Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Does America Need a Civics Lesson?

Freedom of speech and the First Amendment are a testament to America’s greatness, a declaration of confidence in our system of governance and our institutions of democracy. Recent public displays of anger over passage of health care reform, however, portend a perilous moment in our nation’s history. Death threats against Members of Congress, broken windows and acts of vandalism, a cut propane line at the home of a targeted congressman’s brother, and other acts of intimidation bordering on violence, signifies that we may be relinquishing our capacity for civic engagement. Among the most hurtful displays of vitriolic outbursts were the racial epithets shouted at Representative John Lewis, among the most dignified and honorable leaders of the civil rights movement, and the homophobic slurs against openly gay Congressman Barney Frank.

The history of nonviolent protest in the United States, from the woman’s suffrage movement to civil rights and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, have inspired positive social change and reforms to unjust government policies. But when peaceful demonstrations cross the line into mob rule, when an African American Congressman from Missouri, Emanuel Cleaver, is spat upon by a grotesque and disgraceful display of venomous immaturity, there is something wrong with the body politic.

I understand those who share a passion for politics and who feel strongly about issues of importance. The art of politics, the thrill of debate, the intellectual give-and-take of verbal combat – while not for everyone – are notions I embrace. On some issues, on matters of conscious, when injustice is perceived, public demonstrations in an effort to move public opinion or influence the vote of a Senator are shining examples of democracy and a resounding proclamation of the freedoms we all share. But the ugliness on display in the recent past, especially when wrapped in shades of racism and homophobia and a false patriotism disguising a xenophobic nationalism – are detrimental to democratic values, to republican ideals, and to robust citizenship.

Incivility is distasteful regardless of its political stripes. I was in law school in 1981, when just ten blocks away President Reagan and White House aide James Brady were shot (Brady paralyzed for life) by a mentally disturbed gunman. When news accounts first reported that Reagan had survived, I winced at and denounced a classmate who “joked” that she wished the gunman’s aim had been more accurate. The remark was humorless and shameful. Although I had opposed the election of Ronald Reagan several months earlier, on March 30, 1981, he was our elected President and, not unlike the Kennedy assassination, the attempt on Reagan’s life was a near tragedy from which this nation would have suffered greatly. I also was disturbed at left wing critics who suggested that President Reagan, and later President George W. Bush, were modern versions of Hitler, or were fascists and other historical inaccuracies.

So, I recognize that the current state of affairs, the belittling and degrading attacks on President Obama and Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank and John Lewis, are not exclusive to Republicans or Tea Party activists (though I find it laughable that anyone could equate Obama with Hitler – please, go back to school and read a history book). But the acts of violence, the insane level of anger displayed during the protests on Capitol Hill this past weekend have reached heightened and potentially dangerous levels. I hope that Frank Rich of the New York Times is wrong when he suggests, “To find a prototype for the overheated reaction to the health care bill, you have to look . . . to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” A historic piece of legislation that outlawed racial and other forms of discrimination at public establishments and businesses affecting interstate commerce, it was impugned as a “threat to the very essence of our basic system” by the Republican nominee for President, Barry Goldwater, while Richard Russell, the Democratic senator from Georgia and a staunch segregationist, said the bill “would destroy the free enterprise system.” Although history has proved these statements absurd, the right wing and segregationist opponents of the law exhibited much hysteria in attempting to persuade the populace that civil rights laws would destroy America. The issues are different, but much of today's rhetoric sounds all too familiar.

It appears that much of the feverish excitement these past several months has very little to do with the proposed changes to our health care system. Do the Tea Party protesters really oppose requiring insurance companies to permit parents to keep their sons and daughters on their health plans until age 26? Do they really want insurance companies to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions? Are they opposed to tax credits for small businesses? Or is something else at work, something more sinister, an awakening of a repressed and dark resentment of the changing face of American society. “It’s not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver – none of them major players in the health care push – received a major share of last weekend’s abuse,” wrote Rich in The Times op-ed piece. “When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan, ‘Take our country back!,’ these are the people they want to take the country back from.”

That Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, shouted to a group of Tea Partiers, “Let’s beat the other side to a pulp!” and that Representative Randy Neugebauer, a conservative Republican from Texas, shouted “baby killer” at pro-life congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan on the House floor on Sunday night, attests to the sad state of affairs of American politics. John McCain, who ran for president on the slogan, “Country First,” now proclaims a vow of “no cooperation for the rest of the year.” As Steny Hoyer of Maryland said, “Democracy can’t survive unless we can have a civil society in which debate is open and free and unfettered.” But a civil society implies that we listen respectfully to the other side and respond appropriately. It does not involve death threats and rocks, racist slurs and spit.

Peaceful protest, vigorous debate, creative expression, and public statements of persuasion are the fuel upon which a healthy democracy thrives. When public anger turns to mob rule; when stones are thrown through windows of congressional offices; when a Member of Congress, Bart Stupak, feels compelled to refer 50 death threats to the FBI because he voted for legislation that expands health care for the uninsured; and when John Lewis, who forty years ago withstood near fatal beatings and vicious verbal attacks in fighting for equal rights for black Americans, is called racist names because he wants all Americans, black and white, rich and poor, to have access to health care, we are in trouble as a country. It is time for the leadership of both parties to stand up and put an end to angry distortions and rhetoric that encourages violence.

It is entirely possible to engage in aggressive and spirited debate, yet acknowledge that, as fellow Americans, you and your opponent share equally in love of country. Were he alive today, I believe that Ronald Reagan would have denounced the recent bad behavior. While he often sparred publicly with Tip O’Neil and Ted Kennedy, he (and they) never lost cite of their common citizenship.

Treating those with whom you disagree as the Enemy is so much easier than seeing the other side as friends and neighbors, brothers and sisters, fellow citizens whose views merely differ on an issue. With all of the problems confronting the United States and the world today, will there be a time when liberals and conservatives, Tea Partiers and Coffee Drinkers, talk, listen, and work together to find common ground? For the future of our country, I hope that day comes soon.


  1. Mark,

    I’m disappointed. Against the will of the American people, the Democrat president and the Democrat Congress just passed a massive piece of partisan legislation, that usurps the rights of American citizens and the states, using every dirty trick available, including backroom deals and outright bribes to buy the votes of members of their own party, and the use of parliamentary procedures that they are on record as saying would end democracy as we know it if used by Republicans just a few years ago. And you see fit to write an essay critical of the Americans who protest this corruption by using slanderous lies to discredit their patriotic stand against an out of control government. I’m disappointed because you have championed “bi-partisanship” in past blogs; used polls of the American people to justify government action; and in general, have called for ethical conduct by our leaders. I’m disappointed because I cannot believe that you are comfortable with the conduct of the Democratic Party during the past couple of months, yet this is the post you choose to write.

    I am not going to respond to this post, initially, rather I am going to challenge you to defend it or to correct it.

    I challenge you to present the evidence that racial epithets were shouted at Representative John Lewis or else admit it was a media creation. And a related challenge: explain how one can be “dignified and honorable” while comparing the McCain-Palin campaign to the campaign of George Wallace, as Lewis did in October 2008.

    I challenge you to present the evidence that Congressman Emanuel Cleaver was intentionally spat upon.

    I challenge you to rewrite your paragraph on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, giving the Republicans their due for making the passage of the bill possible and holding the Democratic Party accountable for their institutional racism that continues to this day. I’ll even get you started with a few hints: Robert Byrd – filibuster – Everett Dirksen – cloture.

    Now, before another challenge, some quick answers to some easy questions regarding capitalism, freedom and businesses designed to earn a… warning: dirty word ahead… profit:

    Do the Tea Party protesters (let’s stipulate that the Tea Partiers represent a wide assortment of Americans and they don’t all have the same opinions and these answers are mine and not necessarily theirs) really oppose requiring insurance companies to permit parents to keep their sons and daughters on their health plans until age 26? Yes.

