Monday, April 5, 2010

Of Thin Skins

As the political discourse in this country continues to degrade into a schoolyard mud fight, one thing becomes more and more apparent. Our politicians, all of whom seem fully capable of launching insult after condemnation after slur also seem increasingly incapable of tolerating any directed at them.

Once upon a time, in a land right here, when a politician launched an attack, they expected and were able to handle the inevitable reply. They knew that the price of low ball politics was to be subjected to the same. Not so much anymore.

Now, we have a new breed of politician. One I call the bold coward. Those lovely elected officials and party operatives that freely and constantly sling mud. The ones that cannot utter an entire sentence without somehow slipping in an insult or 2. Yet, these same bold insulters become whimpering cowards when they are on the other side of the insult.

For 8 years, Democrats attacked President George W. Bush as unelected, selected, stupid, racist, and yes, a Nazi. And for 8 years, Bush withstood all of that with nary a whimper. Sure the party folks made noise. At the same time, the Republican led Congress was able to tolerate their share of insults. So were the Democrats.

While the nature of the politics grew uglier, at least they were all able to take what they dished out.

Somewhere along the line, that changed. The majority in Congress passed from corrupt Republicans to corrupt Democrats. And in that change, the ability of these self-proclaimed adults to take an insult evaporated. Sure, they could still dish it out, but they could no longer take it.

By the time we got to the 2008 election, politicians had become fragile china dolls who appear to shatter at the first sign of an insult. Oh, they can still dish them out, and more vile than ever, but they can no longer take them. Every insult, every comment, every negative remark became a cause unto itself, as if the mere hurling of an insult was somehow an evil act - but only to the recipient.

Nothing is quite as illustrative of this new syndrome as the now obligatory "president as Hitler" imagery. I personally find it detestable and would not use it. However, our Constitution guarantees the right to use such imagery, and as much as I dislike it, I defend it.

For 8 years, Democrats/Liberals used the Bush as Hitler stuff. They reveled in it. And for 8 years Republicans/Conservatives complained that it was wrong and inappropriate. They talked about putting our troops at risk by undermining a war time president. Words like sedition and treason were flung about. Democrats pointed to the First Amendment only to have the reply about aid and comfort to the enemy.

Then came 2008. Now, Republicans/Conservatives are using the Obama as Hitler imagery. It is still wrong, still inappropriate and still Constitutionally protected. But now, Democrats cry foul and Republicans point to the First Amendment.

In other words, a big steaming pile of self-righteous hypocisy.

Both sides were able to dish it out all day, but neither seems able to accept it with grace.

I am reminded of a situation I was in in 2004. I was attending the NRA Convention in Pittsburgh on behalf of a client. As is usually the case, anti-gun rights protesters has lawfully set up their protests outside. During the Convention, a reporter asked me what I thought about allowing the protests. I replied that it was a sign that America was healthy. That, while I disagreed with them, I respected and defended their right to lawfully protest. And, in fact, I found it heartening that our country allowed this. Well, that was one frustrated reporter. I failed to give him the fiery retort he needed for his broadcast. I failed to hurl an insult back. And I took the insults from the anti-rights folks in stride. After all, they do get to have an opinion, too. The report never aired. Not enough meat on those bones.

Well, in the ensuing 6 years, it has become the standard reply to cry foul, whimper about nastiness and then hurl an insult.

A serious case in point is the accusation of racism/sexism. This has now become the standard reply. Don't like Obama? Racist. Don't like GOP Chairman Steele? Racist. Don't like Pelosi? Sexist. Don't like Palin? Sexist. And so on.

Is there racism and sexism in America? Of course there is. Only an idiot or a liar would say otherwise. However, it is not the driving force it is made out to be, nor is it the basis for the preponderant majority insults and anger. The real basis for the anger is the mismanagement of our nation. By both sides. Americans are angry about bailouts. Angry about deficits. Angry about Wall Street and the banks. Angry about the economy. But mostly, angry about the endless sea of lies.

Here is a hard truth for most of the political coward class to swallow - most Americans don't like any of you. Not racist, sexist or any other '-ist.' We just don't like the way you run our country. This applies to both parties. My problems with Obama are issue based, the same way as my problems with Boehner are issue based. I could not care less of they are purple with diagonal pink stripes. It is what they are doing that I don't like.

So when an Eric Bolling (Fox Business) goes after the administration, he is doing so because he disagrees with the policies they have in place and Bolling's perception of Obama's stewardship. And, likewise, when a John Stewart (Daily Show) goes after Steele, it is over policy and stewardship. Not race. Not even close. Neither Bolling or Stewart are racists. They are simply expressing their opinions.

Who cares if a member of Congress shouts out during a speech? Seriously. So what? Yet, this gets more media attention than the ongoing investigations into members of this horribly failed Congress for corruption. One hyperbolic speech about Republican Health Care ideas being fatal and we forget that members of the Congress routinely lie about the money they claim to not be taking.

Perhaps if more of the political class could take an insult without running home to mommy, we might accomplish something. And if they cannot, then let them run home and stay there. We need adults in charge and not whimpering cowardly bullies.

No comments:

Post a Comment