Left, right; left, right; left, right… Give it a REST, people!


This morning, I was surprised to see that The Washington Post didn’t lead with their big scoop, which I had heard about on the radio first thing, on my way to my 8 a.m. dental appointment:

The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said…

That’s so much bigger than other turn-of-the-screw stories that have led the paper in recent months.

Instead, the paper led with the congressional-baseball shooting, which of course is HUGE, especially if you’re published in Washington, but there was nothing new since last night. Rep. Scalise (may God send his healing grace upon him) was in critical condition yesterday, and he still was today.

But I guess I was wrong, based on what I heard on the radio later on a call-in show. Apparently the latest murderous nut-job case was Filled With Historic Political Significance, to hear what folks were saying.

Sorry that I didn’t take notes — I was driving — but it went kind of like this:

A man calls in and blames the shooting on the Left. After all, this guy was a lefty (so of course every liberal in the country was to blame). And he was made about Trump (so everyone who is mad that Trump is president is to blame). He had some kind of complicated theory about this all being part of the Left’s campaign against free speech, somehow connected to all the silly “safe zone” nonsense on college campuses. He explained that people were expressing themselves politically by electing these Republican lawmakers, who were delegated to speak for those people, and this guy was trying to shut them up by killing.

He was immediately followed by a woman who had zero hesitation about blaming it on the Right. After all, Trump had encouraged violence at his rallies, and didn’t Ted Nugent say something about assassinating Obama, and Trump invited him to hang out for hours at the White House? Therefore, she implied, everyone to the right of center was to blame for this, yadda-yadda.

Oh, come on, people! This isn’t a left-right thing. I mean, I was pretty disturbed by the whole Bernie Sanders billionaires-are-oppressing-us-all-and-we-must-get-angry-and-rise-up-against-them shtick, but it’s an outrage to suggest that even Bernie Sanders (whom the shooter supported) is in any way to blame for this, much less every other liberal in the country.

Obviously, such thinking must be refuted. But to do so by trying to turn it around and blame on conservatives everywhere is equally absurd.

Give it a rest, people! Not everything is an expression of the left-right dichotomy that you seem to think explains everything in the world. In fact, most things aren’t.

What we have here is a nut, one who went on a murderous rampage for reasons particular to him, which we’ll never know for sure because, as a result of what he did, he’s dead.

If there’s a political point to be made, it’s the one I made yesterday: It’s too easy for homicidal nuts to get their hands on guns. If we’d all like to have a constructive conversation about doing something to prevent that, great. But in this atmosphere, I’m not holding my breath…


19 thoughts on “Left, right; left, right; left, right… Give it a REST, people!

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Yikes! I only heard a minute or two of that call-in show while I drove a few blocks, but now I see that one of the invited guests was our own Michael Graham!

    I heard the host say the name “Michael Graham,” but it’s not that uncommon a name.

    No telling what kind of impression I’d have gotten if I’d heard the part when he was speaking. Maybe I’ll go back and listen when the audio is posted. Or maybe I won’t…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      That said, Michael was always quite civil to me when I was on his radio show. And I don’t think it was because I was his wife’s editor (in fact, I think I was only on his show AFTER I was her editor)…

      1. Doug Ross

        I had direct experience with him back in the 90’s when he was on Jim Miles staff at the Secretary of State office while I worked on a software project there for six months. The fact that Miles staff had Graham plus a young Walt Whetsell (a future political consultant) and another young Karl Rove in training who swore by Rush Limbaugh was surprising at the time. It seemed like the department was used as a holding area for political operatives who were on the government payroll. They never appeared to do anything related to actual work of the department that I saw in my time on site.

        Anyway, my favorite encounter with Graham was when I had to go into his office with the office manager and she mentioned something to him about the customers coming into the office for forms. His response: “They’re all jerks”. Not in a funny way. Not in a sarcastic way. But in a condescending, hate-filled way. Made an impression I never forgot.

  2. Doug Ross

    You don’t see any connection between the left-right-left-right nonsense and the CONSTANT drumbeat from the media on both sides? Declaring Trump’s presidency to be the end of democracy, a crisis, the worst thing that ever has happened every single day doesn’t add to the angst/anger/call to arms?

    Every media outlet today has ramped up the rhetoric. The Washington Post realizes that their profitability DEPENDS on having Trump as a villain as does MSNBC, Slate.com, and the New York Times. Fear sells. Controversy sells. Us vs. Them sells.

    Let’s see you go one week without a Trump related post. One week of state and local focus.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I couldn’t care less what “sells.” What I care about is the fact that we have an intolerable situation in this country with Trump being our president. One cannot be silent about that a single day until he is no longer defiling the office. Not if you care about the country.

      I know you don’t get that. You don’t see how radically different the situation is from the rest of our entire history. But that’s the way it is.

