Since becoming President, Barack Obama has powerfully and eloquently called for civility in Washington.
At a commencement speech in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the President warned about the possible result of incendiary political speech.
"The problem with it is not the hurt feelings or the bruised egos of the public officials who are criticized.
The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. It prevents learning - since after all, why should we listen to a "fascist" or "socialist" or "right wing nut?" It makes it nearly impossible for people who have legitimate but bridgeable differences to sit down at the same table and hash things out. It robs us of a rational and serious debate that we need to have about the very real and very big challenges facing this nation. It coarsens our culture, and at its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response."
And then Congresswoman Gabby Gifford and some of her supporters were shot in Arizona. It was a horrible wake up call that even when we disagreed, we needed to be civil. The Tea Party went out of its way to tone down its rhetoric and placards.
But now we are going into 2012 campaign mode and brief respite from consternation is gone. Back are the curses, the threats and the accusations. But this time it is not from the Republicans, but the Democrats. The Vice President called the Tea Party "barbarians." This after allegedly calling them "terrorists" during the deficit debate. Congresswoman Maxine Waters said "The Tea Party can go to hell." And Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa said "We need to take those Sons 0f B---s out" when introducing the President in Detroit on Labor Day.
The White House gave a "no comment" on each of those statements.
If the President is sincere about bringing taking the ugliness out of Washington, he may want to start with his own party and his own Vice President. Otherwise, his call for civility is hollow.