Sometimes it seems that the only behavior more crass than TV sitcoms is that of our elected officials. Discussions of policy and plans for our nations future start of with vague generalities and end up with pointed insults and namecalling of opponents. The saying goes that "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel"; it seems that too often our elected officials prove that to be true. Sometimes, they leave out the patriotism part altogether.
One of the most widely discussed recent incidents of that involves the recent House subcommittee hearing with current Consumer Agency director Elizabeth Warren. In what can only be accurately described as "the 3rd degree", rep Patrick T. McHenry (R-NC) grilled her over and over, and finally accused her of lying
After an hour in which Ms. Warren repeatedly parried efforts by Mr. McHenry and other Republicans to pin her down with “yes or no” answers to questions about her March testimony — and about the bureau’s powers and responsibilities — Mr. McHenry abruptly moved for a temporarily recess so lawmakers could attend a floor vote.
Ms. Warren objected, saying that she had agreed to be present for only an hour and had no more time. Mr. McHenry disagreed and said that other subcommittee members still had questions for her.
A vigorous back and forth ensued.
“Congressman, you are causing problems,” Ms. Warren said. “We had an agreement.”
“You’re making this up,” Mr. McHenry replied, eliciting gasps from the audience. “This is not the case.”
As Mr. McHenry and Ms. Warren traded accusations, a senior Democrat, Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, tried to smooth things over. “Mr. Chairman,” he said, “I’m trying to be cordial here — you just accused the lady of lying. You need to clear this up with your staff.”
This incident has resulted in a huge backlash against Rep McHenry, and deservedly so. One does not accuse a high-ranking dedicated official without transcripts and/or footage to back up their case.
On the other side of the aisle, Sen Harry Reid (D-NV) pulled out the hyperbole in attacking a Republican for a bill amendment, without mentioning anything about the Dem that co-sponsored it. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) are trying to make changes to expiring portions of the PATRIOT Act to make them more civil-liberties-friendly. This is something Dems were pushing for back when the law was first being debated. Rare kudos to Paul for his support. Instead, Harry Reid accuses Paul of supporting terrorists
. This is a stupid scoundrel-y move by Reid. He could have embraced it in a show of bipartisanship. False accusations of supporting the terrorists is SOooo 2003, Harry.
Sometimes the bad behavior slips over into the media (sometimes?
). Left-wing-version-of-Rush-Limbaugh Ed Schultz frequently blathers junk he knows nothing about, repeating rumors and disproven talking points. This time, however, he disconnected his brain from his mouth and let fly with the kind of comment that has slain greater journalists - he called Laura Ingraham a "slut"
. Laura Ingraham is a lot of things: a harpie, a bitch, a troll, and an annoying asshole. Calling her a "slut", however, is an insult too far. It is apropos of nothing, relevant to none of the horrible things she says and does. It does NOT help the left at all, and anyone who rallies behind him doesn't get that. At least MSNBC gets it and suspended him.
When and where did all this start? When did it become okay for a senator to call an executive branch director a liar, for a senator to call accuse another senator of supporting terrorists, for a media personality to refer to another with such a sexually-charged adjective?
One need look back no further than 1996. That's when current presidential candidate and then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich released the infamous GoPac Memo
, in which he detailed how to use language to perform character assassination on one's opponents. Policy was an afterthought. Why try to succinctly debate the pros and cons of a message when you can simply demonize the messenger? Click over to the link, and see how many of these emotionally-charged words you can pick out still being used today to smear opponents.
It's so easy, really... The Republicans don't need a detailed budget bill, when they can simply fill a vague summary with code words. Of course - at some point after getting elected you need to come up with actual legislation, but then - isn't that what industry lobbyists are for?
Oops there I go - attacking the messenger. I wonder where I learned that?