Dear POTUS: If we can't believe you on civility…

Dear Mr. President;

I understand you have a huge speech about job-creation coming up this week; the speech is so big, in fact, that it requires a venue that is somewhat out-of-the-ordinary for a simple policy speech. Some have suggested it is a do-or-die speech; that you’ll really have to convince the country that you have a plan, and not just a plan, but a bold one. And not just a bold one, but one that is actually feasible.

Well, I hope for the best, but I have one question. When you get up there before the joint-session of Congress, with your “You-are-the-only-folks-keeping-the-barbarians-from-the-gates” Vice President seated behind you, and you tell us you have a plan, and that it is a plan for all Americans, knowing that the whole nation (and every man and woman in that chamber) is aware that Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa referred to “your army” and called for the opposition “sons of bitches” to be “taken out” while you said nothing, gave no correction, made no rebuke — not even by way of a later statement, how will you make them believe you?

Mr. President, we all remember your eloquence in Arizona last January, when you declared that irresponsible rhetoric had no place in public discourse. You said,

“At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”

So, did you mean that? Because it seems like if you meant that, you would have been mortified to follow Hoffa’s incendiary rhetoric, and you would have found a way — with smart diplomacy — to have corrected him; you’d have been horrified to know your Vice-President was calling his fellow countrymen “barbarians” and you’d have suggested that maybe “Joe was just a little excited, but I’ve talked to him.”

Instead. Silence.

My father always told me that “silence implies consent.”

But…you’re the president of the United States. You can’t consent to this sort of flame-throwing against your own citizenry, can you?

Then again, you were the guy who said your supporters ought to get “up in the faces” of opposition. I think you even uttered one of those they bring a knife, we bring a gun tough-guy lines during your campaign.

So maybe your silence really is consent. Maybe you completely support the “war” against half the country; maybe you like the “take them out” and “barbarian” lines.

If you do, though, it flies in the face of your pretty words in Arizona, last January.

And it makes us wonder if we should believe you about anything, anymore; if you don’t mean what you say in big speeches about civility, why should we believe you mean what you say in a “big” speech about something as substantial as jobs.

Small Dead Animals
Glenn Reynolds’ Roundup
DNC Chair avoids topic
So does MSM
More Hoffa
Labor Day Blues
The Green Jobs

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Sue from Buffalo

    Excellent letter, Anchoress.

  • Kensington

    I know this is largely rhetorical, but I’m going to take it literally anyway. Of course we can’t believe the man on civility or much else. The real historic importance of Obama is that he’s America’s first thug President.

  • Doc

    Of course we can’t believe this president. Deception is the foundation of his entire agenda. What is the point of this speech? Why would anyone believe what’s in it? If he were serious about improving this country’s economy, he’d submit a budget that wasn’t a complete joke. If he were serious he would’ve forced Harry Reid to submit the Senate’s budget, as is required by law. (For Democrats, laws, like taxes, are for little people) If he were serious, he would’ve forced Pelosi and Reid to submit a budget back in 2010. Anyone not slavishly devoted to The One and his agenda can see that he is not serious about anything beyond fooling enough of the voters to get himself reelected in 2012.

  • Greta

    This was all well laid out in Ann Coulter’s latest book Demonic. The mob mentaility of the Democratic Party should be no surprise as it is the party of death. With their ongoing complete support of abortion which has led to the death of 54 million babies, they outdistanced the other holocaust by millions of human beings. So now they start to turn their brown shirts loose on the streets with the message to take out those opposed to their program. They incite racial hatred by using the race card if anyone dares to say they are opposed to the socialist agenda of Obama. I am in my 70′s and do not remember a president of either party who so often is tied to hate remarks including the President that the left hated so much, Nixon. It is time for the silent majority of voters to reject this type of leadership and make sure you get out to vote.

    At the same time, the union leaders are all showing that they offer little more than brown shirt tactics willing to do anything to retain their income and power. They will stop at nothing to force every state to bankruptcy to prevent their brown shirts from being asked to pay even a small percentage for their massive benefit and pension programs. This is going to get very ugly and it proves that Ann Coulter in her book was right on target.

  • Manny

    This shows their desperation. And it won’t work. Obama was elected on charm and personality. He had no achievement and the closest thing to an agenda was a hard left agenda, which in today’s political environment is political death. The more crass he and his minions become the worst his numbers will be. Right now the country is looking at another republican landslide, a rare back-to-back electoral landslide. It’s possible for the republicans to pick up another 30 house seats and possibly six to twelve Senate seats. Go ahead Obama, you’re making my day.