    Do they really want insurance companies to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions? Want? No. Have the right if they so choose? Yes.

    Are they opposed to tax credits for small businesses? Yes, in the sense that all Americans should pay the same amount of taxes, proportionate to their income and that successful people should not be penalized or demonized because they grew a small business into a big business.

    Now the challenge: Before you jump on the healthcare bandwagon, read the entire 2,409 page bill, especially the part where children with pre-existing conditions aren’t covered (as one headline put it: Oops!), and justify why any legislation that large should be voted into law, especially when one of the justifications for passing it was so that we could learn what was in it!

    I challenge you to balance “…when a member of Congress, Bart Stupak, feels compelled to refer 50 death threats to the FBI because he voted for legislation that expands health care for the uninsured..” with the threats he received from supporters of the bill when it appeared he might stand firm in his opposition.


  2. And a final challenge: balance the above slander against protesters who are a living embodiment of Hillary Clinton’s famous rant: "I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration somehow you're not patriotic. We should stand up and say we are Americans and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration," with examples of actual hatred and violence from the other side of the political divide. Some jumping off points:

    The beating of Tea Party activist Kenneth Gladney by SEIU thugs, who asked Gladney (before they beat him) why a black man was handing out “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and “What kind of nigger are you?!” Apparently Gladney didn’t realize that the Tea Party membership was limited to white racists and that as a black man he was required to think only one way.

    The beating of Dave Caulkett, member of Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, by A.N.S.W.E.R. thugs, that was preceded by an email calling for “all people to come out tomorrow, to organize a militant confrontation with the so-called “tea baggers.” Beating back these forces will require us to organize together, take the streets, fight the racists wherever they show their faces and drive them out of every community.”

    The arrest (and for all the death threats and hate speech crime and spitting going on, this seems to be one of the few arrests made) of Obama supporter Norman Leboon for his threats directed against Republican Rep. Eric Cantor. (The wording of this sentence, although technically accurate, might be just as slick and misleading as: “Although history has proved these statements absurd, the right wing and segregationist opponents of the law exhibited much hysteria in attempting to persuade the populace that civil rights laws would destroy America.”)

    The 2008 attempted murder and successful maiming of Florida Congressional candidate Eddie Adams Jr. (R) in a rather clever, but twisted attack.

    The interesting tidbit that the “Hillsborough County Sheriff have tallied 90 reports of vandalism against cars with Republican campaign bumper stickers, and 7 such incidents against cars with Democrat bumper stickers.” Like you would have gambled your life that it would have been the other way around?

    The amazing bias of a liberal news media that painted President Bush as stupid while barely reporting that Rep. Hank Johnson (Democrat, and one of the brain surgeons that brought us Obamacare) said this about the island of Guam to Admiral Robert Willard during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the defense budget: “My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.” Really.

    Various hateful and violent comments:

    “I know because I want to spit on them, take one of their "Obama Plan White Slavery" signs and knock every racist and homophobic tooth out of their Cro-Magnon heads.” Courtland Milloy, Washington Post

    "It reminds me of that period in our history right after Reconstruction, when South Carolina had a black governor and the political gains were lost because of vigilantism, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan." Rep. Jim Clyburn, disputing that the protests were really about health care.

    “Do I hope that those people die screaming of rectal cancer? Yeah.” Sean Penn


  3. This could go on, and possibly it will, but I hope this serves to point out the unnecessary bias that permeates your writing. Why is it so hard for you to accept that people genuinely fear that the federal government is getting too big, too intrusive, and too powerful? You yourself had those same fears when Bush was president, believing that his win over Gore resulted in “…the degradation of the constitution (and) the ballooning federal deficits…” Now the federal government’s takeover of an area that it may have no constitutional authority to control has others worried. A vast majority of Americans opposed this legislation and to suggest that their motivation is racism is despicable. I have no problem believing that President Obama and most Democrats genuinely believe that they know what is best for America and that government is the solution. I, and millions of other Americans, believe they are dead wrong. And I, and millions of Americans, don’t give a damn what color the president is. What we care about is the preservation of freedom and what we know is that a government that controls healthcare can control and regulate every aspect of a person’s life. When the fate of the country teeters on the fence between what our founders envisioned and what Europe is today, passions will rise and rhetoric will be intense, loud and emotional – on both sides.

