A Forfeiture of Statesmanship
The conservative right has abandoned the practice of winning debates by defeating bad ideas, and has instead descended into the habit of cheap personal attacks.
As reluctant as we should all be to waste any more ink on the topic, it behooves us to educate our peers on what should now be patently obvious: This entire polemic around access to contraception has been nothing more than an elementary trap meant to derail the discussion on unconstitutional healthcare mandates and draw Republicans into saying something stupid.
It has succeeded brilliantly. Leftist media has already sold the deranged lie that Rick Santorum wants to outlaw birth control. Interviews leading up to Super Tuesday have the Republican candidates fielding inane questions on contraception when the dialogue should be about the economy, foreign policy, or just about anything else the Obama administration has tanked over the last three years. And, in a crowning coup, an activist law student has cast herself as the poster child for subsidized contraception.
We have been baited to an absurd degree. And we have swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.
Rush Limbaugh was the biggest catch, but from what I’ve seen across our conservative media, he’s only the most notorious trophy. Many of us have allowed ourselves to be snared in this net, and few of us seem willing to smartly withdraw from it.
We defend our churlish response with anecdotes about our own female colleagues being subjected to similarly foul commentary by boorish liberals like Bill Maher, and that in itself tells us all we need to know. When we join the company of that ilk, we have lost our way.
General Robert E. Lee defined a “gentleman” as the following:
“The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.
The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly–the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light
The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.”
The excuse offered by Rush Limbaugh, and by so many of us who have spewed similar filth or spoken out in his defense, is that this Democratic sideshow has reached levels so absurd that it can only be dealt with in a similarly absurd fashion.
As gentlemen, as statesmen, and as men of honor, we know this to be a pathetic justification.
We may disagree with the dialogue. We may reject false assumptions. We may dismantle foolish ideas and unsubstantiated arguments. But if we stoop into the gutter of lewd personal attacks, then we become no better than our opponents.
We should aspire to be better than that. We are the party of Lincoln. We are the stewards of Reagan’s legacy. We are supposed to be the grown-ups in the room.
It doesn’t matter that the Democrats assail us with hypocritical accusations of lost civility. It doesn’t matter that Obama gives Sandra Fluke a phone call but doesn’t call the families of dead soldiers or border patrol agents. It doesn’t matter that Sarah Palin gets called worse on a daily basis by everyone on the left. Their hypocrisy is irrelevant when it comes to our own reputation. We should never enjoy such wretched company.
In truth, we have been trolling the gutter for months now. Up until this week, we’ve only been muddying our own waters with petty intra-party attacks during this primary season, but the saga of this contraception episode should serve as a wake-up call. We have forgotten our manners, and we have compromised our honor.
We should remember the words of Robert E. Lee as we engage in these and, hopefully, other more pertinent debates. We should conduct ourselves honorably; not only with our own brothers, but more importantly with our opponents on the left, for they want nothing more than to drag us down to their level.