Civility comes from mutual agreement. It cannot be imposed by one side on the other. And it certainly can't come until those who were party to the baseless calumnies heaped in recent days step forward and accept their responsibility for it. We can have an honest debate if we have honest debaters.
President Obama gave his allies on the Left a chance to climb down from the untenable place they have chosen to occupy. It is my hope that those allies will see fit to use the opportunity he has provided.
Well, we got our answer today. Behold the wisdom of the New York Times:
It was important that Mr. Obama transcend the debate about whose partisanship has been excessive and whose words have sown the most division and dread. This page and many others have identified those voices and called on them to stop demonizing their political opponents. The president’s role in Tucson was to comfort and honor, and instill hope.
Does this not show a stunning lack of awareness? The New York Times, which has published the roundly condemned calumnies of Paul Krugman, is now claiming to be on the side of the angels. And then they proceed, in the same editorial, to demonize a by-now familiar political opponent yet again:
The president’s words were an important contrast to the ugliness that continues to swirl in some parts of the country. The accusation by Sarah Palin that “journalists and pundits” had committed a “blood libel” when they raised questions about overheated rhetoric was especially disturbing, given the grave meaning of that phrase in the history of the Jewish people.
In other words, the message to Palin and anyone who felt aggrieved at the practice of attributing conservative speech as a cause for the actions of a madman: shut up, the Times explained.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, James Taranto is having none of it:
The newspaper that seized upon a horrific crime to demonize its political opponents--and to demonize "particularly" those in the media who reject its worldview and its presumption of moral authority--is now applauding the president for being able to "transcend the debate" that it instigated with its yellow journalism.
The Times expresses a desire to change the subject, to "gun safety laws and improvement to the mental health system" before taking another shot (just a figure of speech, people!) at Sarah Palin, this time for her "especially disturbing" description of the Times-led smear campaign as a "blood libel"--a term that, as we shall see below, the Times itself has used more than once other than in reference to the traditional anti-Semitic smear.
Taranto then goes on to provide the examples of the Times publishing the term "blood libel" in his piece, which I highly recommend you read in its entirety. He also gets in a well-deserved skewering of Andrew Sullivan, who, mirable dictu, has used the phrase himself.
So what can we conclude? At a minimum, it's clear that the Times has no plan to tone down their institutional rhetoric. And that is their right. It will be interesting to see if Timesman Paul Krugman ends up backing down in any way. My guess is that he won't either, which is also his right.
If that is the case, the notion that we'll have any new civility seems to be over before it could even begin. Are you surprised by this? You shouldn't be.
And one other thing: game on.