"A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men
from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."
(Thomas Jefferson)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Joe Scarborough: Hold bad political actors accountable

The former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough from the Florida Panhandle nailed it. Joe came into office with the 1994 Republican takeover of the Congress and served for three terms as he had committed to do when he signed on to the Contract with America. I agree with him when he says he never understood the venom aimed at him  because he was a conservative in Congress and would bet holds the same principles he held then. The venom and the vitriol has increased with both sides of the 'my way or no way' crowd -- left and right who represent a small portion of both parties, but their voices seem to be the loudest.

Several conservative websites have continually attacked Scarborough as not being conservative enough but I personally think he speaks with common sense that comes from being from the Florida Panhandle not some big city of the east coast.  Because he doesn't follow the conservative agenda 100%, he is attacked and called names.  Seems to be what some do best on the far right or left.

If I had the opportunity to have lunch with one person from all the cable news channels, it would be Joe Scarborough. Believe he has been unfairly demonized by some of the far right conservatives who seem to be angry all the time just like the far left that is angry all the time. Their agendas are different but their over the top rhetoric is the same.

Tonight the victims of the tragedy in Arizona will be remembered in a Memorial Service where President Obama, Governor Brewer, and Attorney General Holder will be in attendance. Things haven't always been rosy between Gov Brewer and the Administration but tonight is a coming together to honor those who were killed and injured in an attack by one lone man and politics has been put on the back burner. Governor Brewer has been a leader in bringing the people of Arizona together during this tragedy and many have seen a softer side to the Governor they never saw during the heated debates on immigration.

From accounts of people who were in class with the shooter, he should have been in a mental hospital not on the streets of Tucson. If someone needs to be held accountable, place the blame on the people who knew he was mentally unstable but even then they never could have imagined he would have done something like this. Plus you cannot commit someone without their will if they have not broken any laws. The gun didn't shoot the people, a deranged person using a gun killed them. More gun laws would not have changed the outcome.

This is a tragedy that doesn't need political blame assigned as the shooter seems to be pretty far out there in his readings and his rants which are hard to understand. What should have happened, didn't stop the political class, pundits, and even a local Sheriff from assigning blame before the facts were known which started a firestorm with the right answering the critics in some overheated rhetoric themselves. This over the top rhetoric didn't start because of this tragedy, it has been in full force for people to see for a long time.

The problem we see is that the political discourse has gone into the gutter even more since 2000 with all the shouting both on Fox News by some of the pundits and on MSNBC News from the other side. Between some of the hosts on both cable outlets and their guests, shouting and trashing people has become the name of the game. Is it for ratings or do they always talk like that? We hope it is only for ratings because if it is not, then maybe they should attend anger management classes.   In some ways reminds us of the 60's and all the anger and shouting that went on with the protests but then some these pundits are from that era or others are sons and daughters of the angry anti-war protestors.

Before 2000 and the popularity of  24-hour cable news and news shows (use the term lightly), we had President Clinton following the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, blame right wing talk radio for the tragedy not mentioning it was the anniversary of Waco and that McVeigh was a nutcase.  Clinton didn't wait for facts but struck out against the right for political reasons.   That started a downhill slide that picked up steam following the election in 2000 and discourse returning to the 60's level which we hated then.

Why can't people just disagree on the opponent's agenda without shouting and trying to keep the other person from talking? What went on at Town Halls and at some rallies was absolutely disgusting. The shouting so a member of Congress couldn't speak was reprehensible, but then the attacks by the left by the SEIU and others at rallies on attendees, like what happened in St. Louis, was even more reprehensible. We never thought using gun references in campaigns was necessary. We honestly didn't see the map or hear the words about 'lock and load' or see the Gov Manchin ad as we were too busy being involved on our blogs and in campaigns that were positive. 

One thing we do know is that the rhetoric has gone over the top from both sides and keeps getting worse not better. Some of it has been instigated by some pundits with their comments and shouting. Doesn't mean you cannot disagree -- it is American to be part of the loyal opposition but we don't need to shout and toss out things we know are not true as facts. We have a right as the old saying goes to 'agree to disagree' as members of the opposition or even in our own party. No one deserves to be shouted down period. Been on the receiving end of being cussed out and threatened when I dared to disagree with some Party people -- that was mild then to what it is today.

When President Clinton blamed talk radio for the Murrah Bombing which turned a huge tragedy into a political plus for Clinton. It was wrong then and wrong today.  The idea of  'never let a tragedy go to waste' was one of the worst comments that became associated with Clinton and Rahm Emanuel.

We thought rhetoric for this shooting and placing of blame was starting to settle down with thoughts turning to honoring the victims tonight. Sarah Palin released a video this morning on the day of the mourning of the victims with her video titled: Sarah Palin: America's Enduring Strength which we 'wrongly' assumed was going to be about how people are handling this tragedy from a positive standpoint. Instead Palin used the term "Blood Libel" in this video to aim at her critics. We doubt she understands the meaning of the term but someone on her staff should do some research before she speaks. We feel this video was inappropriate to be released today or any other day.  We are not alone as emails and phone calls have been flying.  Until she released this video, we intended to not cover her and the snarky comments but this video was over the top especially today. 

A leader in a time of tragedy works to bring people together as we have seen from Speaker of the House John Boehner, Governor Jan Brewer, and President Obama for starters.

