As of now, I am in control here, in the White House

Mr. President, Don’t Tell Us to Tone it Down

I can remember that at some point during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, there was news that Henry Kissinger and other diplomats were getting nice and busy trying to bring about a cessation of hostilities. And I remember my mother saying, “Every time the Israelis start winning, everyone starts talking about peace.”

I’m reminded of this as “reasonable” people all over TV and the Congress are soberly intoning that the time has come for everyone to tone it down. And these are, as I’ve pointed out, many of the same people who either spent eight years bashing Bush and Cheney in the most ugly manner, or who were discussing such vitriol as if it were the normal and acceptable course of political conversation.

The sudden recourse to reasonableness and the attempted social ban on “angry” rhetoric is little more than an effort to shut conservatives up. If the president calls for quiet when he speaks this evening in Tucson, he is joining those on the left who want to wire the jaws of their opponents shut. No matter if he tries to seem independent and call for “all sides” to make nice. He never, as far as I know, called for tempering criticism of Republicans during the Bush presidency. If he does it now, he’s taking sides.

And he shouldn’t have done it then either. Raucous debate is our nature and our heritage, ever since John Adams called Alexander Hamilton “the bastard brat of a Scotch peddler.” Things have never been tame.

Ironically, one of the few who took some time to reflect before reacting to the Tucson shootings is the very person in the, um, cross hairs of those who shot their mouths off without thinking, Sarah Palin. Here’s what she said. Liberals who think they have 40 IQ points on her could learn something. Her words are among the most eloquent I’ve heard.

Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.

There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those “calm days” when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial. But our Founding Fathers knew they weren’t designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government.

Public discourse and debate isn’t a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional.

It is in the hour when our values are challenged that we must remain resolved to protect those values. Recall how the events of 9-11 challenged our values and we had to fight the tendency to trade our freedoms for perceived security. And so it is today.

One of our readers, Granny Jan, who blogs at Granny Jan and Jihad Kitty, has put together a video compendium of some of Obama’s own incendiary remarks. Unfortunately, the comments completely contradict the image Obama originally presented us as someone who is post-partisan uniter, above the fray. But otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with them. If that’s who he truly is, he should do more of it.

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24 Responses to Mr. President, Don’t Tell Us to Tone it Down

  1. Check out today’s NYT–the commenters are all over Sarah for making this about her (which I didn’t really see, although a lot of this WAS about her), for using the word blood (I never heard of blood libel, what is it?), or and of course for existing, for having the temerity to plunge into the national debate, for being a woman, all the usual. I doubt the One will be able to resist trying to smooth things over–no more guns when knives are brought. He will. For a week or two. Raucous debate was the perfect phrase. I said to my sister yesterday–Americans are kind of violent, and independent and loud! That won’t change.

  2. Another ‘home run’ from GrannyJan!
    As a gene-carrying member of a huge family with backgrounds from many different areas, I can testify that the one who shouts the loudest usually wins. But, we still love and care about each other.
    The same with our American family, we shout and carry on loud discussions but in the end we’re all still family.
    The argument isn’t the problem, it’s the continuous name-calling and false labeling that causes resentment.

  3. Keith, I can agree with you about Obama only in so far that his calls to violence and confrontation are educational when contrasted with his other face, that of the Great Historic Peacmaker and Overview Supplier.

    I think it would be wrong to pass laws to restrict speech, I do think it would be great if people would become thoughtful enough to offer their viewpoints persuasively without encouraging listeners to get out their gun for the knife fight or get in people’s faces instead of hearing their views and countering them.

    Debate is about ideas, not the best or most enraging turn of phrase.

  4. two great quotes: Your Mother’s and Adams/Hamilton. Might steal one for tomorrow. Trying to conjure what POTUS might say tonite. Could be anything but I’ll bet you a burger he “goes there”.

    GOD, do we ever need a leader…

  5. This whole ‘blaming’ response to the shootings shows a huge problem with our current government culture (ha!), which is that they have a ridiculously exaggerated sense of responsibility. Some nut-job goes off the deep end and somehow government is responsible. Some people are poor and government is responsible. Some people are sick and government is responsible. Some people are in debt and government is responsible. Some people have poor parenting skills and the government is responsible. Some people don’t speak the language and government is responsible.

