Posts Tagged ‘civility’

Civil discourse? Responsiveness to Muslim constituents? Belief in religious freedom? Not from Congressman Allen West (R-FL)

August 18, 2011

When the Council on American-Islamic Relations recently wrote Congressman Allen West (R-FL), urging him to cut ties with “anti-Islamic extremists, they explained,

“Muslims protect and serve our great country and are afforded equal protection under law. We shouldn’t have to defend our rights to worship freely or participate in the governing of our society.”

Congressman West responded with one word, in what the Miami New Times reporter wrote “might be the dumbest thing ever written on congressional stationery.”

Thanks to the Facebook page, “Americans Against Islamophobia,” for spotlighting this ugliness.


Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) calls for civility and likens Republicans to Nazis; Democrats remain silent

January 19, 2011


A week ago Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) made an urgent plea for civility in public discourse. He warned,

“Reckless and hateful speech often has a terrible human cost. If the horrific events in Arizona are not enough to modulate our public discourse, it is likely there will be more violence, more deaths.”

Yesterday Mr. Cohen gave his own version of civil discourse on the House floor. Speaking of the opposition of the Republican majority in the House to Obamacare, he likened the other party to Nazis:

“They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie. Just like Goebbels; you say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually people believe it.

“Like blood libel. That’s the same kind of thing. The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it and you had the Holocaust. You tell a lie over and over again. And we’ve heard it on this floor; government takeover of health care.”

Anderson Cooper interviewed an unapologetic Mr. Cohen tonight. Cohen said that the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels had perfected the big lie, the Republicans were lying about Obamacare, “Just like Goebbels,” so his statement stands. Cooper’s guest, Democratic strategist and former Obama campaign pollster Cornell Belcher, defended Cohen’s remarks as (more…)

Who’s responsible for the Tucson shootings?

January 11, 2011


At times of national tragedy there is sadness, mourning, and a search for someone to blame. In the case of Saturday’s shootings in Tucson that should be easy: 22-year-old Jared Loughner did it, with some help from whoever sold him a semi-automatic Glock 19 hand gun with extra large magazines.

But that’s not satisfying, to blame a crazy person for something so terrible. We want to pinpoint the cause of the evil, because if we have the cause we can prevent such things from happening in the future. Many on the left want to tag Sarah Palin and Fox News with at least contributory blame.

After all, didn’t Palin post a map showing Congresswoman Gifford as a target, complete with crosshairs? (see accompanying picture from her website and try to imagine whether seeing this might lead someone to murder.) And doesn’t Fox News regularly feature right wing rants by Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck?

Palin and Fox News head Roger Ailes seemed to grant some plausibility to the connection because Palin’s PAC took down the offending map on Saturday, and on Monday Ailes announced that his network would try to cool the heated rhetoric. But their moves toward civility are reasons to honor them, not to take the actions an admission of guilt.

Our greatest political commentator, Jon Stewart, put it best in his eloquent cry from the heart on his January 10 Daily Show: (more…)

Guide for ethics-minded California voters: Yes on 20, No on 27, and Abel Maldonado for Lt Governor

October 24, 2010


California voters face two critical ballot issues, and have a chance to reward the person who has arguably had the most positive influence on California politics in a generation.

First, the ballot measures: Presently California legislators—members of the state senate, assembly, and U. S. Congress—don’t have to contest their general elections because of extreme gerrymandering*: the winner of the primary gets a free ride in the general.

Proof? In the last four election cycles (2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008) combined, only nine seats have changed parties in 648 California legislative and congressional races. Or looking at it like a betting person, the incumbent party has a 981/2 percent chance of holding on to each seat. Stalin and Mao would have been impressed.

In 2008, California voted to take the power to set state legislative district boundaries away from legislators and give it to an independent nonpartisan commission. Next week there are two ballot measures about drawing district boundaries:

Proposition 20 would do for congressional districts what the 2008 measure did for assembly and state senate districts—give the job to the independent nonpartisan commission established by the 2008 vote. This would remove from elected officials the power to choose their own voters and get re-elected at will.

Proposition 27 would reverse the 2008 reform and return the redistricting powers to the legislature.

Passage of proposition 20 and defeat of proposition 27 would transfer the choice of legislators from the party primaries to the general elections, where it belongs. This will have a beneficial effect far beyond justmaking lifetime incumbency rare. Nonpartisan redistricting will encourage candidates for office to run more civil campaigns, because they will need to attract voters from the center of the political spectrum. (more…)

Ann Coulter strikes a blow for civility. (Of all people!)

August 25, 2010

Ethics Bob doesn’t often get a chance to speak up for Ann Coulter and Mitch McConnell, but here goes.

On Meet the Press Sunday, host David Gregory was exploring the implications of the Pew poll that showed that thirty-one percent of Republicans polled think that President Obama is a Muslim. Here’s his exchange with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Senate minority leader:

MR. GREGORY: As a leader of the country, sir, as one of the most powerful Republicans in the country, do you think you have an obligation to say to 34 percent of Republicans in the country–rather, 31 percent who believe the president of the United States is a Muslim? That’s misinformation.

SEN. McCONNELL: The president says he’s a–the president says he’s a Christian, I take him at his word. I don’t think that’s in dispute.

MR. GREGORY: And do you think–how, how do you think it comes to be that this kind of misinformation gets spread around and prevails?

SEN. McCONNELL: I have no idea, but I take the president at his word.

The liberal media went bananas. Chris Matthews dedicated his entire Hardball show to McConnell’s words, saying. “I take him at his word,” was a “pitch-perfect dog whistle to the haters.” Matthew’s guest, Howard Fineman of Newsweek, pitched in, helpfully explaining that in McConnell’s Kentucky “the nativist appeal outside of Louisville really works (more…)

Ethics Hero and Ethics Quote of the Week: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

July 22, 2010

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was the only Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote for the confirmation of Elena Kagan as Supreme Court Justice. I can’t improve on what Jack Marshall (who I believe to be a Republican) headlined and wrote in his blog. Anybody who hopes the American government can work again should read it.

“Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) delivered the following remarks as the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of President Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Obviously Ethics Alarms approves of Graham’s vote and reasoning, as it is consistent with what I believe is the most ethical, fair and responsible course for all Republican senators. His statement, however, is extraordinary in its appeal to the best instincts of ethical public servants, and rather than just a link (the text comes from The Hill), I think proper respect and admiration dictate a full presentation. It embodies fairness, civility, professionalism. respect and dignity, as well as the ideals of collaborative government.”

Here is the entire Marshall posting.

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“Pelosi is a nice lady,” Fox News is “biased”: A Niebuhr award to Sen. Tom Coburn

April 14, 2010

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. (more…)

A Niebuhr award to George W. Bush for his silence

March 7, 2010

George W. Bush said a year ago, in his first speech after leaving the Presidency, “I’m not going to spend my time criticizing him [President Obama]. There are plenty of critics in the arena. He deserves my silence…I love my country a lot more than I love politics. I think it is essential that he be helped in office.”

For this major contribution to civility in our public discourse, President Bush earns a (mythical) Reinhold Niebuhr award.*

With all the criticism—much of it unfair and quite ugly–of Bush and his administration coming from the left, and with all the criticism—much of it unfair and quite ugly–of Obama and his administration coming from the right, Bush could have made things quite worse. And he would have been forgiven, even justified, because he was only defending his record. But in spite of the provocation, Bush stuck to his conviction and gave President Obama the great gift of his silence. All Americans owe George W. Bush a debt of gratitude.


*Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr 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.”