  • Richard Johnson

    “But we’ve been talking about — we have Saddam Hussein, this is the Mother of All Wars we’ve got in the next 18 months. For the life or death of this country. So, I’m not going to do this to put any pressure on anyone here, mind you. This is not pressure. But if this makes your heart feel glad and you want to be more forthcoming, then so be it.” – Charles Koch,0,1343002.story

    “Everybody here’s got to vote,” Hoffa said. “If we go back and keep the eye on the prize, let’s take these sons of a b—-es out and give America back to America where we belong!”

    Which side should put down their weapons first?

    [ I guess the ones who cried most emphatically about common, and innocent, language allusions might consider it -- but there is this too -- I would love to see everyone calm down. It's not going to happen -admin]

  • Mary

    Why write a rhetorical letter when you could send him a real one?

  • Teresa

    What we are watching is the death of labor unions and the impending defeat of Obama in 2012. The are desparate and things will get much worse from now on. If he goes before the Congress on thursday and mentions civility again, I honestly don’t know how anyone in the chamber will be able to keep a straight face.

  • dry valleys

    “The impending defeat of Obama”- by whom, exactly?

  • Sandy

    The impending defeat of Obama by those of us who have never been engaged in anything political in their lives, who care deeply about our country and what is happening. I am a 62 year old grandmother and I pray for our country and for our President, but I want this President voted out of office in 2012. I want the people to take back our country, we have been silent with our voices and our votes for too long. God blessed this country greatly and we have not been good stewarts, I pray that we can turn this around. And, I’s sorry, but anyone that can support this President’s polcies in any way, cannot be someone who cares about this country. May God bless America.

  • LisaB

    “Which side should put down their weapons first?”

    LOL. The leader, of course.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    “By whom, exactly?”

    Um, by whoever runs against him, in the next election?

    Seriously, Valleys, you can’t really think that Obama is some-kind-of-president-for-life, or a king, lording over the peasantry? (Why bother with a revolution, if we were just going to have that!)

    Even if (God forbid!) he wins in 2012, he’s not going to be president forever. We don’t do “One man, one vote, one time!” here, either for particular political parties or candidates.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    “By whom exactly?”

    By us exactly, that’s who!

  • Richard Johnson

    @LisaB #11: And if the leader (I assume you mean Obama) were to put down the rhetorical weapons, would the opposition follow suit?

    More importantly, would listeners such as yourself (and others here, who engage in some pretty strong rhetoric themselves) follow suit?

    To borrow the host’s words, it’s not going to happen. Folks on both sides feel as if they are morally justified to respond as they do. Conservative Christians inevitably bring up the abortion issue as the cause for which no quarter must be given. For fiscal conservatives it is “socialism”. For moderates it is a balanced approach. For liberals of virtually all stripes it is “corporate oligarchy”.

    Who will be the first to put down their weapons? It’s not happening. It doesn’t matter who started it, really, since all that does is give the other side yet more reason for self-righteous posturing.

    Thus is the culmination of the Baby Boomer generation, who was raised with the mantra, “Our parents sacrificed so we could have it better, and by God we deserve better!” Thus a prayer turns into a sense of entitlement.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Actually, I agree with Lisa B.

    The leader is the one in charge. He’s the one who’se supposed to set the example for the rest of us. If he’s leading, or joining in on, the attacks, then a lot of people, on both sides, are going to follow his example.

    As leader, he should be the one to lead the way. He should lay down his “weapons” first.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    And, as the Anchoress points out in the original post, the president of the United States should not stand by while this sort of “Flame throwing” goes on against American citizens.

    Doesn’t matter who started it. The president, whoever he is, has a duty to try and stop it.

  • Richard Johnson

    @Rhinestone Suderman #16: Assuming that this President could quiet the flame throwers on his side (which would be a first for ANY President in history), would flame throwers such as Ann Coulter, Orly Tatiz, Rush Limbaugh, Mitch McConnell, and Andrew Breitbart follow suit? More importantly, if the President were to show this level of restraint and control over those on his side, would the audience of the flamers on the right respond by chastising them for their actions and adopting a more moderate tone?

    I recall during the last administration when the flame throwers on the right accused liberals of being traitors, mentally ill, demonic, America-haters, and supporters of terror. And prior to that we had the Clinton administration, which evoked the “great right-wing conspiracy” meme. And going back we can point to nearly universal cases of demonizing opponents, questioning their patriotism and loyalty, and in far too many cases using law enforcement to try to gain advantage over them, whether by impeachment or simple extortion (a la J. Edgar Hoover).

    If the President has the duty to moderate the flamers on his/her side of the aisle, then every President going back to Washington has failed miserably. Obama will fail, as will his replacement.

    So Obama foolishly calls for restraint, ignoring those in his own party who act the fool. And the opposition laughs, calls him weak, and continues to lambast him as a socialist, foreign born, Muslim sympathizer.

    And the GOP wins in 2012 with a landslide, proving that their tactics work.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Well, nothing at all will be accomplished if the president doesn’t at least try.