    This is not the case. Government is NOT responsible and cannot be responsible for these things, Sorry, I wish The One could clothe the naked, feed the hungry, heal the sick, etc. but that is just not going to work. Gevernment WILL fail at fixing all these problems, and taxpayers will be paying for the epic failures while the bad concepts get even more ingrained in our society.

    The response that somehow political rhetoric contributed to this is false, and the underlying philosophy is flawed.

    • Well said.

      There are events that can be traced back to a cause — for instance, denying married women credit in their own names kept them in a position of exaggerated dependence upon their husbands. This was address and fixed.

      But as you say, it doesn’t follow that every time an event occurs a set of people can be labelled responsible. This shooter seems to be more left in his wanderings than right — does that make the left directly responsible? I would say the actions that let dangerously insane people out of long-term residential care and onto our streets and that now make it nearly impossible to commit a person to a mental hospital until after the murders are responsible for the shooting in Arizona. Shall we hunt down the doctors behind this general change in policy — or shall we change the policy to reflect reality?

  6. Ah the hypocrisy is maddening!

    I wholeheartedly agree about the position Obama should take. I can see how tempting it would be for him to travel down the blame-the-rhetoric road, but I truly hope he doesn’t.

    Speaking of rising above the blame game – I also agree with your assessment of Palin’s response this morning. I feel that it was probably the most approriate response she could have given and felt that, after five days of having people literally call for her own assassination, it was far more focused and fair than I could have ever been in her shoes. She is a class act who reguarly rises above the unprecedented Left hate for her.

    However, this was going to be a no-win for here with the public Left/mainstream media. They have since gone after every little word (and calling it “incindiary laguange of ‘blood libel'”) and were offended that she respond at all – as if pinning the responsibility of a massacre on her head was something she should have simply accepted and then reteated in obscurity. It’s really hard to manage my sadness and disappointment at the lengths people go to just to destroy this woman. I keep hoping that there are more fair-minded people out there who – if they haven’t before – are starting to see through the BS perpetrated by the media and their biases. And if it wasn’t obvious during the 2008 election, it is simply impossible to ignore this past week.

    Equally as frustrating to see is how, despite all the evidence that has now come out about this and the lack of political connection, the mainstream media conitnues to push this agenda that the connection exists. There are no retractions, no apologies and no back-pedaling on all the early assumptions and accusations. Rather, it’s all “Well, maybe rhetoric and the Right didn’t play a role in this, but next time…” In this case, I actually appreciate the fact that Obama has mostly reserved comment until today, and until the facts have been exposed.

  7. This continued media response reminds me of the allegations made by the administration last Fall regarding the story that the Chamber of Commerce was being funded by foreign causes to defeat the Democrats. The attitude that the speculation has to be disproven to be retracted instead of having to be proven kept the story going, even though it was a non-story. Let’s just say it was the right wing media machine that caused this event and run with it. Who cares if there isn’t any basis for it. Sounds good. Must be true. Very sad what the mainstream media has become.

      • I listened to Palin’s response this morning and it was incredible. She is the only one with a head on her shoulders, and this broad REFUSES to give in to the Marxist-liberal-media-complex where truth revolves around a Goebbelian style of misinformation, disinformation and lying, supported by the WH and the far left extremists.

        Keith, GREAT points all … once again your able to pull everything together in one superb article. It simply could not have been written better: DEBATE is the center of our nation.

        Today I realized one thing: My America is Gone. She’s gone. It will never be the same. The left-wing (who I truly believe are Fascist) have one goal: the complete and total elimination of truth … a doubleplusungood.

        And the sad part is —> there are SO many Democrats that love this country, who beleive in it, the Constitution, free speech, a free and open internet, but their voices are drowned out by the vile, radical elements on the left.

  8. I disagree that its so wrong for the President to condemn angry rhetoric, given that the nature of our current political convresation is less focused on issues than on demonizing opponents. Just because he took part in that political discussion doesn’t mean he can’t take a step back and try to work in a more civil way. In fact I would argue that is admirable and shows a level of self restraint that is all too uncommon in politics and society. We need that level of restraint on so many levels, economic self restraint, moral restraint in the way we treat ourselves and eachother.
    I disagree that calling for restraint of political vitriol is such a bad thing for the President to do. I think this is a good start, but I’m not ready to praise “leadership by example” until we see a pattern from the White House of civility and self restraint. However the speech in Tuscon is a good start.

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