      1. Doug Ross

        Different doesn’t equal crisis. We’ve seen much worse. Second term Nixon and Clinton were worse than these past few months. Dick Cheney was a much worse presence in the White House than Trump has been so far.

        I’m not interested in Trump’s tweets or his tone or his language or his general boorishness. I’m interested in what he does. Limited ban on some Muslims? Ok. Out of the Paris Accord? Not going to make a difference anyway. Stricter enforcement of immigration laws? Yes, please. Repeal Obamacare. Sure, but I doubt that Congress can come up with anything that will make a difference either way. Cut taxes and regulation? Let’s see what the plan is.

        But if you keep saying the boogeyman is coming around the corner, some people will feel like they have to take physical action to prevent it. Your words CAN drive people to do things you wouldn’t do. That’s why your focus should be on WHO’S NEXT? instead of WATCH OUT!!!!

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          “Different doesn’t equal crisis.” Yes, it does, when the difference is that for the first time in our history, the most powerful man in the world is a self-obessed, immature, impulsive, vindictive, complete idiot who does not understand the first thing about public policy, the rule of law, the Constitution, or anything that this country is based on. This is a radically, day-and-night departure from what has gone before. For 240 years it was day, and now it’s night, in terms of the person who holds the chief office in the land (and the world).

          “We’ve seen much worse.” No, we have not. Not even close. Not even in the same solar system as “close.” Our nation as a whole has been in worse straits — 1860-65 comes to mind — but we have never had such a grotesquely unfit man holding such a powerful office. This is like ones and zeroes, and for the first time, we’re on zero.

          “Second term Nixon and Clinton were worse than these past few months. Dick Cheney was a much worse presence in the White House than Trump has been so far.” Nope. And the difference is not quantitative; it’s qualitative. It’s not like Nixon was a 60 and Trump is a 65 of unfitness. Those other people knew what the job was about, however much you may agree or disagree with their policy positions. Not one of them was a mad bull in a china shop. Nixon was like Lincoln, compared to Trump. Both Nixon and Lincoln understood the job, understood the issues they were facing and how and why things got to be the way they were, and understood where the boundaries on their power lay (which is why Nixon quit one it was evident that he had crossed one). Trump has no clue about any of that.

          There are 44 presidents in one category (and there’s a wide range of differences, many ranges of differences on many axes, among them), and there is Trump in another.

          And if I haven’t persuaded you of that, that likely means others haven’t been persuaded.

          So I can’t stop trying…

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          By the way, it’s not about “Trump’s tweets.”

          It’s about the things that the tweets, and his other expressions of his true self, reveal:

          • Impulsiveness.
          • Vindictiveness.
          • Pettiness.
          • Immaturity.
          • A level of selfishness that most of us either outgrow, or learn to hide, by the time we’re 3 or 4 years old.
          • Astounding ignorance.
          • Lack of the ability to see what is important and what is not.
          • Disregard for the truth.
          • Disregard for the rule of law.
          • Inconsistency.
          • A shocking inability to express himself clearly, which is extraordinarily dangerous, especially in international affairs, but also domestically. (I would have started with this one, but I figured you’d dismiss it as “just words.”)

          Those are just off the top of my head. I could add to the list. But just consider those, and reflect that we’ve given this man the power to turn the planet into a radioactive cinder….

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, and by the way — the left-right dichotomy has nothing to do with Trump. It’s just the continuation of the existing polarization that kept getting worse through the Clinton, Bush and Obama years.

      The problems with Trump have nothing to do with left and right. They have to do with gross unfitness, not ideology….

      1. bud

        Yep he is grossly unfit. And he’s the leader of the Republican Party. Just go back an re-read what you just wrote in response to Trump and your puzzlement that people don’t get it. That’s exactly how I feel whenever you launch into one of your patented false equivalency rants. Yeah, I get what you’re saying about Trump and once we’re faced with a real crisis his competency will show up in a big way. And just for the record Doug has a point about Dick Cheney. He really was very dangerous.

  3. Burl Burlingame

    “Second-Amendment solutions” works left and right, if you’re so inclined.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, I was surprised the lefty woman didn’t mention that. After she said something about Trump inciting violence at his rallies, the host objected… something like, “he may have said ‘lock her up,’ but he didn’t urge people to kill anybody…”

      That was her cue to cite “Second-Amendment people,” but she didn’t.

      You see, I’d be better at this left-right thing than the people who practice it. But I don’t believe in it…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Interesting assertion. Please elaborate. Because I see a lot of harm done by applying labels to OTHER people.

      Mind you, a lot of the self-applied ones can be irritating. Hence my parody of the way some people can’t get through a sentence without calling themselves “conservative.”