    Rich R.

  4. Rich –

    Stop pretending that you and Republicans know the secret handshake of the Founding Fathers. In fact, as you well know, half of them were passionately in favor of big centralized government and the other half were as passionately in favor of states rights. So they got together in a closed, hot, shuttered room, without any press or leaks to the public, and worked however long it took to create the biggest secret “backroom” document of all times – the Constitution of the United States. It was loaded with compromises and deals, and it was brilliant and pliable.

    Compare that spirit of compromise with the Civil War – same issues, different tactics. How many lives lost? Some in the South still carry vestiges of rage and, in the North, vestiges of contempt from that sad episode in our history. And, yes, the South were Democrats but, hey, they were also the “states’ rights” side in those days.

    You have totally missed the point of Mark’s article – that whoever engages in offensive and threatening conduct, has left the protected realm of speech and moved into the realm of criminality. Last time I checked, every state regards harassment, terroristic threats, and assault as a violation of the criminal law, no party membership required. Or, would you impose these laws only against Democrats and liberals?

    -- Andrea

    P.S. Bet you thought the first comment would be Mark's, eh? But, he's in church now . . . learning about social justice. Happy Easter!

  5. Rich,

    Rather than recognize the bi-partisan spirit in which I wrote, you are full of condescension and blinded by anger, bitterness, and resentment over any criticism of your beloved Tea Party movement. Or perhaps you simply did not actually read what I wrote. (As a start, re-read the last two paragraphs, and then go to the two paragraphs in which I mention President Reagan. Am I really being that one-sided here? Now go back and read your comments).

    First, as for proof that somebody in the angry mob yelled racial epithets: John Lewis says it happened. He is not someone who easily asserts the race card, though he has experienced enough racism and bigotry to know when it actually occurs. He says it occurred and I believe him. Representative Andre Carson was with Lewis, and he has said the n-word was yelled out numerous times. Brenda Jones, an aide to Lewis, who was with both of the men, has also confirmed that the racial epithets were shouted. As a former prosecutor, when I have credible eyewitness accounts, especially when corroborated by other credible witnesses, I give them credence. Moreover, House Minority Leader John Boehner, speaking on Meet the Press on March 21, acknowledged that anti-gay and racial epithets directed at Democratic members of Congress Saturday were "reprehensible."

    So I am disappointed that you automatically resort to slandering U.S. Congressmen and assert that these incidents not only didn’t happen, but also are merely the fantastical imaginings of a liberal press. And then you have the audacity to suggest that I have “slandered” the poor, innocent Tea Partiers. I’ll happily await service of a lawsuit.

    Before accusing John Lewis of being a liar, please read his memoir of the civil rights movement, Walking in the Wind, then show me what evidence you have that he lied.

    Second, as for Congressman Cleaver, the videotape of him walking up the Capitol steps is compelling. See He was clearly spat upon. Was it intentional, or merely drool and spittle flying from a venomous protester – that may be open to debate. But it is clear that very little respect was being displayed.


  6. Rich (cont'd):

    As for the ugly incidents you cite, if true (and I have no reason not to believe you), they are reprehensible and wrong. My post made very clear that “incivility is distasteful regardless of its political stripes” and that “I recognize that the current state of affairs . . . are not exclusive to Republicans or Tea Party activists,” yet you seem not to acknowledge this aspect of my post.

