Friday, October 12, 2012

Thankfully There Remain Some Gentlepersons in our Media

Note: Please accept my apologies for failing to publish last week's post. 

Our national news media have not distinguished themselves as tribunes of decency of late, chasing after the cowardly and boorish betrayal of private confidence now known as the "47 Percent" video like so many poorly trained hounds after a rabbit.

Thankfully, some of our journalists have seen fit to explore other issues, and in so doing have provided redemptive models of circumspect and civil discourse on political affairs. 

Take the Times's Ashley Parker. Tasked with covering the political response to the Romney video, Parker refused to accept the idea that the former Governor was indifferent to the interests or even hostile to the very existence of the lower classes, based as it was on the flimsy evidence of words spoken in private by the candidate himself to his closest allies and peers:

But the ad came nine days after the video surfaced, a period in which Democrats have bashed Mr. Romney over the remarks, leaving him on the defensive in swing states like Ohio. The ad reflected a belief among his aides that in addition to trying to move past his “47 percent” comments, Mr. Romney can appeal to voters in an intimate, personal way, bonding over their economic worries.
For those of you lacking the subtle gifts of intellect that characterize elite political discourse, read on and learn something. Parker takes the essential first step of balancing the scales of moral culpability; while some media hooligans have chosen to focus on Romney's remarks, it's important to remember that the Democrats are equally guilty of rudeness--they called attention to unflattering things said by their political opponent--they BASHED him! Poor Romney is indeed on the defensive, and from that vulnerable position--faced with losing his bid for the most powerful office in the universe, he would be left with the petty consolations of his immense wealth--there is little doubt that his empathy is genuine. Some more ignorant members of the punditry might ridicule the very notion of Romney bonding with Ohio steel workers like these (Photo Justin Sullivan/Getty).

But Parker has shown us the error of that churlish interpretation. This young lady is going places. After all, she has worked as a researcher for Maureen Dowd, whose reputation for rigor and thoroughness are unparalleled. My heart is gladdened at the thought that, despite being shy of thirty (and I'd never say exactly how far shy), Ms. Parker might just represent a new generation of polite journalists.

Hall of Uncouth: Joe Biden

The most recent enshrinee in my hall of infamy should surprise no one. Last night's performance was truly disgraceful. Have decades of public life not taught the Vice President the fundamental rules of political civility? The honor system demands that one's opponent's ideas be accepted as true and praised as thoughtful, reasonable, and guided by good faith. It is decidedly uncouth to offer rebuttals, which present the public with the unpleasant dilemma of evaluating evidence and reaching informed conclusions. Far better that we be allowed to decide on the basis of manners; the most gentlemanly candidate is certainly the one most suited to govern us. On that score, the Vice President came short of the mark. To wit:

I can scarcely remember such a show of utter disregard for the seriousness and honesty of one's opponent. Thankfully, it appears that our esteemed news media are rallying to the defense of the honor system. With the exception of fellows like Krugman, who may be angling for his own spot in the Hall of Uncouth, a critical mass of our scribes appear to be abandoning the distractions of verifying claims and evaluating policy proposals in favor of contrasting styles. As Brooks tells us,

What do independents want most? They want people who will practice a more respectful brand of politics, who will behave the way most Americans try to behave in their dealings: respectfully, maybe even pausing to listen for a second. To them, Biden will seem like an off-putting caricature of the worst of old-style politics.
This is not just an issue of manners. It is: How are we going to practice the kind of politics that will help us avert the so-called fiscal cliff? How are we going to balance the crosscutting challenges, like increasing growth while reducing long-term debt?
A lot of people will look at Biden’s performance and see a style of politics that makes complex trade-offs impossible.
It doesn't matter if the policy positions staked out by one campaign are incompatible with those staked out by the other, if, for example, one campaign views a social program as essential and another views its abolition as a top priority. It doesn't even matter if compromise is a logical impossibility. Good manners, as this blog has always contended, make for good government. Always, everywhere, and without fail. When journalists focus on style and manners, the public has the best opportunity to choose the best, most gentlemanly candidate. We're all better off for it.

If anything redeems Joe Biden, it's that he did teach a lesson about respect for one's elders.

No one who upholds that timeless virtue can be all bad. Though I am told that I am using the wrong ring-sport for metaphorical purposes. If I were one of the uncouth sort who watches professional wrestling I could better judge the accuracy of this claim.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I'm Compelled to Offer Comment....

on the recent unpleasantness surrounding the Romney campaign.

I've been so shocked by the breach of decorum that I've been unable to properly assemble my thoughts on the matter, and have hesitated to comment in order to avoid any intemperate remarks made in anger. But the time has come for clear-eyed analysis and dispassionate blame-fixing. This incident has truly marked a low point in our nation's political discourse, and the parties responsible must be held accountable.

And those parties are James Carter IV and the anonymous recorder of the notorious video. Violating the confidence of gentlemen like Mitt Romney and his financial backers by videotaping and publicizing the conversations they hold as part of a combined effort to win the most powerful public office in the world is absolutely unconscionable. If the private confidences of these men continue to be betrayed, then the wellsprings of gratitude and devotion from the masses that inspire both public service and capitalist enterprise will surely dry up. And what horrors would await us then?

Thankfully, it is not too late for Governor Romney to repair the damage done to his reputation and public image by this nefarious conspiracy of ruffians, who employed the most underhanded tactic of using a candidate's own words and deeds against him. This Colbert gentleman has an excellent suggestion:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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