In a CNN.com column Donna Brazile [writes] with a sinister twist:
A government of, by, and for the people requires that people talk to people, that we can agree to disagree but do so in civility. If we let the politicians and those who report dictate our discourse, then our course will be dictated.
Why am I alarmed? Because two “scandals”–the IRS tax-exempt inquiries and the Department of Justice’s tapping of reporters’ phones–have become lynch parties. And the congressional investigation of Benghazi may become a scandal in itself.
In one breath Brazile urges everyone to be civil and respectful. In the next she labels her opponents with one of the most racially incendiary metaphors in the American lexicon. And note that she is casting government officials who abused their power as lynching victims.
I tend to be skeptical that there is much scandal in the Justice Department investigations of reporters in leak cases, see Orin’s post about the AP matter and mine about the Fox News matter. (Conversely, Brazile seems skeptical that the IRS “scandal” deserves scare quotes, since she writes, “The IRS scandal has sparked bipartisan outrage that should require a bipartisan solution.”) But Taranto’s criticism of the faux call for “civility” strikes me as quite apt. Let me also point to this passage from Brazile’s column:
But in our partisan self-righteousness, we’re destroying our foundations of government more effectively than al Qaeda ever could. Whether it’s the media or the politicians, the churning of partisan passion into anger, indeed hate, has an ulterior purpose: If Obama’s administration is constantly engaged in fighting for its existence, the governing comes to a halt, and his agenda will go nowhere.
I’m sure Brazile sincerely believes that partisan self-righteousness and the churning of partisan passion into anger, indeed hate, ought to be removed from American politics. But I find it hard to take such calls from party officials seriously given the common mainstream Democratic reactions to the Bush Administration (prefigured, of course, by many mainstream Republican reactions — which I think were often over-the-top — during the Clinton Administration, Democratic reactions during the Reagan Administration, and likely more before then). I like civility, and when there are particular demonstrably uncivil statements, they should be condemned (as I’ve tried to do on occasion). But generic calls for civility against self-righteousness and “anger, indeed hate” of the government, in my experience, tend not to be very helpful to the public debate that they are supposed to be trying to elevate.