flag burning

America needs more anger.

Spend more than five minutes watching MSNBC, Glenn Beck or listening to the telephone receiver at a talk radio station and you could reasonably conclude that the biggest problem in our country is that people aren’t angry about the right things.

What the right things are, whether it’s a socialist-leaning president, right-wing propaganda or a missing birth certificate that’s probably somewhere between Hawaii and Nigeria, depends largely on what color you bleed at the ballot box.

Maybe we’ve become a culture of masochists, but people love having their blood pressure rise, and nothing makes mercury ascend like smelling a traitor in the midst.

Even if it’s one of your heroes.

On Tuesday, staunch conservative Tom Coburn (R-OK) made the mistake of stirring the hornet nest by calling Nancy Pelosi, a “nice lady” saying,

“Come on now. She is nice – how many of you all have met her? She’s a nice person,” Coburn said. “Let me give you a little lesson here. I hope you will listen to me. Just because somebody disagrees with you don’t [sic] mean they’re not a good person. And i want to tell you, I’ve been in the senate for five years and I’ve taken a lot of that, because I’ve been on the small side –- both in the Republican Party and the Democrat Party.”

And people felt betrayed.

I couldn’t be a fly on the wall of Coburn’s office, but some of the vitriol that was churned up got spread around when Bill Bennett made the mistake of daring to defend Coburn’s comments on-air on Wednesday.

Bennett separates his show from others by trying to foster a degree of civility in public discourse. Wild accusations, off-the-wall conspiracies and personal attacks are steered away from on-air, but unfortunately when it comes to extending grace to opposing views, civility doesn’t always sell.

By this morning, the show had received numerous emails, running about 20-1 in opposition to any type of support of Coburn or the possibility that Pelosi might not be the handmaiden of Satan. The idea that a man who has stood tall in the Senate for limiting government and wasteful spending, a man who was a lion in the health care debates, could be considered to be some type of Judas to conservatives simply because he suggested that Nancy Pelosi was a “nice lady,” blew my mind.

pelosi

 

1. You Can Disagree With Someone Without Hating Them.

Novel concept, right? The fact that even the shrill Pelosi might be a kind person when the camera is turned off isn’t outside the realm of possibility, and it shouldn’t shock us that Coburn might like the Speaker when she isn’t holding the gavel. Bennett made a brilliant comparison this morning, referencing the way that Reagan treated Tip O’Neill and noting that he didn’t “get in bed with O’Neill or sell out to him,” but he treated him well, called him a “good friend” and as a result was able to work alongside him to try and make real meaningful change.

I tell callers who are spitting at the mouth about President Obama that even if I disagree with 100% of the president’s policies (which I don’t), I still think that he’s a man who genuinely is trying to do what he thinks is best for the American people. I think he’s a loving husband, and I have a tremendous level of respect for the care he shows to Sasha and Malia and the example he’s setting with his role as a faithful father.

One caller said he was taught to reserve his hate for, “Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin.”

President Obama is wrong, but he’s hardly evil.

2. We Eat Our Own Too Quickly.

I’ve watched this as a conservative. Whether it’s at a college, church, or in a party, at the slightest hint of infidelity or agnosticism, the knives come out and the slicing and cutting away begins. This might be a fun way to fill up air time and rack up the comments and fundraising dollars, but it is no way to actually build a unified base or just help society. There should be strong standards on what conservatism actually is, no watering down on the core values that unite us, but judge people with a degree of graciousness that recognizes nuance in comments, and the context of this comment in relation to their entire body of political work.

Unless conservatives are willing to lead by example, to disagree with poise, with grace and dignity, then any type of  real discourse and census building will be difficult. The propensity of those members within the party to turn on any one who does not fit their stark definition of what a conservative is, or looks like is disconcerting.

Whether it’s Beck railing against the supposed ideological bankruptcy of the Republican Party and calling for the formation of a new political movement, or (insert this weeks latest outrageous statement here), conservatives can spend more time fighting each other than actually fighting towards something of substance.

