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Assault on America, Day 615: Civility at the expense of good policy is no political virtue

Joe Biden
You may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you


By show of hands, how many of you took the weekend off from politics? Don’t fudge it, did you intentionally avoid watching any of the news channels during those three days?

Only the politically disengaged would truthfully raise their arm towards the heavens -- if indeed there are any such creatures left anymore. In today’s social media interconnected world there’s no escape from the thoughts and opinions of others any longer. While many folks enjoyed the extra day off to go to the beach, play golf and give the backyard grill a good workout, no doubt many others were just as glued to their TVs and the internet as they would be on any normal 24-hour period.

As Americans now move past Labor Day and inch ever closer to the fateful 2020 presidential election, some folks continue to struggle with the choice of whether to vote with their heart or their head in the upcoming election. Only a fool would contend that the last four years were full of unity and bliss. Truthfully, those weeks and months have felt more like a never-ending family squabble at the Thanksgiving dinner table, and there’s no way to be excused or simply relocate to another room.

The arguments go back-and-forth as people renew their efforts to convince the other side that their candidate is the better one. The hodgepodge wayward Republican conglomeration otherwise known as #NeverTrump has maintained their obstinance during Trump’s four years. Their contentions are old and tired -- and pretty thoroughly disproved -- yet still they insist on pursuing the delusion.

Former Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder recently offered his own attempt to steer people away from this year’s GOP presidential candidate. In and op-ed for the USA Today, Snyder wrote, “A great leader treats people with respect even when they present different opinions. Without a variety of views and opinions, we would have no innovation or creativity in our nation. Being a bully and being strong are not the same thing. Being strong is standing up for your convictions. Being a bully is trying to intimidate those who are perceived to be weaker or a threat. As a proud nerd, I had to deal with bullies over many years; it is tragedy watching our world suffer from one.”

Hmpf. Maybe the 62-year-old self-confessed “proud nerd” should stop making excuses for his inability to stand up to bullies from his childhood days and get with current reality. The “bully” accusation has followed Trump from the earliest days of his political career (and needless to say, his celebrity one as well). Bolstered by random testimonials from disgruntled former Trump employees (including dispatched White House aides) -- and then beauty queen Alicia Machado in 2016 -- the media fanned the furor over the president’s personality, making him out to be a mean guy who mistreats everyone within shouting distance and carries grudges with practically the entire world.

This patently simple -- and false -- explanation belies the fact most of Trump’s “bullying” isn’t persecuting at all. When there’s someone picking a fight with you, there’s no reason anyone should have to sit back and take it. Trump may have a massive ego but he isn’t aggressively antagonistic. A more accurate way to describe his temperament is he’s a counter-puncher. The lifelong real estate developer doesn’t go searching out fights but he doesn’t shrink from them either.

In his piece, Snyder mentioned he attended Trump’s inaugural address in 2017, and that “I heard a speech directed at how he would help the people who supported him. And sadly, that is how President Trump continues to govern.”

What? I was in Washington that day as well, and I heard Trump promise to battle the entrenched establishment and always put Americans First. The relatively short (in terms of Trump orations) speech reaffirmed many of the points he’d made during the campaign and included the phrase “I will never, ever let you down.” Does this sound like a bully? Trump backers have grown weary of #NeverTrump losers like Snyder, John Kasich and media commentators distorting the truth for their own purposes. Bullying is in the eye of the beholder. And if these waifs have problems with it, go see a school guidance counselor.

As has been stated innumerable times, this election isn’t a personality contest -- or at least it shouldn’t be -- and the candidates aren’t competing for the title of Mr. Congeniality. Trump is who he is and based on the accounts of many people at this year’s Republican convention, there are a multitude of Americans willing to stand up for the president and vouch for his character.

Besides, do we want a fighter or a flamingo leading the country during these most challenging of days?

If you’re involved in a lawsuit with an opposition party bent on taking everything you have based on a bogus complaint or a purposely perverted interpretation of the facts, what qualities would you seek in counsel to represent and defend you? Would you hire an old-boy attorney who made partner fifty years ago solely on his legendary ability to foster relationships and therefore bring clients into the firm? Or would you want someone who’s newer to the scene, smarter than heck and aggressively advances your case?

Every morning we’re greeted with a new bout of partisan rancor. Both parties are guilty of excesses and oversteps. No one is willing to say “I’m sorry” much less concede an inch of ground in the battle over the future of the country. Republicans accuse Democrats of seeking to trash traditional America and install a utopian socialistic society where everyone thinks the same and it’s okay to express a divergent view as long as it’s sufficiently pro-big government and adheres to the new “woke” social realities like wearing Black Lives Matter garb and kneeling for the national anthem.

Establishment Republicans like Snyder long for the old days where party politicians got along with their adversaries and won occasional victories, typically involving reducing the size of the Democrats’ demands to expand bureaucracy and impose new “rights” on a country that weren’t legislated into law (see abortion, same-sex marriage and amnesty for “DREAMERS” (DACA), among others).

As was amply demonstrated by Trump’s acceptance speech two weeks ago, there’s a distinct difference in worldviews represented in this year’s election. If #NeverTrumpers insist on the nicer guy to handle these problems, our country has a lot to worry about.

Is “civility” in politics even possible? Or are we engaged in an un-civil war?

Political observers note there’ve been a number of politicians in recent years pounding the notion of “civility,” “bipartisanship” and “cooperation” in order to achieve “unity.” In one of the late John McCain’s final senate floor appearances (it might’ve been his last one, I don’t recall), the “maverick” campaign finance reform touting 2008 Republican presidential nominee argued that the way forward must include a return to “regular order.”

