The hypocrisy in Tuesday’s Salt Lake Tribune was truly stunning to me.

On the one hand, they ran a very thoughtful column by Peg McEntee, which rightfully decried the rhetorical excesses of an extremist right-wing group. Specifically, McEntee was disgusted with a video that showed a man in a rubber Barack Obama mask engaging in all sorts of vile behavior – strangling elderly people, stabbing pregnant women, and other reprehensible nonsense.

I think McEntee’s analysis was spot-on. That kind of childish and offensive demonization of a political opponent is beneath the standard of rational political discourse. I only wished she would have directed her ire to the Pat Bagley cartoon that ran in the paper on the same day.

Bagley’s cartoon has two panels under the headline, “The Right Winger’s Guide to Political Etiquette.” In the first panel, President Obama is shown bowing obsequiously as he greets the Japanese emperor. The caption above reads, “Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!” In the next panel, Dick Cheney replaces Barack Obama, and he’s scowling as he holds a smoking rifle over the bloody corpse of the Japanese emperor. The caption reads, “Right.” (I dont’t want to embed the thing in my post, as I find it offensive, but if you must, you can view the cartoon here.)

Does anyone else recognize the double standard here?

I disagree with Barack Obama on just about every front, but I don’t have to hate him personally to do that. Crass depictions of the President as Adolf Hitler or some other demonic figure are rightfully decried by many reasonable people on the Left who recognize how inappropriate that is. But when Pat Bagley depicts the former Vice President as a cold-blooded assassin who would love to shoot an international ally in the head, the same people refuse to bat an eye.

The only lesson that can be learned from this is that demonization of the opposition is a terrible thing, unless, of course, the person being demonized has an R next to their name.

Much has been made about the divisiveness and incivility of American politics, and I think that often those concerns fail to take into account a wider historical perspective. Politics today can be brutish and nasty, but there have been many times in our history when it’s been far, far worse. If you doubt that, spend a moment studying the Civil War and send up a silent prayer that we now settle our domestic disagreements with words, not bullets. These are trying times, yes, but we’ve been through trying times before, and we’ve managed to come through them intact.

But I get very depressed by incidents like these. Until we can start to recognize the decency in those who oppose us, we’re never going to get close to anything resembling rational discussion.

And I’m as much a hypocrite as anyone, because I think Bill Clinton is a morally bankrupt turd.

Call Him Ishmael
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