The Brave New Age of Civility

Victor Davis Hanson celebrates Barry’s greatest achievement (so far): the creation of a new dawn of civility in political discourse:

During the Bush years a dangerously heated rhetoric became commonplace. Now, lo! a new age has dawned.

It was sometime early this year that Americans finally learned the rules of proper political discourse — another dividend from the Obama administration. We can all be grateful for our new bipartisan protocols, which will go something like the following.

It will be considered childish to caricature a stressed president for mangling his words, whether “nucular” or “corpseman.” If, from time to time, the commander-in-chief flubs up and says something stupid like Bush’s “Is our children learning?” or Obama’s “Cinco de Quatro,” we have learned to accept that such slips are hardly reflective of a lack of knowledge. The old “gotcha” game is puerile and, thankfully, is now a thing of the past.

Nor should we ever refer to any elected administration as a “regime” — that unfortunate habit of the likes of Maureen Dowd, Chris Matthews, and various talk-radio hosts. Thank God, we in 2010 all recognize the pernicious effects of such near-treasonous rhetoric.

At last there is a return to civility. If we were confused in recent years as to whether “hate” was a permissible word in public discourse — as in the outburst of Democratic national chairman Howard Dean, “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for,” or the infamous essay by The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait that began, “I hate President George W. Bush” — we now accept that such extreme language in the public arena is not merely uncivil, but is an incitement to real violence. The use of the word “hate” at last has become “hate speech.”

With Rep. Joe Wilson’s improper outburst to President Obama — “You lie!” — we also have at last come to appreciate that those in Congress have a special responsibility not to use incendiary language to defame our government officials. That’s why we now lament Rep. Pete Stark’s slur of George W. Bush from the House floor as a “liar” — the same Rep. Pete Stark who said of our troops that they had gone “to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.” …

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