|Our modern conflict resolution in politics is better then the old days,
but just how much better?
There may be many good things that stem from the decorum imposed on members of Congress in their internal dealings. No more screaming insults on the House floor, no more challenges to a duel as existed in the 19th century. But under the “civilized” rules adopted since, there is now no way to call a liar a liar without violating comity. And more and more our politics have been a field day for flat-out lying.
Sen. Ted Cruz tried it two years and it wasn’t even about a “lie” but losing out on legislative gamesmanship – and he still is paying the consequences of violating etiquette, as well as being in danger of losing his seat.
Most of the time, civility is the rational way people speak to each other, essential in a working democracy. It's why they wear nice clothes in Congress.
But that’s not how dress-up has been landing lately. Not since the Republicans gained control of two of the three branches of government. That power has gone to their heads so much they will shortly lose it. They can’t play fair, so they have become expert at creating their own facts.
This has recently bollixed the Democrats to the point that a lie perpetrated by a Republican House chairman, and backed by misleading statements from the White House, has so muddled the issues around the Russian investigation as to leave the truth upended and the public in a state of confusion. It’s no longer just “politics as usual” but attacks on the basic facts that we normally could agree on. Seldom have statistical details been put to such obfuscation.
It’s getting tiresome to explain how Rep. Devin Nunes, despite recusing himself from Russian issues at the House Intelligence Committee, had his staff fashion out of secret documents a lie about the FBI playing politics and FISA judges not having the right knowledge about opposition research. They figured that these fabrications would be convincing to Trump’s voters.
The lie was quickly promulgated to the public with favorable statements from the White House, which controls release of any data based on sealed documents. Then, relying on a public confused enough to believe the Nunes lies, Trump delayed, redacted and poked fun at the rebuttal truth message from the Democrats.
One result is that the correction could not go blow by blow exposing the lies. It did demonstrate that in this case both the FBI and the four FISA judges followed all rules, but by that time who noticed? And the correction didn’t get its own extensive airtime, since it was not revealed to the public until the middle of the CPAC gathering, where Nunes was allowed to repeat his lies before a zealous conservative crowd, with full TV coverage.
And the media? It was paralyzed by civility too, it seems. Not “Fox and Friends,” of course, whose constant lies in favor of Trump have led to both exposure and derision.
But civility and balance are at least given lip-service at MSNBC, CNN and other networks. To explain things to the public they still feel they have to give as much time to the false accusation as to the Democratic rebuttal, thereby doubling the exposure, allowing the lies to seem a reasonable area of debate.
|Has Adam Schiff been rewarded for civility?
It didn’t help that Nunes’ good buddy, Speaker Paul Ryan, told his friend to recuse himself then, wink and nod, allowed him to interfere at will. You get the feeling that many Republicans truly know what is going on but are too cowardly to speak out against the master race. They may not have the presidency by much but damn they want to keep it.
And that's the biggest thing tilting the playing field -- the attention we historically give to the bully pulpit of the White House. For decades whatever the president says is news to be dissected and debated, even now when it can be the spewings of infantile tweets or the flourishing of useless resolutions like a dining menu at Mar-a-Lago.
You see it several times a week when the press corps keeps asking sensible questions of the White House press secretary knowing that Sarah Huckster is going to spin and spin what the president actually told her or what she has invented to protect him. You can see the press frustration and stifled laughter, but they still follow decorum – and frankly, I no longer know the hell why.
The same is true with the president at his rallies and non-interruptable TV and radio interviews. We and the media may quietly laugh, we and they scramble to keep up with the hundreds of lies and bungled statistics that fall from his lips, but he still gets way too much airt
Partly it his entertaining style of delivery – it’s good for ratings to not know what he will say next – but partly it is that president of the United States thing. No journalist can ignore what he’s saying and no member of the public can totally ignore what he is thinking (though I think more are trying daily).
Add to this a White House staff devoted not to serving the nation but to protecting their boss – a mansion full of novices and nepotism constantly twisting things for an audience of one.
|The master of fake news signings strikes again.
And here is the result, so frustrating that it raises up in the public a desire to beome rabble-rousers – so useless seem the normal avenues of conversation.
Trump offers a totally ridiculous solution to gun violence: Arm the teachers – teachers who understand human nature and the fallacy of the western shoot-em-up mentality.
But because the president proposed it, we waste a lot of digital and print space whacking it down as if it were a serious idea. Since he is echoing the gun manufacturing lobby known as the NRA, the president is providing them cover for what everyone knows is outrageous foolishness.
Suddenly the media is holding talkathons on just how many teachers might want to bring a gun to class, just how many hardened Marines want to work as teachers, just how many mentally challenged gunmen will be scared away as opposed to being more attracted to suicide by cop.
The nation has been distracted from the real problem. The NRA leadership is out in force spinning a phony vision of the Second Amendment. Fortunately, these young victims of the Florida massacre are old enough to not put up with these efforts at distraction, which have sapped the strength of older citizens to do something about the gun culture. The youngsters claim they will survive rounds and rounds of setbacks as just blocked them in Tallahassee.
They have entered a biased race where decorum ought to matter but action matters more. Round and round our nation goes, wasting time on issues that are neither left nor right but smart vs. dumb.
We are going to see if the women angered by chauvinistic men can continue their commitment and agitation for the years it will take to achieve gains. We’ll see if the young people, normally impatient but now deeply angered by gun policy failures, are committed enough to survive all the barriers and disappointments that big money and a waffling president will push in their path for years.
Trump’s diminishing band of supporters know this is a race and they are hanging on with some powerful tools. His last stand is the economy. No one wishes our economy ill (except other countries). It’s the Trump ace in the hole, no matter who stabilized it. Until it fails, his backers will stick with a president who has flamboyant-sized fixation on the economy to go with his pea-brained view of social problems. But isn’t that’s too high a price to pay for civility?