Democracy’s arguments have never been pretty, but technology has changed the American dialogue because we can now know of problems instantly. We expect answers immediately and when we don’t get them, we let everyone know in no uncertain terms. We scream and shout, hurl charges without proof. Those on the other side of the argument become not opponents but enemies. Dangerous inflammatory words are used with no thought of consequence.
Schieffer singled out one exceptional political leader: “In an eloquent statement, the new Republican House Speaker John Boehner said yesterday’s attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve.” To which Schieffer added, “We must change the atmosphere in which this happened and we can begin by remembering that words have consequence. Like all powerful things, they must be used carefully.”
While Schieffer sings Boehner’s praises, Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone (1/5/11) recalled a different type of Boehner moment:
Another Ohio Democrat, Steve Driehaus, clashed repeatedly with Boehner before losing his seat in the midterm elections. After Boehner suggested that by voting for Obamacare, Driehaus “may be a dead man” and “can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati” because “the Catholics will run him out of town,” Driehaus began receiving death threats, and a right-wing website published directions to his house. Driehaus says he approached Boehner on the floor and confronted him.
“I didn’t think it was funny at all,” Driehaus says. “I’ve got three little kids and a wife. I said to him, ‘John, this is bullshit, and way out of bounds. For you to say something like that is wildly irresponsible.'”
Driehaus is quick to point out that he doesn’t think Boehner meant to urge anyone to violence. “But it’s not about what he intended ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Â¬”Â it’s about how the least rational person in my district takes it. We run into some crazy people in this line of work.”
Driehaus says Boehner was “taken aback” when confronted on the floor, but never actually said he was sorry: “He said something along the lines of, ‘You know that’s not what I meant.’ But he didn’t apologize.”