    As to the Republican efforts in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you are correct that certain Republicans were instrumental in helping to pass that law. That was in the day when the Republican Party still had reasonable people in their ranks. There were several Northeastern Republicans, and some from the Midwest and West coast, that were far more progressive in their views than were most Southern Democrats, who largely opposed civil rights. Indeed, I specifically mentioned Democrat Richard Russell as a “staunch segregationist” who opposed the Civil Rights Act, along with Barry Goldwater – maybe you didn’t read that sentence. The opposition to the Civil Rights Act, as I said, came from right-wing forces, not necessarily Republican. Many Democrats (mostly in the South) opposed civil rights laws and fought the end of segregated schools, separate water fountains, and almost all aspects of the apartheid South.

    I am dismayed that you could not bring yourself to denounce even one offensive action (including the vandalism and the death threats), rather than conclude that it was all made up, or part of some left wing, liberal media conspiracy. Had you done so, it would have attributed to you some element of reasonableness. But you chose only to attack and to defend the bad behavior on the right.

    I have no doubt that you and many others on the right truly do not care what color the President of the United States is, and that your opposition is based on policy disagreements. But can’t you acknowledge that there is a level of anger and bad behavior (on both the right and the left, as I acknowledged) that detracts from democracy, civility, and the American spirit?

  7. Mark,

    " me what evidence you have that he lied."

    (If not specifically footnoted, some of the following can be found at the great website: The American Thinker.)

    Let’s start at the beginning with William Douglas’ article about the incident.

    According to him, “demonstrators,” meaning more than one, “shouted” that Rep. Lewis was a nigger. The “protesters,” meaning more than one, also “shouted” obscenities at other black law makers.

    But what did Rep. Lewis hear? "They were shouting, sort of harassing. But, it's okay, I've faced this before.” Now we all know it’s never okay to use the N-word, so what could they have been “shouting,” that might be construed as “sort of harassing”? Rep. Lewis has an answer: They were shouting “Kill the bill, kill the bill.”

    And Rep. Lewis gave it right back to them: “I said ‘I’m for the bill, I support the bill, I’m voting for the bill.’”

    Douglas quotes a colleague (unnamed, who’d have seen that coming?) who was with Lewis who claimed that “people,” meaning more than one, responded, “Kill the bill” and then added the N-word.

    Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who was near Lewis, “distinctly” heard a “chorus” of “nigger(s).”

    Now before we move on, let’s recap: Lewis was called nigger, but Lewis didn’t hear it. It was “shouted” many times, but Lewis didn’t hear it. He did hear “kill the bill” and engaged in verbal battle with the protestors but didn’t hear the most dreaded word in a race conscious society. Cleaver “distinctly” heard the word and that unnamed guy heard both “kill the bill” and the N-word.

    Additionally, if you go to the McClatchy Newspaper’s website where Douglas’ article is posted ( you can view an edited video of the Tea Party protestors sandwiched between the headline: “TEA PARTY PROTESTERS SCREAM ‘NIGGER’ AT BLACK CONGRESSMAN” and Douglas’ article, leading one to believe that the video is the smoking gun. One would be wrong. (Interesting side note: the slogan for the McClatchy Newspaper is “Truth to Power.” I’ve heard that somewhere before?)

    After taking heat from conservative bloggers, Douglas wrote down his recollection of how events transpired, stating that he “chased down” Lewis who didn’t want to go on camera but agreed to answer questions. Lewis began, “They were just shouting, sort of harassing.” Douglas asked him if the N-word was used and Lewis replied, “Oh yeah, yeah, but that’s okay. I’ve faced this before,” and, “It reminded me of the ‘60s. A lot of downright hate and anger, and people just being downright mean.” So in this version, Lewis does claim that he was called the N-word, but apparently ignores the worst thing you can call a black man and engages the protestors as previously reported. (

    (Interesting side note #2: John Lewis’ website contains no mention of the incident or even of the Tea Party Organization in general. A man who has fought racism all his life does not post a statement regarding being called vile and racist names?)

