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Riding tigers (and being eaten by them)

“I think – as President Kennedy pointed out – sometimes when you try to ride the tiger, you wind up inside of it. And you’ve seen this over the last couple of years: Any insult to Rush Limbaugh is greeted with an immediate apology from whatever offending Republican, no matter their rank or stature. When you have someone who yells “you lie” in the middle of the State of the Union, donations flood into the website. So there has been a reward system based on the intemperance of the rhetoric, not on the substance of the ideas, the strength of conservatism as the solution to the problems. So this carnival atmosphere, once started, it isn’t that easy to shut off. And we may be about to pay a high price for it.” — Steve Schmidt, Republican strategist on Morning Joe (Photo credit)



Breaking news from the American heartland: We’re in big fat trouble now

There are few things more ominous and full of portent than this New York Times article about the changing nature and tone of communications in a small town in the Ozarks:

“But of late, more people in this hardscrabble town of 5,000 have shifted from sharing the latest news and rumors over eggs and coffee to the Mountain Grove Forum on a social media Web site called Topix, where they write and read startlingly negative posts, all cloaked in anonymity, about one another.”

So it was bound to happen, eventually. Apparently when you get wired, the less appealing parts of human nature aren’t far behind. This small town story of what happens next – real damage, divorce, suicide – is required reading for those of us who trade in any way in spiteful commentary we don’t have to fess up to.

If this isn’t a wake-up call about how we do – and how we do not – want to use our technological advances, I don’t know what is. The whole depressing tale is here.

(Photo credit)



Just pitiful.

From today’s New York Times, this pretty much captures the why of our AAA credit rating downgrade: “Democrats and Republicans both claimed to find validation for their policies in the decision by the ratings agency…”

Of course they did. Has anyone on Capitol Hill shown any ability whatsoever to absorb information that didn’t emanate directly from their caucus? It’s like they’re all half-deaf. Read all »



Obama and Boehner talks break down

“This is Washington not working. In full glare.”
–David Gregory, Meet the Press (referring to the break down of debt ceiling talks)



Bob Schieffer: We’ve cumulatively gone back to high school

Currently all about Bob Schieffer’s commentary from yesterday’s Face the Nation. He nailed it:

“The author Kurt Vonnegut once observed that life was more or less a replay of high school, and with every passing day, that comparison becomes more apt in describing Washington. The one difference is that high school stays in session most of the time. Yet the parallels with high school are inescapable. Just think about this: Distractions such as vanity and the mania for gossip and the short attention span that prevents focusing on problems even long enough to try to understand them. Unbridled meanness toward those who are not part of your crowd. The cliquishness that requires group think – if you don’t believe exactly what we believe you can’t be part of our crowd. We’re right, you’re always wrong, and don’t confuse us with facts. An inability to act for fear it will cause a loss of popularity…”

Read the whole commentary (Anthony Weiner’s behavior is appropriately up next) HERE.

(Photo credit: Michael Foley Photography)



There’s a canary in that birth certificate coal mine (and it’s not Obama’s place of birth)

Hardly a day has past these last six years that didn’t leave my mouth gaping at that day’s new step in the descent of our political dialogue into rot. As I’ve watched this unraveling – given the mission of The Village Square to re-civilize our civic discourse – I’ve formed some opinions.

My ultimate conclusion: I believe we’re firmly entrenched in dangerous forces that already have enough momentum to push us past the point of no return. And I hope we can view the Obama birth certificate fiasco as the warning it is for us to step away from the edge.

True enough, there have been some low points in the history of America’s public square. Among them was that unfortunate brouhaha where a sitting Vice President shot and killed a former Secretary of the Treasury. And it’s also true that the majority of what is ailing us is firmly entrenched in basic human nature, so it’s not going away anytime soon. Read all »



Leading & Misleading

From Glenn W. Smith’s The Politics of Deceit:

Following Thomas Paine’s advice, we should wake up and understand that our long habit of not thinking our political practices wrong does not make them right. . . Their very structure lends advantage to those who would mislead rather than lead, to those who believe their own power is more important than the health of democracy. . . The dissolution of social mechanisms for working out our differences and celebrating our similarities and common purposes has contributed to the deterioration of the public sphere and made possible the ascendancy of the politics of deceit.



Dehumanizing comments like these are canaries in the coal mine of our civic life.

Two New Hampshire Democrats – one elected, one running for election – are in deep kimchi over their posted comments while discussing the death of former Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens in a place crash:

“Well a dead Palin wd be even more dangerous than a live one…she is all about her myth & if she was dead she cldn’t commit any more gaffes,” Horrigan wrote.

Horrigan was commenting on another post by a Democrat running for the state house, party activist Keith David Halloran, who found himself in hot water Wednesday after writing about the crash: “Just wish Sarah and Levy [sic] were on board.”

Any Democrats who think all the incivility flows right to left should reconsider. When you can no longer see people through the lens of humanity, you’re a bridge too far.