    The thing is, he’s the president. He’s the leader. It’s up to him to at least try and set the tone. No one elected Coulter, Limbaugh, Breitbart to any position of authority. They are, in fact, simply entertainers, commentators, like John Stewart, Maureen Dowd or Michael Moore. (I honestly don’t recognize the other names you mention—shows how influential they are!) They can, and do, say what they like; they can influence people (or not influence them), but they don’t hold any power, they don’t hold any office; like them or dislike them, they really aren’t authorities.

    The president, on he other hand, is elected to lead—and to support all Americans. Hence, he does have a responsibility to set the tone of discourse—especially when it become rancerous—whether or not everybody, or anybody, follows suit or not.

    This isn’t about parties, this is about the president, and what he’s supposed to do.

  • dry valleys

    Actually I was referring to the election in 2012 (I’m perfectly aware that there will, and should, be one) and asking who exactly it is that’s going to stand against Obama and defeat him. I’d be quite surprised if a Republican won, actually, given their problems producing a candidate who can win over enough centrist voters. I don’t see how this interpretation of a fairly simple, if short, comment came about.

    To Richard Johnson’s list can be added Rick Perry’s assertions about Ben Bernanke.

    “If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous in my opinion.”

    It wasn’t remarked upon much because that’s fairly standard-issue language amongst his friends.

  • Greta

    Rhinestone, you are correct. The left always trots out Limbaugh and others who are not elected and attaches them to the Republican candidates. The president of the USA when they take an oath no longer have the right to use language like this against other Americans or to share a stage and praise someone who says things like this about other Americans. It is one thing to call out the error of the other sides political beliefs or programs, but out of line to not only question the person themselves or to say things like take them out or to have them called barbarians by the VP on the same day. What really irks the left is that they cannot match up with the conservative side in populatity on radio, TV, or book sales. The difference of course is that listening over and over to shouts that the other guy is bad without being able to show why it is bad and an alternative with proof is not going to hold an audience for long. At the same time, they never are able to run on what they truly believe in which is big government programs, redistribution of wealth, and aethism. At the same time, the conservatives do quite well on running on exactly what they believe which is smaller government, being able to keep what you have earned, fair taxes, and family and God. When you have to pretend all the time to be something you are not, it gets under your skin and brings out hate and anger.

  • Richard Johnson

    Rhinestone & Greta: Are you both saying that you are willing to follow President Obama’s lead if he begins to seriously upbraid those on the left for their incivil remarks? Are you both willing to lower your own rhetoric in response to his leadership if he were to show such leadership and if the flamethrowers on the left followed his example?

    Or are your comments merely empty rhetoric?

  • Richard Johnson

    @dry valleys #19: For every remark that is made by a partisan on the right I guarantee you can find one similar on the left. That isn’t the issue. The issue on this thread is the call for leadership from the President. Are those calling for such leadership truly willing to listen if such leadership is forthcoming.

    Based on comments earlier in the thread I doubt it, but would enjoy being proven wrong.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Valleys, as an Englishman—and a Leftitst—you, naturally, don’t really understand how many Americans over here see Obama. Naturally, you dislike Republicans, and, because you couldn’t imagine yourself voting for one of them, you can’t imagine anyone else voting for them, either.

    (Myself, I still think it’s too early to be 100% sure who’se running, and who isn’t; I remember the last election, where there was much speculation as to whether or not Rudy Giuliani could beat Hillary Clinton; we all know how that turned out!)

    As for Obama. . . he’s pushing another stimulus, which is quite unpopular at the moment; people are out of jobs, businesses are closing down, homes are being lost, the president seems to take a vacation every two weeks or so. . . Obama isn’t all that popular at the moment. Even the Democrats, over here, are starting to waiver in their support. An article over at Salon (hardly a right-wing bastion) was pushing the idea that Obama should actually step aside, and let a beter Democrat candidate run in 2012. And if Obama doesn’t have the whole-hearted support of his party. . . well, he’s going to have an uphill battle, no matter who he runs against! Short of the Republicans choosing, say, Sponge Bob Squarepants or a giant panda to run, I think Obama’s in for a battle!

    (And if the Libya thing goes totally bad, or if war breaks out between Israel and Turkey, even Sponge Bob or the Panda might have a chance!)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Richard, yes, if the president would lead in this, I would certainly follow.

    As for my own “Rheteric”—I don’t write columns, I haven’t written a book on politics, I don’t have a T.V. and/or radio show and I make it a point to never discuss politics with my liberal friends (or, indeed, with any of friends), so my own rhetoric is pretty tame at the moment.

    If I think the president is doing something wrong, or making a mistake, I will exercise my freedom of speech to call him on this; however, I’ll certainly support him in pushing for civility in speech, for both sides. In fact, as the president, this is what he should already be doing.

