This year's political buzzword is "Civility." The Giffords shooting has led politicians and the media to re-evaluate political rhetoric and determine if the vitriol has crossed the line. Here's a portion of the Arizona Daily Star's call for Civility.
Whether or not the gunman was motivated by a particular political ideology or pumped up by the trash that passes for discourse is, in the most fundamental way, immaterial.
And it's not the reason to stop the pervasive and corrosive rhetoric. The reason is so much simpler - the demonizing is tearing apart our country from within. When we see each other as the enemy, we cannot rise above and come together for the greater good.
I've pointed out before that the Star is not calling for general civility, the Star is simply demanding civility from the right. The Star's cartoonist David Fitzsimmons spews vitriol with impunity. Fitzsimmons admits that he dislikes the religious right and has special dislike for Mormons. Here's how Fitz describes his feeling about the Church.
All of the political leadership in this state emanates from one district and one religion and one ethnic group and as a consequence, with that philosophy this state is a disaster. A joke. A tragedy.
That particular rant was before the Giffords' shooting and before the Star's call for civility. You will also recall that immediately after the shooting, Fitz went on CNN and describe the shooting as "inevitable." This was his reason.
Because the right in Arizona, and I'm speaking very broadly, has been stoking the fire of heated anger and rage successfully in this state.
In addition to being broadcast on national TV, that rant was featured in the Wall Street Journal as an example of the unhinged left seeking to blame conservatives for the shooting. Ultimately, Fitz appologized for his CNN rant.
So where does Fitz stand now? One could argue that his anti Mormon comments should be excused because they were pre-Giffords. And one could argue that his CNN rant was in the heat of the moment and he's appologized.
Since then we have had a move toward civility and the Star Editorial Board has issued a call for civility. In fact the star hosted a panel on civility and asked Fitzsimmons to participate.
Here's Fitz' response to the calls for civility.
Fitzsimmons, who called himself a professional master of slurs, called civility a wonderful sentiment but a fantasy. "The majority of Americans don't have the time, the attention span or the interest to sustain any kind of reasoned exchange of ideas. Thusly, we are left with name-calling as our highest form of argument,"
Let's get this straight. The Star is the paper of record in the District where Giffords was shot; the paper is ground zero in the call for civility. The paper has issued a call for politicians to tone down the rhetoric. Yet the paper employs a cartoonist who hates Mormons, went on national TV to blame the right for the shooting and who describes himself as a "professional master of slurs."
Fitz' statements on the panel were essentially telling the Star Management to F*%& Off. He's had time to consider his forced apology. He's read the call for civility and if they are looking for civility, they can get a different guy.
Obviously the quest for civility ends there. There's no reason for any politician to tone down the rhetoric knowing that he's going to be pummelled by the Star's professional slur master.
So now the Star Management has to make a decision. Fitz has made it very clear that he has no intention of toning things down and I can guarantee you that the political community isn't going to unilaterally disarm.
So is management serious about this civility stuff or not? Fitz has publicly slapped them in the face and dared them to fire him. The rest of us are watching.
Will the Star Management bow to their Mormon-hating, CNN-Ranting, Professional Slur Master, or will they escort him to the door and wait while security scrapes the parking decal of his windshield?
If they chose the former then I hope they have the decency to stop lecturing the rest of us about the need for civility.