    Now there was another witness there, Rep. James Clyburn, but he didn’t hear the often shouted N-word. Not once. As he told Keith Oberman, “I didn't hear the slurs…” (

    Fox News interviewed William Owens, a black Tea Party member (by the way, how do these black guys keep infiltrating the new Ku Klux Klan?), who stated, "Never did I hear any type of racial slur." (,2933,589776,00.html)


  8. The Washington Times also interviewed Owens and two other black people amongst the Tea Partiers: Owens said, “These people are concerned about the issues of where you stand, not what color you are.” Charlene Freedman said, “I didn't see color. They didn't see my color. We're just American citizens, and we're here to say, ‘Keep America free.’ I’ve heard nothing about racism . . . nothing at all.” Jay Jarbo was the most perceptive stating, “I just want to see them follow the Constitution, and they're not doing that... Honestly, this is the type of thing people bring up to distract from the real issues, and it’s always about race in this country, and it’s always the last card in the deck that everyone plays.” (

    But there was another who claimed to hear the N-word: Rep. Andre Carson walked with Lewis from the Cannon House and heard the crowd “chant” “nigger, nigger.” He heard this chant 15 times. It was unclear if he heard the N-word 15 times or 30 times, but Clyburn never heard it even once and we can’t be sure now what Lewis heard. (

    The problem is this: The Tea Partiers are probably the most recorded group right now; they are covered non-stop by videographers, photographers and reporters. There exists no recording of Lewis being called a nigger. Lewis and company are not even impeded on their walk, a trip, interestingly enough, that usually occurs via a tunnel. It appears they hoped for a little racial animosity by walking through the protesters, but were disappointed. There is a wonderful video commentary of the event here, which also questions the amazing speed at which this story was written, almost as if it was written before it happened: (

    As you watch the above video, notice one of Lewis’ friends and the two apparent recording devices he holds up to the crowd. Surely he would have captured the racist chants with two recorders! And why two? A little preplanning there, perhaps? Notice also the black people in the crowd. If racist slurs were uttered, would you not expect to see some reaction? Such as fists flying?

    Think about it for a moment: if the witnesses are correct, this is what the black, brown and white Tea Partiers would have heard, what the civil rights icon and his buddies would have heard, and what the reporters would have heard and their equipment would have recorded:

    “Kill the bill! Nigger-nigger! (1), Kill the bill! Nigger-nigger! (2), Kill the bill! Nigger-nigger! (3), Kill the bill! Nigger-nigger! (4), Kill the bill! Nigger-nigger! (5), Kill the bill! Nigger-nigger! (6), Kill the bill! Nigger-nigger! (7), Kill the bill! Nigger-nigger! (8), Kill the bill! Nigger-nigger! (9), Kill the bill! Nigger-nigger! (10), Kill the bill! Nigger-nigger! (11), Kill the bill! Nigger-nigger! (12), Kill the bill! Nigger-nigger! (13), Kill the bill! Nigger-nigger! (14), Kill the bill! Nigger-nigger! (15).”

    Andrew Breitbart has offered to make a $100,000 donation to the United Negro College Fund if Lewis presents recorded evidence of even one instance of a single N-word being voiced on that day. He’ll even take Lewis’ word alone if Lewis passes a polygraph exam.


  9. Now let’s talk motive: the Tea Partiers have none. Besides risking being knocked on their ass by other protesters or ostracized as was done to the nut who called Barney Frank a name after – after - he told the protestors, “Fuck you!” the average Tea Party member knows that any slurs will just be used to discredit the movement. On the other hand, Lewis and company have a motive for wanting to hear the N-word. Use of the race card is instinctual with some people and as I noted above, Lewis is not immune. And let’s not forget, it’s the liberal media and Democrat politicians using a gay slur to insult the Tea Party by calling them “tea-baggers.”

    Someone is lying or modern technology has created recording devices that edit out offensive words.