  • Doc

    Richard, no one expects the president to quiet all objectionable speech in support of him and in opposition to Republicans and conservatives. What is is shocking is that President Obama followed this union thug on to the stage and not only failed to rebuke him for his incendiary remarks but praised him as if what was said was perfectly fine. You cannot find an example of any Republican president following anything similar and failing to rebuke the speaker. The reason Obama felt so comfortable ignoring the violent rhetoric from the thug is that the corporate media predictably provided cover for him and his union goons and Obama knew that they would continue to sacrifice their journalistic reputations on his behalf.

  • Richard Johnson

    @Rhinestone Suderman #24: “If I think the president is doing something wrong, or making a mistake, I will exercise my freedom of speech to call him on this; however, I’ll certainly support him in pushing for civility in speech, for both sides. In fact, as the president, this is what he should already be doing.”

    Fair enough. In looking back at the comments on this post, would you hold up the comments here as models for the kind of rhetoric President Obama (and other politicians) should use?

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Oh, brother. . .

    Richard, I do not moderate this site. If you’re upset with the comments here, please let the Anchoress herself know—and be sure to point out exactly which comments you find to be offensive, and exactly why you find them offensive—and please, no vague references to “rhetoric;” better yet, take it up with those particular posters themselves. If this were simply a site for bashing President Obama, neither your comments, nor those of Dry Valleys, would have been posted.

    I haven’t read all the comments, and I’m not about to now; and I’m certainly not going to peruse them, scratching my head and wondering, “Hmmm, is this the one Richard finds offensive? Or is it this one?”

    I’m beginning to think what really offends you is any negative criticism of Obama, whatsoever. If that’s the case, I’m sorry; the country is in a bad way right now, and Obama as president, is going to be pretty harshly criticized, fairly or unfairly, no way around it! (His predecessor, George Bush, suffered a lot worse.) It’s sad, but he could take the high road, and not approve fellow Americans being flamed; in fact, as leader, this is what he has to do.

    If your beef is just about rhetoric in general—you’ll have to take that up with the Anchoress. Or start your own blog.

  • Richard Johnson

    @Rhinestone Suderman #27: “Richard, I do not moderate this site. If you’re upset with the comments here, please let the Anchoress herself know…”

    I am not upset with the comments, and the host really does not need me to be bringing posts to her attention. The only reason I mention this is that some of the behavior that has been criticized in Obama’s supporters is evidenced here as well. Greta’s mentioning of Ann Coulter’s new book, for example, and her endorsement of what it says about liberals (Chapter One excerpted here: is offered as a critique of folks who oppose conservative political policy.

    My question was simply if the atmosphere on this blog, a Catholic-themed blog that advocates for a return to the traditional teachings of the church, is the kind of atmosphere that should surround political discussions in our nation.

    As for why I support Obama, you’re asking the wrong fellow. I’ve not voted for him, nor any Democrat at the federal level, since I voted for Lane Evans back in the late 70s. Obama’s policies are weak and ineffective, and his use of the bully pulpit is pitiful. I personally would enjoy seeing him face a primary opponent, but that is another story.

    President Obama deserves criticism, but so does Congress, and both sides of the aisle. The GOP had no problem at all spending like a drunken sailor on leave when they held power in Washington, and their “repentance” lacks sincerity when the only people they target are the poor and disadvantaged. And the Democrats have been so weak and ineffective as an opposition party, and completely impotent when they held both houses of Congress, that they are virtually useless to this nation.

    No, Rhinestone, I do not support our President, and will vote against him in November 2012.

    As for what my beef is here, I guess I question the sincerity of those who lambast Obama (or Bush) for failed leadership when they seem to relish in the same behavior themselves. Greta takes offense at me citing Coulter and Limbaugh, and yet who is it that Greta cites in defense of her thoughts on the matter? I am quite certain that if I came in here citing Michael Moore or Howard Zinn to support my arguments I would be challenged for using the intemperate words of agitators and the declining civility in the political circles. Coulter and Limbaugh use similar incendiary language. Are they exempt from critique because they are conservative?

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Richard, if you’ve got a problem with civility on this site, you need to take it up with the Anchoress herself.

    That’s all I’ve got to say.

    And it does sound to me as if your beef is primarily with conservatives, who dare criticize liberals—or maybe just conservatives in general.

  • Manny

    Oh who cares if they use hard rhetoric? What are we, a bunch of pansies? Politics is hardball and everyone should be used to it or get used to it. The problem is that Obama gave a speech (urrgh, how many speeches must this man give?) on civility after the congresswoman from arizona was shot and now hie’s being hypocritical. The speech should never have been given on that subject. Politics aint beenbag. Toughen up people.