Oh hell, I had half a post written about this Mark Halperin flap (he said the president was "kind of a dick" on Morning Joe)and then saw this by Greg Sargent and realized it had already been written.
I’m sorry, but this is crazy. Halperin’s crack was crude and dumb, but it doesn’t deserve indefinite suspension. Halperin’s use of an expletive is trival when compared with the degradation of our political discourse we witness on a regular basis from Halperin and many others — degradation that is seen as perfectly acceptable because no curse words are employed. Suspending Halperin only reinforces a phony definition of “civility” in our discourse, in which it’s unacceptable to use foul language and be “uncivil,” but it’s perfectly acceptable for reporters and commentators to allow outright falsehoods to pass unrebutted; to traffic endlessly in false equivalences in the name of some bogus notion of objectivity; and to make confident assertions about public opinion without referring to polls which show them to be completely wrong.
I care less about Halperin’s use of the word “dick” than I do about the argument he and Joe Scarborough were making — that Obama somehow stepped over some kind of line in aggressively calling out the GOP for refusing to allow any revenues in a debt ceiling deal. This notion that Obama’s tone was somehow over the top — when politics is supposed to be a rough clash of visions — is rooted in a deeply ingrained set of unwritten rules about what does and doesn’t constitute acceptable political discourse that really deserve more scrutiny. This set of rules has it that it should be treated as a matter of polite, legitimate disagreement when Michele Bachmann says deeply insane things about us not needing to raise the debt limit, but it should be seen as an enormously newsworthy gaffe when she commits a relatively minor error about regional trivia.
This really is nonsense. It's not the word "dick" that's the problem, fergawdsake. It's not pictures of dicks either. It's that these people have contrived this absurd set of shallow manners in which saying dick or taking a picture of a dick is wrong while lying, manipulating and cavalierly risking the country's future (which is what Obama was allegedly being a dick about!) is considered perfectly acceptable.
It's the perfect manifestation of the Village. A bunch of decadent aristocrats pretending to be virgins and nuns, moralizing over trivia as a "lesson" for the rubes, all the while indulging in a debauched orgy of power and privilege.
Read the whole thing. Sargent discusses Halperin's personal part in creating this ridiculous system and admits that it's poetic justice that he would be caught up in it. But keep in mind that among Halperin's fellow Villagers, calling President Obama a "dick" will be considered an act of macho rebellion --- and that being suspended in the middle of the summer is unlikely to be a hardship for a millionaire.
It's a brave piece for a Washington Post writer to write. Bravo.