How to handle a heckler: Romney and Obama

Yesterday Unedited Politics re-posted this video of a would-be president.

It led me to this post of the President Obama handling a heckling reporter at the White House.

Now that you’ve seen them, notice the difference in the summary headings over the two videos. “Mitt Romney heckled by.…” focuses only the heckler, not on the candidate’s response. It evokes sympathy for Mr. Romney. “President scolds reporter….” elicits sympathy for the heckler. Language frames perception.

But the video-tapes tell a different story, no matter what the words say. The tapes tell the story of the character and style of Mr. Romney and the President and the way they handle a rude opponent.

How do you describe the difference? What qualities of character and style do you want in the Oval Office next January? Leave your comment here.

Campaign ads and the Snake

Karl Rove

Remember Karl Rove? He’s still around.

“American Crossroads” produced a campaign ad that speaks volumes about how far the Far Right will go to shape American voter opinion leading to the November election. Thanks to Unedited Politics for drawing attention to the ad.

Watch the ad, draw your own conclusions, read my comments below, and leave your comment. Or Re-Post this to further the discussion.

To waTch the add CLICK HERE.

When you put together the mind of Karl Rove and the money of the Koch Brothers, THIS is what you get: an ad that appeals to the basest fears and prejudiced of those in the general public who prefer willful ignorance and demagoguery to truth and civility. This is an exercise in the slanderous politics of character assassination that has produced such wide-spread cynicism in America.

Did you notice that the words PUBLIC EQUITY” are in RED?

“American Crossroads” is a Super PAC that cares nothing for public equity. It manipulates facts to give the impression that it cares about the 99%. It doesn’t. It cares nothing for “the little people.” It cares about power. It protects privilege.

This ad is what American Corssroads” is about – racist innuendos (the President’s head shucking and jiving like a rapper or a bobble head doll); twisting or making up facts (i.e. blaming the economic crisis on President Obama when, in fact, it landed on his doorstep as a result of the previous Administration’s failed oversight of financial institutions and financial markets; alleging that the auto  industry bailouts and stimulus package killed American jobs and sent them overseas, when, in fact, it saved and created American jobs).

But the question is not about the bailouts that are now widely unpopular. The question here is more basic than any policy: “Are we, the American electorate, wise enough to recognize the hiss of a snake when we hear it.” If not, the snake wins. If Yes, we win.

This afternoon, Views from the Edge will re-publish “The Language of Demagoguery” on the Gingrich memo that became the Machiavellian guide to public control.

Ya gotta love Bill Maher

Gordon C. Stewart  www.gordoncstewart.com  March 23, 2012

Ya gotta love Bill Maher. Well, actually, you don’t have to, but I do.

I rarely miss “Real Time with Bill Maher” (HBO). Why? Because he’s real. So are his guests. Is Bill’s language outlandish? Is his tongue stuck in the 7th grade locker room? Yes. Despite the frequency of the ‘f’ word, the saintliest, as well as the unstaintliest, mouths from left , right and center consider it an honor to sit on the panel or be a featured guest. on Real Time. Go figure how Madeleine Albright, Amy HolmesCornel West, Herman Cain, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Rep. Keith Ellison, P.J. O’Roarke, Michael Moore, Andrew Sullivan, and David Frum appear on Maher’s show. They accept the invitation because it’s one place where manure is called what it is and where the real gutter talk is exposed for what it is. He’s not interested in being nice. He’s interested in truth. And he’s not afraid to engage the opposition in matters political, economic, or religious.

“If it weren’t for throwing conniption fits, we wouldn’t get any exercise,” he wrote (“Offense Intended – and that’s OK,” Star Tribune, 03.23.12). “I have a better idea. Let’s have an amnesty – from the left and from the right – on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, placated hurt, insult, slight and affront. Let’s make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage. One day a year when you will not find some tiny thing someone said and pretend you can’t barely continue functioning until they apologize.”

Maher wasn’t born or raised in Minnesota where we’re proud of Minnesota Nice, most of the time .But you don’t have to have been raised elsewhere to know that Minnesota Nice often leaves us itching for some unpolished reality. How else do we explain the election of a tough-talking, often crude professional wrestler radio talk show host as our governor?  Jesse Venturawas elected because he said what he thought and meant what he said in a world where candidates for political office rarely say what they mean or mean what they say. Underneath Minnesota Nice is a volcano of Minnesota mean, as well as nice.

Jesse is one weird dude. And that’s partly what attracted the people who were tired of taking Minnesota Nice too far. We want civility, but sometimes we get a little tired of not really talking about what we’re really talking  about.

None of us really wants to live in Pleasantville. Remember “Pleasantville” – the film about two 1990s teenage siblings, Jennifer and David, who get sucked into their television set where they become characters in the make-believe town of Pleasantville, David’s favorite TV show? Nothing much ever happens in Pleasantville. There is no conflict, no real feelings; just polite, mannerly sameness that is insulated from and apathetic toward anything that might smack of unpleasantness. Pleasantville is a nice place – happy, smiling, repressed and suppressed, orderly…without color.

