With the reputation of the Obama administration over its negotiated deal with Iran, the heated defense mounted by Kerry and other officials is hardly surprising, nor is the equally impassioned response by Republican candidates.
Both sides display an utter deficit of common sense. Most notably, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee rather bombastically likened Obama’s actions to leading the Israelis to the doors of the internment camp ovens.
Not to be outdone, Obama shot back by asserting this was Huckabee saying he was the leading sponsor off state terror.
Is there truth in Huckabee’s characterization? Probably. Does it matter? No, because Obama has the moral high ground from which to launch his attack in self-defense. And he did, claiming he doesn’t engage in ad hominem attacks, a hard statement to stomach from a man who once referred to Tea Partiers with a vile sexual slur, joked about John Boehner’s orange-tinted skin, called Paul Ryan’s budget proposal un-American, declined to denounce administration officials in instances where they likened conservatives to domestic terrorists and referred to the Israeli prime minister as a synonym for fowl defecation.
Politicians trading insults then crying about the incivility of American discourse is nothing new, nor is it really significant as it does nothing to alter the facts of an issue.
The problem lies in that this verbal sparring, not the facts, has become the sole focus of political discourse.
Language matters, that in and of itself is tautologous. So long as that language is coupled to fact and rational advocation and defense of it, public discourse works. When language becomes nothing more than bromides flung like poisoned barbs at an enemy to distract from the lack of fact and logic behind a position, discourse is hollow, traveling in a circle on the heated rails of impulse alone.
Attack, react, build venial insults into a roaring inferno of fire. It accomplishes nothing, but generates press. And whoever is put on the defense, even if right is on their side, usually comes out looking petty and mean.
Meanwhile, the facts at the heart of the issue are forgotten.
These tactics almost exclusively benefit liberals, whose central message of empathy flourishes in these frenetic tussles.
Politicians, and societal actors in general, need to be more wary of how they speak.
This is not to say that conservatives should allow messaging to be dictated by fear of interpretation or response. This would be a form of rhetorical tyranny that would be the death of their ideology.
But it’s foolish to deny, especially with a dishonest media, that words said imperfectly in the heat of the moment, become major media campaigns, coming back to haunt the unfortunate orator sometimes months later. That politician might be hurt, but it’s the empirical facts behind good public policy that are really wounded by such lazy rhetoric.