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Hullabaloo


Saturday, October 13, 2012

 
A Tale of Two Attack Dogs

by digby

From the paper of record, everything that's wrong with political journalism in three short paragraphs:

Mr. Biden’s smirking, emotional and aggressively sharp approach toward his rival, Representative Paul D. Ryan, prompted cheers from Democrats who had been desperate for the kind of in-your-face political rumble that President Obama did not deliver during his debate with Mitt Romney a week ago.

But Mr. Biden repeatedly mocked and interrupted Mr. Ryan in ways that led Republicans to use words like “unhinged” and “buffoon” and “disrespectful” in the hours after the fast-paced, 90-minute exchange ended.

The question by Friday morning: Did Mr. Biden go too far?

Who was asking that question, I wonder?

Just for comparison, here's the New York Times on the day following Romney-Obama debate:

If Mr. Romney’s goal was to show that he could project equal stature to the president, he succeeded, perhaps offering his campaign the lift that Republicans have been seeking. Mr. Obama often stopped short of challenging his rival’s specific policies and chose not to invoke some of the same arguments that his campaign has been making against Mr. Romney for months.

At one point, Mr. Romney offered an admonishment, saying, “Mr. President, you’re entitled, as the president, to your own airplane and to your own house, but not to your own facts, all right?” He forcefully engaged Mr. Obama throughout the night, while the president often looked down at his lectern and took notes.

And here I thought that theater critics were all liberal elites.

The power of Republican spin is undiminished among the political press. They acknowledged that GOP partisans were happy with the first debate and Dem partisans were happy with the second. But they say that Romney's feisty base pleasing performance lifted his "stature" and made him an equal to the president. But they wonder if Biden's base pleasing performance "went too far." Out of the mouths of GOP operatives.

No matter what, you can depend on the Village rule that any red meat offered to Democrats is clearly embarrassing and counter-productive because Real Americans don't like it. You may parrot nicey-nice platitudes about hope and change and "yes we can", but don't ever disrespect the wingnuts.

It's fine for the GOP challenger to stoke his followers bloodlust by energetically getting in the hated President's face while appealing to inattentive moderates by completely changing his positions. That's just smart politics. Joe Biden treating the overrated Eddie Haskell like the phony overgrown adolescent he is is completely beyond the pale. In other words, treating President Obama disrespectfully is just fine, but treating Paul Ryan disrespectfully goes too far.

Now, I don't happen to think anyone is required to treat their political rivals with seriousness or particular "respect" whether it's the president or some congressional whippersnapper. People disagree and there's no reason that shouldn't be articulated with passion, conviction and aggression. But this lop-sided whine is simply ridiculous. Obama failed to prepare and parry Romney's attacks and he suffered for it. The winsome Ryan deserved to be skewered and Biden did the deed with relish. That's politics. All this Miss Manners pearl clutching by the Republicans and their mouthpieces in the press is idiotic.


Update: Here's Chris Hayes, making a similar point but much, much more elegantly.

Conflict is part of the human condition: there are limited resources, there are differing interests and cultures and tribes and value systems, with different conceptions of the good, vastly different priorities and first principles. Democracy is the system we've come up with to resolve those inevitable conflicts, but there is no such thing as a placid equilibrium in which those conflicts somehow disappear, or are only articulated in the gentlest fashion. That's the point.

Conflict is the underlying constant of human society. The question is what we do with it. It's only a slight exaggeration to say that either we have people killing each other in the streets like dogs, or we have people running attack ads against each other. Bureaucracy, parliamentary procedure, extended multi-lateral talks, the back and forth of campaign ads, are largely glory-less enterprises, in the grand sweep of history, they are beautiful, sublime achievements, they represent nearly unthinkable progress and point the way towards a future of full human flourishing.

Yeah, that.

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