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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)


Just watched Meet the Press with guests Jon Kyle (R) and John Kerry (D) both members of the super committee charged with coming up with a deficit reduction package. The two senators sat next to each other at the same table while host David Gregory interviewed them separately, first one then the other… no interaction, no questions, no measuring one idea against another (uh, you know work of democracy). Just two walking talking press releases in coat and tie, spouting their own convenient version of “facts” that bore so little similarity to each other it was like watching The Twilight Zone. Who knows who insisted on that particular format, but a pox on both their houses. Two adult men (the Senate’s elder statesmen no less) charged with leading our country in finding a compromise on the most important issues of our day cannot speak to each other in constructive dialogue. I’ve heard stories of political foes being unwilling to occupy the same green room ahead of joint appearances, but we’ve clearly crossed the Rubicon. If that particular appearance is any measure, don’t be expecting a compromise.

Need new role models.

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 »

Uh. Oh.

“Confidence in our political system is beginning to fade.” — A Wall Street broker, yesterday

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)

This just in from the “ewww” desk

Another chapter in the continuing pitifully juvenile civil dialogue, this one from right here in Florida no less.

First there was this statement by Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz referring to her semi-neighbor Representative Allen West on the house floor:

President Obama has vowed to veto this bill which ends the Medicare guarantee. Incredulously the gentleman from Florida who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as do I, is supportive of this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries. Unbelievable from a member from South Florida. Read all »

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.

My Purple Post: Cheapest Shot of the Campaign Season? You decide.">My Purple Post: Cheapest Shot of the Campaign Season? You decide.

Hop on over to our friends at Purple State of Mind to review your choices.

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.

Mary Ann Lindley: Moderating “the instant gratification of spouting off”

Just in case you missed it, in yesterday’s Tallahassee Democrat, Mary Ann Lindley wrote that ten Gannett papers will begin screening article comments on July 1. Dear God, thank you.

On the quality of the posted comments, Lindley says: “Today anger is ubiquitous. Like potatoes, angry talk is plentiful and cheap.”

I’ll say.

At the speed of light, the shock troops proved Mary Ann’s point not only directly underneath her editorial in their copious screeds about how this is censorship of political thought and Mary Ann is a commie, but in another article in the very same edition of the Democrat as they commented on a Father’s Day story about a dad who changed his life after his wife’s death to spend time with his twin boys.

I have long since learned to not read posts after articles that involve The Village Square (although it is sort of rich to see the rank incivility after an article on civil discourse). But this article is about a family possibly uninitiated to the comment pollution, who probably felt a bit of a wind in their sails from the wonderful Father’s Day piece only to then read tripe like this (screen names VERY intentionally left in, I only wish I could give you their real names):

tallyisracist: “This man did EXACTLY what he was suppose to do as a father, he brought them into the world and it is HIS responsibility to take care of them. He shouldn’t get any special thanks for doing the job of a parent. This is a NO BIG DEAL story. He had wealth that afforded him the ability to quit his job…YEAH GREAT SACRIFICE. He didn’t do anything GRAND, he did his job and people are praising him for it…PATHETIC.”

tallyisracist: “At least he doesn’t have five kids with five different mothers all on welfare and living in section 8 housing, and yet can still drive an Escalade with 22″ rims that cost a fortune. Now that’s pathetic.”

Stupido: “Another example of the sissyfication and feminization of the male gender in America. Men should go to work not stay at home and play house wife!”

Kabubba: “What is PATHETIC is praising a rich WHITE man for taking care of HIS children.”

THE_SPIDER: “I fell asleep reading this story, which is the typical ‘kitten up a tree’ news so often found in the Tallahassee Democrat. You should have stuck it in lifestyle on page three. YAWN!”

In addition to the family, I feel for the poor editors who are now signing on to deal with this crew 24/7 (think about if your job were actually reading this hoo-hah, you couldn’t pay me enough and they should feature you on “America’s Dirtiest Jobs”). And earth to foul posters: Do you think you’ve actually ever convinced anyone of the merits of your thinking? This is the best thing that could possibly happen to the political argument you think you’re making… now you either have to make it like a grown-up your shush up.

I believe your mothers would approve.

(Please meet our Priest and Nun duo in the photo above who administer our We the Wiki – which is coming soon – Rap on the Knuckles for similar bad behavior among blog posters and public officials alike.)