Conservative David Frum makes a plea to conservatives (that they probably didn’t hear because it was on Bill Moyers)

frum david

David Frum on Bill Moyers Journal:

Look, a lot of the conservative movement in this country is conducting itself in a way that is tremendously destructive. Both of the basic constitutional compact of the requirements of good faith and of their own good sense. I mean, when you were going on the air and calling the President of the United States a Nazi as Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly done. When Mark Levin — you mentioned him — he said the President of the United States is literally at war with the American people.

And then people begin, unsurprisingly, showing up at rallies with guns. Well, obviously, if the President were– I mean, folks, if I believed the President of the United States were a Nazi, were planning a Fascist takeover, it would be contemptibly cowardly of me not to do everything in my power, including contemplating violence, to resist such a thing. Every decent person should do that.

That’s why you don’t say it when it’s not true. And I mean, one of the ways that the constitutional system works is with some understanding that the people on the other side have slightly different priorities but they share your constitutional values. They have invested in the same system. The problems they’ve got are hard problems. And even if you don’t like their answers, you have to have some restraint in the way you talk about them, as you would hope they would have about you.

And I think it’s just outrageous. It is dangerous. It’s dangerous for the whole constitutional system. Now, I’m absolutely prepared to fight with them. And by the way, it’s dangerous to conservatives because the effect of the talk of people like Levin and Rush Limbaugh is to kill our cause with voters who are under 65.

You make that man the face and you say let us contrast him to Barack Obama who is maybe too expensive but who seems calm and judicious? That’s an ugly comparison.

Find David Frum’s New Majority website HERE.



Fire, meet gasoline.

gasoline can and pork rindsApparently some liberals don’t think some conservatives have already made town halls quite shrill enough. Apparently they like a little combustion with their decision-making:

The right-wing nuts who cry that ObamaCare is introducing euthanasia for the elderly and infirm, or that it is socialism, are ignorant wackos, to be sure, but they are right about one thing: Americans are about to be royally screwed on health care reform by the president and the Democratic Congress, just as they’ve been screwed by them on financial system “reform.”

The appropriate response to this screw-job is the one the right has adopted: shut these sham “town meetings” down, and run the sell-out politicians out of town on a rail, preferably coated in tar and feathers they way the snake-oil salesmen of old used to be handled!

This is not about civil discourse. This is about propaganda… The only proper response at this point is obstruction, and the more militant and boisterous that obstruction, the better.

(Photo credit. Got to like the pork rinds and beer bottle with the gasoline for a little color.)



Irony is dead.

Rush Limbaugh called Barack Obama “mean” today for his bad bowling joke.



The low road, version 1.0

As news from the campaign trail get uglier and uglier, as fact takes a back seat to whatever the character assassination flavor-of-the-day, as one needs to bathe after the simple act of watching the evening news, it’s about time for this blast from the past:

In 1800, the Federalist Gazette suggested that if Jefferson were elected over Adams, they would see a devastation of “those morals which protect our lives from the knife of the assassin – which guard the chastity of our wives and daughters from seduction and violence.”

In their version of today’s editorial endorsement, they wrote:

At the present solemn and momentous epoch, the only question to be asked by every American, laying his hand on his heart, is “Shall I continue in allegiance to GOD AND A RELIGIOUS PRESIDENT; or impiously declare for JEFFERSON AND NO GOD!!!”

Worth noting for an advocate of civility in politics (and perhaps duly noted by media critics)?

Jefferson won anyway.



America, go to your room.

No matter your candidate in ’04, no matter your candidate in ’08, no matter your party, this isn’t good news: ugly South Carolina political tricks are baaaccck… This time with this piece of high-minded political discourse targeting Senator John McCain from a group calling themselves “Vietnam Veterans against McCain.

Last spin through South Carolina for the Senator, pro-Bush groups conducted push-polls asking voters how they would feel if they knew McCain had fathered a black child out of wedlock. Truth? The Senator and his wife adopted an Indian ORPHAN from MOTHER THERESA’S ORPHANAGE, no less.

Then there is this smear against Mitt Romney a “mailer in heavily evangelical South Carolina, purporting to be a holiday card paid for by the Mormon Temple in Boston, wishing fond holiday wishes from the Romney family,” beginning with this sentence: “We have now clearly shown that God the father had a plurality of wives…” The FBI is investigating, though a lot of good it will do candidate Romney as a postscript months down the road.

Then there is this anti-Romney mailing out to Florida voters:

“Help me sound the alarm that one day the Mormon Church plans to replace the Constitution with a Mormon theocracy. Mitt Romney’s political success indicates this may be sooner than most have thought…”

Then there is email, this breathless Obama as undercover radical Muslim screed that’s been arriving in in-boxes for months. One version even mentions that email fact-checker www.snopes.com had verified the story when it had, in fact, done the exact opposite.

And, now, a Village Square pop-quiz. Referencing our last post, do you suppose these tactics target our:

    1. Human brain
    2. Lizard brain
    3. Our inner second-grader?



Hint: My apologies to second graders for impugning their intelligence.