    You say that “As a former prosecutor, when I have credible eyewitness accounts, especially when corroborated by other credible witnesses, I give them credence.” Now I know some things about Mark the prosecutor, not least of which is that he is one of the best I have ever worked with, and I know for a fact the first thing Mark the prosecutor would have said to me, if I brought the case to him, would have been, “Get me the videos!” Mark the prosecutor would have found it fanciful that slurs and slogans were shouted but only the slogans were captured by the countless recording devices. Mark the prosecutor would have also found it suspect that the only ones hearing the N-word were people with something to gain from it.

    As far as credible witnesses, let’s take a look at Cleaver:

    According to the Huffington Post, Rep Emanuel Cleaver issued a statement regarding the incident (interesting side note #3: this statement does not appear on Cleaver’s website – no one seems to want to take a stand for justice using their own bully pulpit). In the statement Cleaver states that “this is not the first time they have been spit on during turbulent times” and that Cleaver was “walking into the Capitol to vote, when one protester spat on him.” Cleaver claims that the “man who spat on the Congressman was arrested, but the Congressman has chosen not to press charges. He has left the matter with the Capitol Police.” (

    This is a lie. The US Capitol Police arrested three people that day and not one of them was the elusive Spitman, so there was no chance for Cleaver to decline the pressing of charges. Cleaver could not even identify the spittle spatterer. Again, watch the video. There is a female police officer with Cleaver, who could have easily arrested the man who shared his lung cookie with Cleaver, but does not and is not asked to do so. The officer then appears to walk back the way she came, passing by the phlegm flinger who is still standing in the same place. Cleaver then returns, not with the female officer who had witnessed the “attack,” but with a male officer who could not have identified the loogie launcher if he had, well spit on him (by the way, what does this say about Cleaver’s attitude towards female law officers?). The two men then search for the arch villain while standing right in front of him. Hannibal Hocker continues to shout “Kill the bill!” while Cleaver looks over his shoulder, no doubt thinking, “Where could that rascally racist have gone?” Cleaver and the male officer then leave, dejected as Elmer Fudd, having failed to capture the criminal mastermind.


  10. Isn’t it just as likely that Lewis and pals decided to walk through a sea of racist Astroturf Nazi rednecks, in hopes of getting one yahoo to make a disparaging comment that they could capture on tape and use to discredit those who refuse to shut up and accept what’s being done to them? Isn’t it possible that before they did that they called one of their reporter buds to let him in on the plan? Isn’t it possible, as they walked unimpeded through this simmering caldron of racial animosity that they began to sweat a little at not hearing the slurs they were sure were in the hearts of every “Teabagger,” and that, having already written the narrative, panicked and decided to go with what they knew to be true anyway?

    Now on to your criticisms of my rebuttal: You describe your original post as “bi-partisan.” Please reread your post and count up the examples of Democrat/Liberal/Progressive misdeeds, such as the examples I provided. I think you’ll find the count is zero (unless you count going all the way back to Reagan), even though current examples abound. Now count the misdeeds of Republican/Tea Partiers. Little lop-sided, hence my post. I brought balance to an essay that raised valid points. My post had a second purpose, to question your priorities, which you left unanswered (how come I’m the only one that answers questions, even when they are not directed at me?).

    Now I’m not sure what to make of this sentence: “Before accusing John Lewis of being a liar, please read his memoir of the civil rights movement, Walking in the Wind, then show me what evidence you have that he lied.” Does writing a biography make you honest beyond reproach? Okay, I’m game. I’m currently reading Karl Rove’s biography, so until you read that, no doubting him!

    “…when an African American Congressman from Missouri, Emanuel Cleaver, is spat upon by a grotesque and disgraceful display of venomous immaturity…”


    “Was it (spitting) intentional, or merely drool and spittle flying from a venomous protester – that may be open to debate.”

    Why couldn’t you have given the passionate protestor the benefit of the doubt the first time around? That would have edged your post closer to “balanced.” And considering that you are a baseball player, and as such an automatic expert of the fine art of spitting, you know that you never spit while cupping your hands like a megaphone. That’s just gross.