As Jennifer and David play along in the perfect and pure little town of Pleasantville, their presence soon cracks open the boredom of gray uniformity. Color begins to break through the grayness as the citizens of Pleasantville discover sex, art, books, music and the concept of non-conformity, leading the Mayor to campaign to turn Pleasantville back to what it once was – a nice place where nothing much ever happens, and no one speaks like Bill Maher.

Maher’s Op Ed piece concludes:

“I don’t want to live in a country where no one ever says anything that offends someone. That’s why we have Canada. That’s not for us. If we sand down our rough edges and drain all the color, emotion and spontaneity out of our discourse, we’ll end up with political candidates who say nothing but the safest, blandest, emptiest, most unctuous focus-grouped platitudes and cant. In other words, we’ll get Mitt Romney.”

This morning Unedited Politics posted an excerpt from 1994 Romney-Kennedy Debate on health care, veterans, spending, deficits.

“It’s not easy being real”

Last night I listened to President Obama’s speech on contraception and religion institutionso courtesy of Unedited Politics. I then looked to see if there were comments. There was only one:

“This has nothing to do with so called women’s health, it’s Marxism 101.”

With no elaboration as to how or why the President’s speech or position on women’s health care, on the one hand, and religious liberty, on the other, was Marxism 101, the comment accomplished what such comments nearly always do, until they are challenged. It called someone by a name. End of discussion. No need to explain how or why it’s Marxism. “Bad! Boogie Man! Evil in the White House!! The Marxists are out to get us!”? So I wrote my own comment:

Oh, my! Dear friend, whoever you are, you must never have taken Marxism 101. This isn’t Marxism. It’s the work of a democratic republic – messy, balancing values that sometimes conflict with each other, protecting the rights of the minority against the tyranny of the majority, and guaranteeing equal protection (in this case, health coverage) to all citizens. It’s comments like this – confusing a health care position with Marxism (i.e. communism?) – that divert the discussion and take us back to the darkest time of American history, the Senate Hearings of Sen. Joseph McCarthy that painted decent, patriotic Americans as evil. The President is NOT a Marxist, my friend. Time to rescind the comment for the sake of civil discussion that helps to solve real problems.

The reply came soon after:

Try reading his books and consider the fact that he attended a Marxist church for 20 years.

Again, I replied:

I’ve read Marx. I spent the summer of 1966 in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia as the Chicago Ambassador of the Experiment in International Living. I lived with the Schulz family, all members of the Communist Party. Marxism is more than a figment of my imagination. And the church Obama attended is a CHRISTIAN Church, United Church of Christ, one of America’s historic “mainline” denominations. ABC watched 500 sermon videos and chose to air a one-minute clip from a sermon on one of the Hebrew prophets that led viewers to conclude Jeremiah Wright was a communist. Radical? Yes. Off the wall? Sometimes. But Marxist (i.e. not Christian, not a disciple of the Jesus who turned over the money-changers tables)? No. And to talk about this President as a Marxist is…go back and watch Joe Welsh’s final rebuke to the character assassination campaign of Sen. Joe McCarthy: “Have you no decency, Sir. Have you no decency left?” Please think twice before raising McCarthy’s ghost. It’s ugly.

In 1966 I was certain that my finalist interview with the selection committee of the Chicago Chapter of the Experiment in International Living had disqualified me as a candidate as Chicago Ambassador to Czechoslovakia for the summer of ’66.

“You’re a Christian and a seminarian, asked Paul Harvey. “Why would you want to go to a communist country?”  I responded at some length that I didn’t trust the stereotypical representations of Eastern Bloc countries any more than I would trust their representations of the West. I felt there was propoganda on both sides of the Cold War. I wanted to see for myself.   I also told them that there was a theologian in Czechoslovakia named Josef Hromadka, the father of Christian-Marxist dialogue. I had been reading Hromadka and others and wanted to participate in this discussion. I believed that the Marxist classless society was a rendition of the central biblical message of the Kingdom of God. I came out of the interview and said to another candidate, “Well, I just eliminated myself. Hope you have a great summer.”

To my surprise, they selected me. The generosity of Pan Schultz and Pani Schultzova, their son Vlado and daughter Jana who welcomed me like a member of their own family, conversations with students about Franz Kafka and the existentialists at the university coffee shop, and the ugliness of fellow-American Ambassadors (there were 11 of us) who insisted on ice cubes in their drinks combined to further open the aperture of my camera lens as I look at the world.

I decided long ago not to keep silent when the labels like “Marxism 101” march across the field of my camera. My experience is only mine, but it’s the only experience I have, and God knows how limited it is. But, I decided to to heed Frederich Buechner  counsel – “Listen to your life”, he wrote – and to speak out loud what I see and hear, hoping and praying, as I do every Sunday morning before I dare to preach, that in some inscrutable way, “the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts will be pleasing in Thy sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.”  I’d love to hear your meditations. Leave comment to share.

Yesterday’s post “The Gospel and the Chicken Coop” (scroll down) quotes from President Dwight Eisenhower’s Farewell Address. This morning Unedited Politics, a blog dedicated to respecting viewers’ ability to draw their own conclusions (no punditry on this blog), posted the speech.