By David Weigel
I’d been hoping, oh-so-very-naively, that the puffed-up outrage over Jimmy Hoffa, Jr.’s “sons of bitches” moment would get people thinking about the futility of demanding civility in politics. That was the upshot from Jake Tapper’s roasting of Jay Carney yesterday, which included this exchange.
TAPPER: So the precedent you’re setting right now for the 2012 election is, the candidate — the Republican candidates are the ones that we need to pay attention to, and those who introduce them at rallies, their surrogates — you don’t have to pay attention to anything that they say.
CARNEY: Jake, I really — I think I’ve said what I can say about this.
TAPPER: I just — is that the standard now?
CARNEY: You can report it as you —
TAPPER: I’d rather not have to do this Washington Kabuki every time something happens —
CARNEY: It’s up to you to do the Kabuki —
TAPPER: — but if that’s the standard — if that’s the standard, then —
CARNEY: The standard is, we should focus on the actions we can take to grow the economy and create jobs, instead of focusing on Kabuki theater.
Imagine it — an end to kabuki! An end to “controversies brewing” because some jackass said something and a politician was in earshot! In my younger, dumber days I spent some time on stories like that, and they were about as fulfilling as a no-carb communion wafer.
But no, this isn’t the standard. Rep. Allen West appeared on Fox and Friends this morning — how they booked him is anybody’s guess — and announced that he was ready to drive the car for the Civility Caucus.
West said that Hoffa’s remarks, made at President Barack Obama’s Monday Labor Day rally in Detroit, have “no place in the political discourse of this country” and he called on the president to denounce them. “The president has to come out and say something about this because he gets on the same stage that Mr. Hoffa was on and now that he knows what was said,” West said. “And going back to January when he talked about civility, I think we continue to see the people on the left in the Democrat party, Andre Carson with the Congressional Black Caucus making a statement about members of the tea party and certain folks in Congress want to see black Americans hang from trees — there’s no place for this.”
Really? Allen West? You too? In 2010, Democrats went after West again and again for using rhetoric just like this, minus the curse words. In April of that year he told Tea Partiers that the incumbent, Rep. Ron Klein, was hiding from voters, and “You’ve got to make the fellow scared to come out of his house.” Democrats said West was threatening Klein, which he clearly wasn’t. I talked to West about it at the time.
He called out Democrats for “cutting and pasting and taking out of context.” He was referring, he said, to the way Klein failed to respond to his constituents, who’d been unable to meet him in his office or in town halls to talk about the health-care bill. He wasn’t encouraging tea partiers to chase Klein down.
“If the Democrats want to play this game, that’s fine,” West said. “If you look at the Code Pink folks, the SEIU, the Acorn crew — if you look at the intimidation tactics of the New Black Panther Party, I think you’ll see that the Democrats have more to answer for than the tea parties. I have not seen any tea party people carrying nightsticks outside of polling places.”
This is actually part of the implied argument about Hoffa.
Union members are thugs — who knows what they’ll do?
But Hoffa was clearly telling union members that they needed to man up and bring voters to the polls, not telling them they needed to beat Tea Partiers with sacks of quarters, because cops can’t arrest you for carrying U.S. currency.
And West was clearly telling Tea Partiers that they needed to hold Klein accountable, not that they needed to bang bottles together, yell “Come out to plaaaa-aaa-aaay!” and challenge him to a knife fight.
Taking offense at heated political rhetoric is a mug’s game, and surely Allen West knows that.