Sunday Opinion

Sunday Special: Politics and Opinion


Where do you belong on the political spectrum? Left, right, center or don’t care? With our eye-catching editorial cartoons and columns by Rick Lowry and Bob Franken, you may find something to encourage or enrage you. But please remember: the opinions expressed here are those of the artist or writer, and not necessarily those of The Tribune.

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What’s wrong with getting in the gutter?

It’s Major League Baseball playoff season, as well as the run-up to the elections. Oh, the games people play.

Way back when, in the early 20th century, New York Giants manager John “Mugsy” McGraw was the first to utter an important life lesson for those who play either form of “Hardball” (thank you, Chris Matthews). “Nice guys,” he growled, “finish last.”

It’s wisdom the Democrats are only now allowing to penetrate their cluelessness. “Really?” they whimper in amazement. “It’s not enough to be righteous?” Not when it’s self-righteous, which is what so many Americans perceive them to be, along with sanctimonious. Nor is it enough when the other team is governed by a mindset of “whatever it takes to win,” fair or foul.

Back in John McGraw’s day, the crosstown Yankees with Babe Ruth dominated “America’s Pastime.” These days, in our other pastime, the Republicans succeed by being ruthless. They don’t really stand for the interests of the great bulk of Americans, opting instead to represent the wealthy few, who long ago realized, as Will Rogers declared, that we have “The best Congress that money can buy.” Actually, Mr. Rogers was only in the neighborhood. It’s really the best government money can buy. And even that’s not true, because, in many cases, it’s really a pretty useless one, which suits the GOP just fine. It keeps their rich patrons happy because they don’t want to be effectively regulated as they pursue their money-grubbing ways.

The Democrats like to think they’re above all that sleaziness, which is totally wrong for two reasons: First of all, the D’s scrounge for dollars as much as the R’s do. Besides, even if they were squeaky-clean, they actually need to be willing to roll around in the mud. Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high” just won’t cut it, particularly when it comes across as being high and mighty.

A few Democrats are even saying so publicly, like former Attorney General Eric Holder, who got a rousing cheer with his “When they go low, we kick them.” He didn’t say where you kick them, but use your imagination. Even Hillary Clinton, who personified her party’s inner sanctimony when she ran for president, caused a few gasps when she declared, “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for.”

Some liberals probably got the vapors when she said that, but she was taught a bitter lesson by Donald Trump, who now occupies the White House, riding a crest through the hateful gutters of his campaign and his dangerous presidency. Hillary’s superior qualifications amounted to nothing. Time for Trump’s enemies to learn some hard lessons from him.

Democrats have evolved from working-class champions to effete snobs. Too many don’t understand that cheap shots work in campaigns, the kind the other side puts out constantly in their TV ads. Cheap shots are expensive. It costs a lot to conduct oppo research and then distort it in TV spots. The liberals need to accept that the only way for a candidate to set up shop inside the Beltway is to hit his or her opponent below the belt. Just like the conservatives do.

Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.

(c) 2018 Bob Franken Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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Liberals now saying civility is for suckers

It’s doubtful that a former American presidential candidate has ever formally endorsed incivility before, but Hillary Clinton is ever full of surprises. In an interview on CNN, the erstwhile advocate of “if they go low, we go high” switched around to unapologetically call for going low.

“You cannot be civil with a political party,” she explained, “that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about.” She added that if Democrats retake a house of Congress, well, then, “that’s when civility can start again.”

Clinton’s statement is yet more confirmation of the radical mood of the current Democratic Party, not just in blessing tactics that once would have been anathema to the mainstream, but questioning the legitimacy of core elements of our system. The party’s base is just a few steps from beginning to give up on our common national life.

Civility is a rather fundamental thing to throw under the bus. It is the basis of our political life, assuring that disagreements are settled within certain bounds and don’t escalate into blood feuds.

This doesn’t mean that there can’t be intense arguments, harsh condemnations, passionate controversies and partisan donnybrooks. These are all endemic to a free society and very healthy things. It does mean that there are certain widely accepted guardrails.

In the Brett Kavanaugh debate, the normal pressure points of the democratic process (rallies and demonstrations, phone calls to congressional offices, online, print and TV advocacy) were deemed insufficient — senators had to be berated in the hallways, chased out of restaurants and harassed at their homes.

Asked on CNN if the actions against her fellow senators went too far, Mazie Hirono stood by the harassment: “I think it just means that there are a lot of people who are very, very much motivated about what’s going on.”

But when you angrily confront someone, especially as part of a group, it carries an inescapable whiff of physical intimidation. When you shout Ted and Heidi Cruz out of a Washington restaurant, you aren’t trying to convince them of anything, you are merely abusing them. When you yell at Senate hearings and floor votes, you aren’t influencing the process, but disrupting it.

Our system of government is increasingly held in low regard on the left. The 2016 election was somehow stolen, and the mechanism that gave Trump his victory, the Electoral College, is illegitimate. The Senate, which confirmed Kavanaugh and gives small, red states the same representation as large, blue states, is also illegitimate. Finally, the Supreme Court, now home to two Trump-appointed justices, is illegitimate as well.

That’s a lot of illegitimacy, all stemming from one lost presidential election. Imagine if Democrats lose another? The fact is that if you believe an institution is legitimate only if you control it or it works in your favor, you never truly believed in its legitimacy to begin with.

Perhaps the Democratic fever will pass if the party gains some power again, as Clinton suggested in her remarks. But it’s notable enough that one of our major parties is showing signs of contemplating a divorce from our system as it currently exists.

Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review. (c) 2018 by King Features Synd., Inc.

Categories: Sunday Opinion

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