Sunday, January 16, 2011

McCain shows support for Obama speech signaling hope for a more respectful tone in DC


By GARY BAUMGARTEN
President Obama called for a more civil tone in American politics in the wake of the Tuscon shootings a little over a week ago.
Now, his Republican opponent in the last race for president, Arizona Sen. John McCain, is not only giving the president’s remarks at the memorial in Tuscon high marks – but he’s calling Obama a “patriot.”
It’s the kind of signal that needs to be set as we enter a new round of electioneering for president.
There are those who will argue that there’s no indication that the shootings in Tuscon were touched off by the political rhetoric in the nation. Fair enough. Even the president recognizes this.
But clearly, he has long been concerned about the tone of the debate.
It started during the presidential campaign – when his citizenship, his religious beliefs and his loyalty to the nation were brought into question.
It reached a crescendo during the debate over health reform. People were shouted down at congressional town hall meetings. Some people protested outside the meetings and events attended by the president, displaying firearms, to make the point that they would protect their 2nd Amendment rights against some unknown and unseen attack.
The Secret Service doesn’t talk too much about these things, but there have been a record number of threats against the president of the United States. Without question, the political rhetoric, even if it didn’t contribute to the Tuscon tragedy, needs to be toned down.
Even those Republicans who have fired vitriolic verbal missiles at Democrats in the past must be getting the message now. A member of Congress is in critical condition. And Sarah Palin is getting death threats in the wake of the shooting.
There are those who are now sounding the alarm that their First Amendment rights are being threatened. No one is suggesting that people shouldn’t argue passionately about their views.  The president is merely suggesting that we be cautious about the words we choose, so as to not be inflammatory.
The suggestion that we can disagree without being disagreeable – that we can have opposite points of view while remaining friends – is a good one. It’s a healthy path to take.
McCain should be applauded for showing a leadership role. So should . Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) who is pledging to cross the aisle and sit with his Republican colleagues during the January 25 State of the Union address.
Let’s hope the rest of the nation – starting with the politicians and talk show hosts – takes a cue from Obama, McCain and Udall.
Gary Baumgarten is news and programming director at the Paltalk News Network.

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