Double Standard On Violent Talk

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - September 14, 2011

The horrifying shooting in Tucson that took the lives of six and injured 19, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, impacted the entire nation. The wanton senselessness (including the death of a 9-year-old girl) and the targeting of a sitting Congressional Representative permeated all corners of the country. The tragedy compelled President Barack Obama to lament the state of coarseness of the national debate. He spoke of a new “National Conversation” whereby he urged political leaders conduct their debates and commentary “... in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds ...” These were elegant and appropriate words that we’ve come to expect from leaders in times of shock and sadness.

This was such a significant event for the president as the effusive praise for his performance rolled in. Douglas Brinkley, noted historian and professor at Rice University, said of Obama’s speech: “It was his most important speech so far, one that history is going to reflect on. There was a bit of Dr. King to him.” Garry Willis, noted political author, wrote, “Obama had to rise above the acrimonious debate about what caused the gunman in Tucson to kill and injure so many people.”

Even the American people responded by giving the president a bump in popularity.

In the months since the president lamented divisive and contentious speech in the public debate, there have been numerous incidents of his administration and his supporters lambasting their opponents. Here are two recent examples:

“You are the only folks keeping the barbarians from the gates ... the other side had declared war on labor’s house. You are the only non-governmental power that has the capacity to stop this onslaught.” -Vice President Joe Biden at an AFL-CIO picnic.

“President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march ... Everybody here’s got a vote ... Let’s take these sons of bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong.” Jimmy Hoffa Jr., introducing Obama in Cincinnati.

There was no repudiation from the president forthcoming in regard to either comment. The statement by Hoffa is particularly troubling because of its provocative language. The president was right there to hear firsthand what was said, he said nothing. Nothing. One must conclude the president approves of the very speech he decried just months ago at the memorial for those who died in the Tucson shootings.

In contrast, during the 2008 presidential campaign, a radio talk show host introduced Sen. John McCain at an event while calling into question Obama’s Muslim faith and repeating his middle name, “Hussein.” McCain quickly took to the microphone and dressed down the host and apologized profusely for the words that were spoken.

And herein lies the difference. One man relies on words to define his character while the other allows actions to define his.

If the president can so easily capitalize on such a terrible event to advance his own persona, what is he prepared to do to save his political career?

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