.html

[13] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/jul/31/biden-charging-secret-service-cottage-rental/

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