It’s not a problem unique to the Republican Party, but as conservatives try to regain power in the Senate and House, it’s one that must be addressed.

And for a quick change of pace.

obama

 

3. Does Obama Want to Kill Americans?

The announcement that the Obama administration authorized the CIA to kill Anwar al-Aulaqi should deeply disturb anyone who claims to care about civil rights and justice in American society. There is little doubt over the guilt of this Muslim cleric whose influence stretches out from Yemen to Fort Hood and Detroit, this man spreads hatred and probably has helped plot against the United States.

But, he’s an American citizen, and that’s supposed to mean something.

It’s supposed to mean that you can’t execute this person without a trial, it’s supposed to mean that he’s innocent till he’s proven guilty and it’s supposed to mean that he’s afforded some degree of protection from a CIA kill team.

For those people who cried about the supposed trampling of civil liberties under the time of Bush, it seems hypocritical and terrifyingly evil to not say anything about the course of action taken by Obama. Does outrage only come along when your person isn’t in office? Do you only care about the over-reach of the federal government when the person in power is Republican?

Should you afford more protection to a man behind the greatest attack on U.S. soil and cry about making sure that this foreign citizen gets a fair and open trial, but when an American citizen is targeted for assasination, we just sit idly by? The guilt of this man isn’t the question, it’s the precedent and the blatant inconsistency in practice carried out by the Obama administration.

This is a great way to win back the respect and trust of the American people and the on-looking world.

Oh, and will we actually get to see the evidence that damned al-Aulaqi to death? Or is that a secret?

4. Can James O’Keefe Just Go Away?

Poster children are fun until they start misbehaving. The whole story of Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe seemed like a great David and Goliath-type of journalism story. You know, the type that inspires kids to crowd journalism school over. Unfortunately, these crusaders have proven to be less than sterling examples.  This isn’t that type of conservative cannibalism discussed earlier, this is just a committment to the truth over lies.

I’m not a fan of Rachel Maddow, at all, but she disects the unedited videos released by the California Attorney General’s office with a degree of uncomfortable “gotcha.”

One thing I will say, the quote about “the truth often being left on the cutting floor” can be used for just about any documentary or expose that gets released. Agenda shapes the construction of facts, and if the same mainstream media scrutiny that’s getting paid to O’Keefe and Giles could have been turned on Michael Moore, there would have been equally damaging parts of truth cleaned up off the floor.

Like Maddow says though, just because these tapes in California have emerged and seem to exonerate the ACORN employees, it doesn’t clear the ones in the other states and some of ACORN’s internal problems.

But, James and Hannah? Can you just leave journalism alone? I know there’s a slant to what gets put out there, but your blatant disregard for what actually happened at these places, not to mention the lives of the people you ruined by ruthlessly editing their quotes, is an absolute disgrace to any idea of ethics and responsibility.

You lied and misrepresented the truth. In the old days that would earn at least a few corrections on the second page of the newspaper, and probably cost you your job and reputation.

But the big bad liberal media is just out to get you, right? You weren’t trying to deceive people at all.

Just go away.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

 
About The Author

Nathan Martin

0 Responses to Conservative Cannibals, Killing Americans and James O’Keefe

  1. Alisa Harris says:

    Thanks for this Maddow link. I knew there was something I really needed to see on Maddow (probably from reading some tweet before I was fully awake) and this was it.

    As to civility … sigh. Not having 20 years of political observation under my belt, I’m never sure in questions like these if political discourse has always been this bitter or if the world has become more bitter and mean lately. But the fact remains that this is a terribly destructive, sad state of affairs.

  2. Nathan says:

    i hope there’s something better than this mess.
    also.
    for the record: i think the arguments about the birth certificate are insane, and have no place in the realm of civil discourse. just wanted to make sure that that was completely clear.

    also, with regards to the left, if wonkette just disappeared off the interwebs, i wouldn’t blink an eye.

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