President Obama preaches civility but doesn’t practice it.
After the shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz., that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Obama said: “It’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”
Yet the president now stands silent in the wake of violent rhetoric from his vice president and a key supporter.
On Labor Day, Joe Biden spoke to organized labor in Cincinnati, saying “this is a different kind of fight. This is a fight for the heart and soul of the labor movement. This is a fight for the existence of organized labor. You are the only ones who can stop the barbarians at the gate!”
At roughly the same time in Detroit, Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa urged the president to consider unions his personal “army” in this war.
“We are ready to march. Let’s take these sons of bitches out.”
In the wake of that violent talk, ABC’s Jake Tapper tried to pin down White House spokesman Jay Carney on just what the president means when he urges “civility.” The exchange was revealing:
Tapper: How did the comments by the Teamsters’ president fit in with that (the president’s Tucson statement)?
Carney: Well, first of all, those weren’t comments by the president. The president wasn’t there. Secondly, and as I think has been reported —
Tapper: Comments by a union leader at an event that President Obama spoke at?
Carney: I understand that there is a ritual in Washington that somebody says something and you link the associations, and then everyone who has an association with him or her somehow has to avow or disavow it. The president wasn’t there. I mean, he wasn’t on stage. He didn’t speak for another 20 minutes. He didn’t hear it. I really don’t have any comment beyond that, Jake.
Tapper: OK, well, some of us covered the campaign and recall a time when someone made some harsh comments about then-Senator Obama while — during an introduction of a McCain rally and the Obama campaign was offended and expected an apology and Senator McCain came out and did so.
Carney: Well, Mr. Hoffa speaks for himself. He speaks for the labor movement, the AFL-CIO. The president speaks for himself. I speak for the president. What the president was glad to do yesterday was have the opportunity to present his views on the importance of working Americans and on the importance of taking measures to help working Americans to create jobs to grow the economy.
Tapper: So, the president you’re setting right now for the 2012 election is the candidate — the Republican candidates are the ones that we need to pay attention to, and those who introduce them at rallies, their surrogates, you don’t have to pay attention to anything that they say.
Carney: Jake, I really — I think I’ve said what I can say about this.
Tapper: Is that the standard now?
Carney: You can report it as you like.
Tapper: I’d rather not have to do this Washington kabuki every time something happens —
Carney: It’s up to you to do the kabuki.
Tapper: — but if that’s the standard, if that’s the standard, then —
Carney: The standard is, we should focus on the actions we can take to grow the economy and create jobs, instead of focusing on kabuki theater.
You don’t have to read minds to know that Carney’s non-answer confirms this administration uses and condones violent speech so long as it remains useful for re-election. Note the shameful union violence that played out last week in Washington state over a new grain terminal. A federal judge intervened to stop the illegal tactics, not the Obama administration.
As public approval polls have turned against President Obama, he has abandoned the lofty speech he once used to urge Americans to solve problems without tearing each other down.
“You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it,” he said.
Let’s face it. The president’s nice words mean nothing when prefaced by: “Attention barbarians and sons of bitches, I’m talkin’ to you.”
Sherman Frederick, former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, writes a weekly column for Stephens Media.