      But name-calling’s a big problem, too…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        By “my parody” I mean this:

        As I’ve said from Day One I’m a conservative a true conservative my daddy was a conservative daddy my mama was a conservative mama I’m a bidnessman meet a payroll don’t take bailouts lazy shiftless welfare takers the key is to starve ’em before they reproduce 100 percent rating from conservative conservatives of America my dog is a conservative dog I don’t have a cat because cats are effete I eat conservative I sleep conservative I excrete conservative I got conservative principles a conservative house and conservative clothes take back our government from the socialists even though we don’t really want it because who needs government anyway they don’t have government in Somalia and they’re doing alright aren’t they National Rifle Association Charlton Heston is my president and Ronald Reagan is my God I will have no gods before him I go Arizona-style all the way that’s the way I roll I will keep their cold dead government hands off your Medicare so help me Ronald Reagan…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Then there’s the other side:

          Actually, I’m a liberal. A liberal all the way. I drive a Prius, I love wine and cheese parties with the faculty, I think America is a big bully in the world and no wonder people hate us (I’d be a terrorist, too, if I didn’t abhor violence so), and I never saw an abortion I didn’t like. My spouse and I have an open marriage, so scandal can’t touch us, because to each his or her own. I’m a white, male heterosexual and the guilt just eats me alive; I wish I belonged to a group that was more GENUINE, you know? The first thing I’d do if elected is raise taxes through the roof, and spend every penny on public education, except for a portion set aside for re-education camps for people who now home-school their kids. Then, if we needed more money for excessive regulation of business and other essential government services, we’d raise taxes again, but only on the rich, which is defined as YOU or anybody who makes more than you. Probably the best word to describe my overall tax plan would be “confiscatory.” And my spending (OH, my spending! You’ve never seen spending until you see my spending!) would best be termed “redistributive.” If elected, my inaugural party will have music by the Dixie Chicks and the Indigo Girls, and then we’ll all bow down to a gigantic image of Barack (did you know it means “blessed”?) Obama, the savior of us all, and chant in some language other than the ultimate oppressor language, English. French, perhaps. Or Kiswahili.

      2. Harry Harris

        My experience with self-labeled persons has been colored by encountering the very aspect of labeling that you parody. A frequent irritant is the conversion of an adjective (conservative, liberal) into a noun – “a conservative” or a whatever. What is it you want to conserve, Mr Conservative? What liberty do you want to unleash, Mr. Liberal? The assumption of a label, other than as a general description, often leads to a forced skewing of one’s understanding of many important ideas or issues. It often then promotes group-think and seeking-out only opinion or fact that would reinforce the prevailing attitude associated with that label. Many of us are overly binary in our thinking, and I believe the prevalence of self-adopted labels promotes such thinking as we basically throw ourselves in with that group. Then starts the name-calling. Now we feel almost compelled to label “those people” as leftists, liberals, commies, gringos, flat-earthers, knuckle-dragging reactionaries, or tree-huggers. I’m a liberal, Southern Baptist, Jesus-follower. The first few parts of my label are just adjectives. I’m probably more conservative on matters of church polity than my “conservative” Southern Baptist brothers and sisters. I’m more conservative on child-rearing related to behavior and decorum than most – but more liberal on allowing children to question and reject my theology and values. I ran a strict classroom with clear and strongly-enforced limits – but those limits allowed as much discretion and freedom as my students could handle – tailored to the situation. Was I liberal or conservative? I changed my mind and my practices on issues as experience dictated. Was I liberal or conservative? Or did I not let labels get in the way.
        Labels can increase polarization, and self-adopting those labels equates to giving in to that polarization in my opinion.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          The thing is, they’re perfectly good words, implying perfectly good things. If only the people in and around our political system hadn’t dragged them through the mire over the past 50 years.

          It’s a good thing to be conservative. It means, more than anything else, that you respect tradition — which is a value I cherish. It means respecting those who went before you, instead of assuming that “progress” means you’re better and wiser than those old dead dudes. It implies caution and responsibility. It means you don’t go off half-cocked. It means you respect the fundamental institutions of society — the family, the church, and yep, the government and its component institutions, such as the police, the military and the public schools.

          “Liberal” also means good things. It means you favor liberty. It means you believe in pluralism, and freedom of conscience — including the views of people who don’t share yours. It means openness to new ideas. It means a willingness to change things if they aren’t as good as they should be. It means being generous. ALL Americans should be liberal, including conservatives, because conservatives believe in our institutions and underlying principles, and the essence of our system is that it is a liberal democracy.

          The ideal public servant, in light of all that, would be both liberal and conservative, and I see no contradiction in that. For instance, you can have a deep respect for, and deference to, existing institutions while at the same time wanting to improve them. It means you can be a change agent while being cautious and responsible in your approach to change. I see no contradiction.

          But folks who’ve been brainwashed by our parties, and by media that cover politics like is HAS to be a competition between two mutually exclusive teams (the sports model of coverage, which I despise), aren’t able to conceive of the two concepts going together.

          I think I’ll turn this into a separate post….

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