While the 10-15% of Republicans who are loyal Palin supporters no matter what she says will defend her, a lot of Republicans, if my small sample is any indication, are appalled at this video. In fact one of her strongest supporters I know doesn't support her after this video, with her poor timing, and most likely not understanding history of the term before using the term.

In fairness, Palin wasn't the first person to use the term 'Blood Libel' in the discussion of this tragedy. We first saw the term used in an oped headline 'Notable: The Arizona Tragedy and the Politics of Blood Libel' by Glenn Reynolds in the Wall Street Journal. We wondered then at the term 'Blood Libel' being used because of its historical meaning dating back to the darkest days of anti-semitism in history.

We think the following sums it up the best:

Alvin S. Felzenberg 9/11 Commission Spokesman, Book Author and Professor :

Palin's comments will not detract in the least from the president's remarks. She had an opportunity to rise above the stereotypical portrait of her we have come to know well the past two years and to re-introduce herself to people who might have given her a hearing. Her career, both as a politician and as a celebrity, is over. Someone other than Glenn Bleck needs to tell her.

Disclosure: This from someone who just two days ago in this space called upon her critics to lay off Palin and who still believes it unfair to seek to establish causation between what Palin said on the campaign trail and the Arizona tragedy.  (Source:  Politico)
This article from Joe Scarborough we believe sets the right tone and hope that people from both sides take to heart what he is saying and lower the rhetoric:

Hold bad political actors accountable
Joe Scarborough
January 11, 2011

Every Sunday morning starts the same way: I go to Starbucks, pick up The New York Times and dive in.

Every Sunday morning, that is, except for the one that just passed. When I went to the coffee shop, I passed the newspaper rack without a glance. I simply couldn’t bear to look.

The day before, my wife, Susan, had rushed into our apartment, shaking and with both fists clenched. Through tears, she told me about the shootings at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s meeting at a parking lot in Tucson, Ariz.

“So help me, God” were the first words of an outburst that included many harsh words for politicians and talk show hosts — public figures whose invective had turned politics into a rhetorical killing field. For Susan and me, the attack hit too close to home.

I woke up Sunday morning knowing that at least six good Americans in Arizona didn’t. For the first time in years, I didn’t want to absorb any more bad news. Not yet, at least. I broke my daily routine, avoiding the newsstands and Sunday news shows. I bought my coffee, checked up on my parents and sat there alone.

I’ve long since lost count of the number of town hall meetings, supermarket conversations and other personal interactions I’ve had with the voters in my district. As I sat there, I replayed almost all of them in my mind. Being close to the people, knowing them and hearing them defined who I was as a public servant.

I don’t know her, but I do know Giffords felt the same way.

Sunday morning was also a time to reflect on the rage that has gripped our political system over the past two decades. Often that anger was directed at President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush or, in my day as a congressman, President Bill Clinton. And sometimes that rage was directed toward me.

I never really understood how someone with a strong conservative voting record like mine could incur the wrath of fringe characters enraged that I wasn’t conservative enough. But I soon learned that, for some, blind hatred for government is all the motivation they need.

I also thought about what I had seen just days before on the floor of the House. As outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi handed over the gavel to new Speaker John Boehner, she made sure everyone appreciated the symbolism: It represented the peaceful transfer of power that makes our democracy special.

Saturday afternoon, that peace was shattered.

We don’t know yet if politics moved the gunman to action, but I do know that politics doesn’t belong anywhere near our reaction to it.

We can’t yet understand what led a domestic terrorist to try to assassinate a good congresswoman and kill so many others.

But we do know that we can’t afford to miss this warning. No one should give a free pass to talk show hosts and their political guests who have spent the past several years spreading hate speech in search of big ratings, political contributions and book sales.

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As I have said for years now, such hateful words have consequences. As Giffords presciently warned less than a year ago, so does the violent imagery that has infected our politics.

This feedback loop of hate speech has created an angry environment that inspires the most troubled.

In that loop lives a talk show host who called this president a racist, another who called the last president a fascist, a congresswoman who urges her constituents to be armed and dangerous and a national figure who told her followers to “reload” against her political enemies.

Too many dismiss these extreme eruptions as crass commercial calculations. Saturday taught us that we have to hold bad political actors accountable. It is a shared responsibility. Those with the loudest megaphones have to understand the audience and the actions they risk provoking. Those on the listening end have to know that in America, philosophical differences and personal violence can never overlap.

Many of my friends fear the worst in days to come. They remember how America has endured turbulent periods when political violence became the norm.

The rage of the 1960s led to the killings of leaders like the Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr. In the early 1980s, John Lennon, Ronald Reagan and the pope were all shot within a few months of one another. We can only pray that the Arizona massacre was an isolated incident.

But like Rep. Giffords, I remain an optimist. I believe good people on the right and left will begin to call on their political leaders and cable news cheerleaders to start showing restraint. They will ask them to actually try to talk to political opponents with whom they disagree.

More reasonable rhetoric might not land them book contracts or improve TV ratings. But I’d rather see sales suffer because we’ve erred on the side of calm and compassion than because even the most avid consumers of news awaken one day unable to bear any more heartbreaking headlines.

A guest columnist for POLITICO, Joe Scarborough hosts “Morning Joe” on MSNBC and represented Florida’s 1st Congressional District in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001.

Read more on the subject at: Politico
Note: My bold in the article.

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