Thomas Friedman works himself into a lather over the opposition to Obama - suggesting that all this free-speech business is just bound to embolden some crackpot into taking a shot at the President*.
Bruce Thornton takes him to task for not only the ridiculousness of the claim,
The problem isnít the rudeness or vulgarity or even violence of political speech, all of which are typical of democracies with freedom of speech. Itís the rank hypocrisy of liberals like Friedman who attempt to silence speech they donít like by invoking scary scenarios of assassination. And letís not forget the racial dimension of this newfound liberal sensitivity. From the beginning of Obamaís campaign, his supporters have attempted to short-circuit robust criticism by raising the specter of assassination by frothing racist, a trick akin to Jimmy Carterís recent charge that criticism of Obama reflects inveterate American racism.but the hypocrisy of making it now.
The truth is, political speech in democracies has been notoriously vicious going all the way back to ancient Rome and Athens, where orators and comic poets alike charged their political enemies with everything from homosexual prostitution and incest, to plundering the treasury and selling out their country to the enemy.
Little that weíve heard so far from Obamaís conservative critics comes close to the vicious slanders and rhetorical violence aimed at George Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and the Republican Party for eight years, the aim of which was precisely the ďdelegitimationĒ thatís now got Friedman in a fit.
I often tire of the argument, presented almost daily, of "I know you are but what am I". Over and over we say, "Can you imagine if Bush/Cheney/Palin..... had done that? Why the media would be up in arms" In situations like this we say, "You guys were fine when it was our guy being lambasted & targeted. Why is free speech suddenly a problem for you now?"
The things is, though - it is true. It is irritatingly, gratingly true. The myriad gaffes and blunders made by Barack Obama would have filled op-ed pages and late-night monologues for weeks at a time had George Bush made them. The outfits worn by Michelle Obama would have been grist for every fashion magazine & talking-head had Laura Bush worn them. The ridiculous & potentially dangerous slips made by Joe Biden would merit full on frothing at the mouth outrage had they come from Dick Cheney.
Can you even imagine how the NY Times would have gone after a Bush administration so filled with corruption and graft and incompetence as Obama's has been in the early days? Every time he tries to fill a cabinet post or appoint a czar we get another glimpse into the sliding scale of ethics that exists on the American Left. (Come on, we've got a guy in charge of at Treasury who couldn't even pay his taxes, an "error" he blames on his inability to figure out TurboTax)
Still, as much as the hypocrisy burns like a Texas bonfire, making it nearly impossible to ignore, I wish we could continue to focus on the points being made by the demonstrators. Rather than complain about how they wouldn't be ignored/dismissed/derided/delegitimized if they were on the left, we need to just continue to help spread their message - loudly. Blog it. Tweet it. ReTweet it.
The folks who don't see the hypocrisy probably never will, no matter how much we point it out. They may, however, get the message that bigger government is not a positive direction for our country.
The folks who recognize the hypocrisy don't need to be reminded, they already know. They do, however, need to see they are not alone, they need to know that what they feel a part of is genuine. They need to see the right messages and principals being represented and repeated across the country - even if it never gets covered on CNN.
I like Thorton's article because he makes it clear how ubiquitous political speech is now and has always been.
* log in required at NYTimes.com
(I like Nordlinger's column *because he makes very clear concrete examples - and in effect, his protest is the hypocrisy itself.)Posted by Vox at October 12, 2009 09:14 AM | politics