The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is reflected in a puddle on a rainy morning in Washington.
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On civility, GOP picks the wrong messengers for the right message

During the debate over Jeff Sessions’ attorney general nomination, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tried to read a letter from the late Coretta Scott King, only to get shut down by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said the letter was, in effect, too mean to be read on the Senate floor.

The incident ended up generating some renewed interest in political civility, with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) arguing, for example, “We have to treat each other with respect or this place is going to devolve into a jungle.” The Utah Republican added that Jeff Sessions’ Senate critics “ought to be ashamed” of their harsh rhetoric towards a colleague, reminding Democrats to “think of his wife.”

It was, however, literally last week when Hatch called his Democratic Senate colleagues “idiots.” Hatch is also on record describing progressives as “dumbass liberals.”

So much for treating people with “respect.”

A day later, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza celebrated floor remarks from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who also used the Warren/McConnell dispute as a springboard to talk about political civility.
Rubio’s speech was a plea for civility in the Senate, a warning that if civilized debate dies in the Senate, it will die in the broader society too. It’s an important address — and one well worth spending eight minutes of your life listening to.

“We are becoming a society incapable of having debate anymore…. We are reaching a point in this republic where we are not going to be able to solve the simplest of issues because everyone is putting themselves in a corner where everyone hates everybody.

“What’s at stake here tonight … is not simply some rule but the ability of the most important nation on earth to debate in a productive and respectful way the pressing issues before it.”
I don’t have a problem with the message. I take issue with the messengers.

Though Cillizza’s Washington Post piece didn’t mention it, Rubio, during his ill-fated presidential campaign, based much of his message on the idea that President Obama was trying to destroy the United States on purpose. In effect, the far-right Floridian believed the way to connect with GOP voters was to accuse the sitting president of treason.

Rubio later told audiences that Donald Trump might urinate on himself, mocked Trump’s hair and face, and even made vulgar jokes about Trump’s genitals. When the pressure was on, his candidacy was in trouble, the Florida senator went right for the gutter.

My point is not to dismiss the value of civilized debate. On the contrary, I like the idea of engaged citizens debating “in a productive and respectful way the pressing issues before it.”

But if we’re going to be lectured on the merits of civility, perhaps Orrin Hatch and Marco Rubio should stay on the sidelines?