Leonard Pitts on the civil discourse in politics today:
This one is for Doug.
He was one of maybe 2,000 readers who fired off e-mails in response to a recent column criticizing that paragon of political analysis, Rush Hudson Limbaugh III. I excoriated Limbaugh for saying of Barack Obama’s presidency, ”I hope he fails.” As is generally the case when you exact a pound of flesh from Brother Limbaugh’s hide, his legions of listeners were vociferous and unstinting in his defense.
They claimed I misquoted him (the quote was cut and pasted directly from Limbaugh’s own website). They claimed Limbaugh was referring not to Obama’s presidency, but to his supposed desire to institute a socialist government (except that Limbaugh was, by his own admission, responding to a question about his hopes for Obama’s presidency).
Doug, however, made neither of those arguments. His e-mail said in its entirety:
”I see your (sic) Mr. Sensitive when it comes to someone saying something bad about your guy. But I had to go 8 years watching, reading, listening to you ravage George W. Bush. Just who has the Class here?”
His subject line: ”you ravage Bush we ravage Obama.”
Read that one again: ”you ravage Bush we ravage Obama.” Not the barest pretense of principle, nor the slightest attempt at making an argument. Just a child’s game. Tit for tat and tag, you’re it.
The beauty of Doug’s e-mail and his mindset is that it is designed — consciously or not — to be exactly that: a child’s game. It’s an infantile and simple response to a complex question. It’s not meant to encourage discussion, it’s meant to end it. It’s a door-slamming temper tantrum, and it works fine if you are six.
Needless to say, this isn’t the way to get things done in this country, let alone get along with those who have different points of view. And yet we’ve allowed it to come to this because it’s easy: reverting to schoolyard taunts and bullying comes naturally, especially if you have no counter arguments, or even if you do. So it’s not surprising that the Republicans have turned their party’s voice over to a man who brooks no debate and works literally in a glassed-in isolation booth talking into a microphone: the oracle of Delphi with a press agent. They don’t have to think about annoyances such as actually getting the economy fixed or restoring America’s image as a superpower with more than just a “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality.
The way to deal with this is the same way any parent, teacher, or camp counselor would. Wait patiently until the tantrum is over, then deal swiftly and surely with the child and dish out some effective discipline, including not accepting the terms of their argument and not tolerating their rants. And if that doesn’t work, give them a swat on the ass and send them to bed without supper.
HT to Rick.