Home > Politics > Civility and Honesty, II

Civility and Honesty, II

January 22, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Last Monday, in a late response on my part to Obama’s speech in Tucson (not that anyone was waiting for my response), I wrote:

I don’t wish to violate [its] spirit, which is perhaps one reason I have been mute for the past week. We’re all being told we need to be civil. Okay, I’m being civil.

But listen, being civil doesn’t mean being quiet. Being civil doesn’t mean you can’t point out errors, lies, and falsehoods. . . .

Sure, let’s be civil. But let’s be honest too.

I discovered yesterday that Rick Perlstein was my ahead of me in making this very point, and making it better. Last November, just after the election, he wrote in The Daily Beast:

We live in a mendocracy.

As in: rule by liars.

Political scientists are going crazy crunching the numbers to uncover the skeleton key to understanding the Republican victory last Tuesday.

But the only number that matters is the one demonstrating that by a two-to-one margin likely voters thought their taxes had gone up, when, for almost all of them, they had actually gone down. Republican politicians, and conservative commentators, told them Barack Obama was a tax-mad lunatic. They lied. The mainstream media did not do their job and correct them. The White House was too polite—”civil,” just like Obama promised—to say much. So people believed the lie. From this all else follows.

And it was all too predictable.


When one side breaks the social contract, and the other side makes a virtue of never calling them out on it, the liar always wins. When it becomes “uncivil” to call out liars, lying becomes free.

So you find him at a press conference, the day after the midterm elections, saying with all apparent sincerity that he agreed the majority of Americans participated in a “fundamental rejection of his agenda”—who, that is, implicitly believe he raised their taxes.

When he really lowered them.

[Hat tip: tomtomorrow, who tweeted yesterday about a blog post by digby that in turn quoted Perlstein, and who a couple of minutes later tweeted the Perlstein quote that I have italicized above.]

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