GOP Refuses to Sign Civility Document: ‘We Don’t Need To’
March 27, 2010
(ChattahBox)— In the wake of overheated rhetoric by the GOP, tea party groups, with Republican lawmakers’ egging them on, combined with threats and acts of violence directed against Democratic lawmakers, Tim Kaine, Chariman of the Democratic National Committee, issued a civility document to his counterpart, Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, for both Parties to jointly sign. The statement asked both Parties to “together call on elected officials of both parties to set an example of the civility we want to see in our citizenry.” Steele refused to sign the document.
RNC Communications Director Doug Heye told POLITICO that Steele chose not to agree to the statement because “we don’t need to do anything on their schedule or on their timetable.” And DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse responded with a lengthy statement condemning the highly inflammatory rhetoric employed by Michael Steele, who referred to the passage of healthcare reform as Armageddon:
“It’s very disappointing, but perhaps not surprising, that Chairman Steele, who authored a fundraising presentation that depicted the President as the Joker, the Speaker of the House as Cruella de Vil, raised money online showing the Speaker on fire and said she should be put before a firing squad would refuse to do a joint statement with Chairman Kaine to ratchet down the rhetoric and condemn the violence and threats which Republican supporters have engaged in since the passage of health reform,” Woodhouse said.
“Chairman Steele’s own overheated rhetoric and the Republican Party’s fear tactics have contributed to an environment of anger and frustration that is unhealthy and counterproductive to our political dialogue,” he added. “Rather than take responsibility for their own actions, Chairman Steele not only refused the good faith offer of issuing a joint statement, he then sent his spokesperson out to go on the attack in a breathtaking display of chutzpa and hypocrisy. Chairman Kaine and Democrats will continue to work towards a civil and responsible debate on the issues of the day even as Republicans continue to be pulled farther and farther towards the radical extreme.”
Heye pointed out that during an appearance last Sunday on “Meet the Press,” Steele condemned the use of violence, while Kaine did not also use the opportunity to do so. And he issued his own lengthy statement blaming the outbreak of violence on the Democrats for “strong-arm tactics” used to pass healthcare reform for the American people:
“Obviously, a large majority of Americans – a broad coalition of Republicans, Democrats and Independent – are upset that President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid pushed through health care legislation that increases premiums and raises taxes and did so through strong-arm tactics, closed door meetings and sweetheart deals. Voters have a right to be angry. Unfortunately, some have chosen to engage in language and actions that go too far.”
The text of Kaine’s civility document acknowledges that the two political Parties could agree to disagree on healthcare reform, while still respecting the civility of the political process:
“We also call on all Americans to respect differences of opinion, to refrain from inappropriate forms of intimidation, to reject violence and vandalism, and to scale back rhetoric that might reasonably be misinterpreted by those prone to such behavior,” read the joint statement faxed to Steel’s office.
Steele apparently plans to continue with the politics of fear, to keep the fringe of the Republican base energized, as the RNC heads into the November elections. But as House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), said while characterizing the overheated and violent rhetoric of some Republican lawmakers: “If you play with fire, you’re bound to get burned.”
The politics of fear, as we have seen this past week, can quickly erupt into violence and once unleashed, Steele and Republican lawmakers may have a difficult time controlling it.