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Playing Nice

Apropos Seth Swirsky's column this morning contrasting the basic decency of George W. Bush with the incivility of some Democrats, here's a snippet from GQ's interview with Russ Feingold:

What are your dealings with W. like?

Feingold: You know, I haven't had a lot of face-to-face contact with him over the years. But he's been very pleasant. What struck me recently was, I had, you know, just proposed censuring him. But McCain and I had also just gone to Iraq. And Bush wanted to have all the various people who had just been to Iraq come up to the Roosevelt Room in the White House and brief him. So we walk in, and I shake his hand, and he gives me not just the regular shake but the whole deal. [demonstrates a double-fisted handshake] And he said, "How ya doin', pal?" You know.

Despite five years worth of ad hominem attacks on his intelligence, faith, integrity, etc., Bush still treats even his most ardent opponents with a great deal of decency and civility.

Needless to say, civility has not been the Democrats' strong suit in recent years - not just toward the President but Republicans in general. Howard Dean's remark from last June springs to mind: "Well, Republicans, I guess, can do that, because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives."

Or John Kerry's off camera attack during the 2004 Presidential campaign: "These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen." After the remarks were made public and caused an uproar, Kerry famously refused to apologize, lest he be seen as weak by his Bush-hating base.

Unfortunately, Kerry's response is a perfect example of the one idea that seems to have taken deep hold on the left over the last few years which is that civility equals weakness and, conversely, that being rude and uncivil is somehow an expression of toughness and strength.