    “The opposition to the Civil Rights Act, as I said, came from right-wing forces, not necessarily Republican.” Please give me one example outside this blog where the term “right-wing” has been used to encompass members of the “left-wing.”

    “I am dismayed that you could not bring yourself to denounce even one offensive action (including the vandalism and the death threats), rather than conclude that it was all made up, or part of some left wing, liberal media conspiracy.” Disapproving of vandalism and death threats for most of us falls under the heading of “Duh” and I never challenged the authenticity of the vandalism and the death threats and any of the other offensive activities other than the mythical racial slurs and spit fest. But if it will make you happy, let me state for the record: Shouting “Kill the bill!” – good; Shouting “Kill the bill’s creator!” – bad… so very, very bad. Destroying what is not yours – bad, be it a person’s window or their healthcare.


  11. Finally, as far as the level of anger distracting from democracy, civility and the American spirit, you have a chicken and the egg problem here. When the government completely ignores the will of the American people, the only recourse they have, short of violence (and obviously the Tea Party is non-violent; check the arrest stats for the average protest in Washington), is the decibel level of their voice and future elections. If the Democrats are hard of hearing the only reasonable thing to do is to yell loudly. Can’t you acknowledge that a government that forgets that it exists to serve the people creates the very atmosphere you find troubling?

    Now Andrea:

    First, yes I do know the secret handshake of the Founding Fathers and although I can’t tell you what it is, I can tell you it does not include a high five, a fist bump or a man hug.

    Second, I am much too tired to address the comparison of today’s politicians grabbing all the power they can with the founders who were so terrified of a too powerful central government that they wrote down exactly what powers the states were giving up and expressly stated that all other powers are “reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” I’ll let your thoughts, and the troubling use of the word “pliable,” ferment in my head a while and maybe get back to you when Mark does another baseball post.

    Regarding your last thought, please note my liberal use of Mark’s own words when I rebut him; in other words I state his position using his own words and then disagree. Please quote my words that support your position that I disagree that “those who engage in offensive and threatening conduct, have left the protected realm of speech and moved into the realm of criminality.” Crap, wait a second; I do disagree with that - sort of. Offensive conduct is not necessarily criminal now is it? You may find “Kill the bill!” offensive, but it is hardly threatening. I find the behavior of the Democrats much more threatening to my well being than thousands of law abiding citizens who are venting their frustration with a government that no longer listens. But yes, we are in agreement regarding harassment, terroristic threats and assault. I just wish there was one example of any of those actions being committed by “your” side in Mark’s “balanced” post.

    Rich R.


    Breaking News! "Tea Party supporters skew right politically; but demographically, they are generally representative of the public at large." (

  12. Rich,

    Let me see if I got this straight. You acknowledge that the Tea Partiers, or at least some individuals opposed to health care reform, committed acts of vandalism, stone throwing, and even death threats, but not one of them has used a racially offensive word. (By the way, if you read Lewis's memoir, you would see why he would not make a big deal over someone calling him a racially offensive name -- your beef is clearly not with Lewis, it is with the other witnesses, but you sound like a true believer defense attorney -- that nothing could possibly be true that comes out of the words of any witness, however credible).

    If Tea Partiers truly represent the wide spectrum of society, as you suggest they do, then statistically at least some of them are capable of using the n-word. If all everyone said during all of the Tea Party protests was "Kill the Bill", there would be nothing offensive about that, and it would be no different than the hippies who shouted, "Hey, Hey, LBJ, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?" All of this is peaceful protest, consistent with the democratic traditions of the United States and with the First Amendment. I have no problem with most of the Tea Party movement (except that I disagree with much of its substance, and believe it is susceptible to misinformation). I do have a problem with the increasing lack of civility on any side that is shrill and unresponsive to dialogue.

    Now, open a bottle of Jack Daniels, light your cigar, and read my baseball piece. You'll feel much better.