Many Americans yearn for a return to civility in our political life. We’re saddened by politicians of all stripes demonizing people they disagree with, and even demonizing people they agree with when there’s a political edge to be gained. This column has long admired the political philosophy of Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who wrote, ‘The temper of and integrity with which the political fight is waged is more important for the health of our society than the outcome of any issue or campaign.”
This week Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) raised the temper and integrity of the political fight at a town meeting with his Oklahoma constituents. When a woman complained bitterly that the IRS was going to put people in prison for not purchasing health insurance, Coburn rebuked her:
“That makes for good TV news on Fox, but that isn’t the intention. I’m disturbed that we get things like what this lady said and others have said on other issues that are so disconnected from what I know to be fact. And that comes from somebody that has an agenda that’s other than the best interests of our country…So don’t catch yourself being biased by Fox News that somebody is no good. The people in Washington are good. They just don’t know what they don’t know.”
For Coburn, one of those “good” people is Nancy Pelosi. During the meeting, he referred to Pelosi as a “nice lady,” which brought hisses from his audience. “Come on now,” Coburn said. “She is nice. How many of you all have met her? Just because somebody disagrees with you doesn’t mean they’re not a good person.”
Coburn urged his constituents to follow more than one source of information:
“Don’t just watch Fox News or CNN, watch them both. I read two papers a day – the New York Times, the Washington Post, and in between the Wall Street Journal. I get a perspective.”
For this contribution to civility in our public discourse, Senator Coburn earns a (mythical) Reinhold Niebuhr award.
Tags: civility, CNN, demonizing, ethics, Fox News, health insurance, IRS, New York Times, nice lady, Oklahoma, Pelosi, political fight, politicians, Reinhold Niebuhr, Reinhold Niebuhr award., Sen. Tom Coburn, town meeting, TV news, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post