Last week while giving the commencement speech to the graduating class at the University of Michigan, President Barack Obama addressed some of the rhetoric being bantered about and defended his view of how government should work:
“What troubles me is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad,” Obama said after receiving an honorary doctor of laws degree. “When our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it ignores the fact that in our democracy, government is us.”
But Obama was direct in urging both sides in the political debate to tone it down. “Throwing around phrases like ‘socialists’ and ‘Soviet-style takeover,’ ‘fascists’ and ‘right-wing nut’ — that may grab headlines,” he said. But it also “closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation,” he said.
“At its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response.”
Passionate rhetoric isn’t new, he acknowledged. Politics in America, he said, “has never been for the thin-skinned or the faint of heart. … If you enter the arena, you should expect to get roughed up.”
It’s funny that Obama addresses the harsh discourse in politics and just a few days later a quote he gave for book on the first year of his presidency surfaces:
In Jonathan Alter’s “The Promise: President Obama, Year One,” President Obama is quoted in an November 30, 2009, interview saying that the unanimous vote of House Republicans vote against the stimulus bills “set the tenor for the whole year … That helped to create the tea-baggers and empowered that whole wing of the Republican Party to where it now controls the agenda for the Republicans.”
I’m not exactly happy with how the tea party movement has turned out, but using such a ridiculously juvenile term to describe politicial opponents shows a lack of class and inability to take criticism.
It’s without question that some of the rhetoric has been overheated, but few pay attention to the words of Democratic leadership. For example, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called Americans, who were genuinely concerned about their health care, “Un-American.” Sen. Harry Reid compared opponents of ObamaCare to supporters of slavery.
It’s not uncommon to hear the president’s supporters and apologists label his opponents as “racists,” no matter what the policy issue is.
We all have a right to voice our opinions, but if you really want better discourse, remove the beam from your eye before going after the splinter in mine.
On a side note, what Obama said about people viewing government to be “inherenty bad.” Most of us that know the history of the founding and the view of government taken by the Founding Fathers know that they viewed government skeptically. As Michael Cannon notes:
Most troubling was this: “What troubles me is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad.” That remark reminded me of this passage from Thomas Paine’s Common Sense: “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil.” And it has me thinking that our president, a former constitutional law professor, who just received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Michigan, really doesn’t get the American idea of government. At all.
I could offer quote after quote on the topic of government, but Thomas Paine sums up the views of the founders the best.