Yes, in an ideal world, the legislative process would include committee hearings, tons of witnesses, bill mark-ups and lots and lots of amendments being voted on. In principle, McCain was right. But this isn’t a parallel universe where everyone gets along, respects others’ opinions and tucks their own views away in their desk drawers at the end of the session like they were required to do in grade school before being dismissed.

To this observer, the “civility” problem didn’t arise with Trump and will still be around when the outsider president is gone in either a few months or hopefully, after four more years. Both parties are at fault, but one side is clearly more culpable. “Civility” only exists -- or is possible -- when the partisan politicians are willing to budge.

People like Snyder live in a fantasy world. “For years, I mentioned in most of my speeches the need to bring back civility to our nation. We will not continue to be the greatest nation in the world if we can’t get along among ourselves. We have only become more divided over the past four years. We need a leader who believes in civility and bringing Americans closer together.”

It's almost like Snyder is one of the disengaged-from-politics people who didn’t switch on the TV over the weekend. In his case, it’s more like he’s existed in a bubble the past forty to fifty years. What “civility” was there in the 60’s? How about Watergate? Were people nicer to each other when Jimmy Carter was elected president? Was the former Georgia peanut farmer being “civil” when he suggested America’s best days were behind it? Did Democrats relent when Ronald Reagan was president? How about George H.W. Bush? Did Bill Clinton usher in a new era of good feelings only to be spoiled by Monica-gate? Were Democrats “civil” when they suggested Newt Gingrich was being petty for complaining about not getting to speak with Big Bubba Bill on Air Force One?

Was (former Democrat senate leader) Tom Daschle civil? How about Nancy Pelosi? Teddy Kennedy? Paul Wellstone? “Chucky” Schumer? Where are the days when everyone just laughed off their very real issue differences and went out and dined together after the day’s business was concluded? Should Republicans be more “civil” when Democrats constantly accuse Trump and the rest of us of being racists, sexists, homophobes, xenophobes, Islamophobes, etc.? Was Barack Obama being “civil” when he said rural Americans “cling to guns and religion” and are reluctant to accept a black man for president merely because he looks different?

Ever notice how Joe Biden raises his voice to a low roar, points his finger and grits his teeth to emphasize his points? Is that civil… being shouted at?

Snyder claims he’s still a Republican and will publicly support party candidates at the local, state and federal level -- but not Trump. To him and others of his thought-pattern, Joe Biden is the answer to the nation’s enormous challenges because he’ll be the good guy in chief, right? He’ll be “civil” as he signs bills passed by a Democrat Congress requiring religious institutions to cover birth control and abortifacients in their health plans. Grampa Joe will be beaming from ear-to-ear as he brags about banning energy production and imposing the Green New Deal.

He'll sniff some woman’s coiffure at a photo op commemorating the rejoining of the Paris Climate Accord and receive praise from the Iranian mullahs for reinstating the one-sided Iran nuclear deal, too.

America will go down the tubes. But to people like Snyder, it’s okay because the new president of the United States will only call certain Republicans racists and gender oppressors. And his Supreme Court nominees will cement every liberal dream into law, never to be reversed.

If this is “civility”, I’d rather have a bully any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Bring it on.

Obama-supporting independent voter endorses Trump. Where’re the media accolades?

In their analyses of how Donald Trump pulled off the most unlikely of all political upsets in 2016, the experts cited the Republican candidate’s ability to win over a healthy number of folks who’d voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Can he hold onto this group this year? One independent voter thinks yes.

Pepperdine law professor Douglas Kmiec wrote at The Hill last week, “Mr. Trump’s manner of presentation certainly is not one of humility, and it can mislead one to think he lacks empathy. He doesn’t. He is just more interested in empathy of action rather than of word. For example, it is hardly uncaring when Trump advocates school choice for all families, or seeks to control the pandemic while simultaneously urging that jobs be restored, seeking fair trade with diplomatic friends and cautioning the proponents of terror to stand down — or, lest we forget, his keeping our military well-equipped and trained, at home, as a corollary to moderating the temptation to intervene internationally without a well-thought-out purpose and a realistic means to achieve it…

“The president’s greatest temptation is to repay the rudeness and disparagement of major-media outlets. That repayment, as a matter of justice, may be warranted. Yet, his response should not be to match it but to ignore it. In this, Michelle Obama’s advice to go high when others go low is a good one to follow.

“So, President Trump has this independent’s endorsement to make the world great again — again. Note carefully that the charge is to make the world great, not just our beloved America...”

There you have it. Not exactly a ringing endorsement but a very fair one. Like Snyder above, Kmiec clearly isn’t a huge fan of Trump’s personal style and wishes he would tone it down to promote more good feelings among Americans. But taken as a whole, Trump’s leadership and advocacy for superior policies governed Kmiec’s choice.

The American political system was designed for a well-educated voting public choosing between platforms and proposals. In the days before in-person campaigning, it wasn’t about who is the more “civil” one or who can “bring people together.” They didn’t care about that stuff. The Founding Fathers didn’t declare independence simply because they disliked their king (though at the end it was very personal). The Declaration itself contains their reasons for leaving.

One can only hope Americans weigh the candidates and their policies -- like Kmiec did -- and make their selection. We already know the people at CNN don’t like Trump. What else is new?

If you asked the average person whether he or she would rather have a president who validates their political views or dwells on “civility” and getting along with the opposition at the expense of good policy, the majority would choose the former. In November, Americans will choose the candidate with accomplishments and leave the niceties to someone else.

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