Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sinking Rhetoric

Campaign rhetoric hits yet another low as the head of the Republican national party compares Obama to the captain of the Italian cruise ship accused of abandoning ship.

Sinking Rhetoric


We all know campaign rhetoric is almost always just that, no more than strings of words shot like arrows at opponents in order to draw blood.

And we know from experience both sides are guility of overstating arguments, twisting facts or obliterating truth to make partisan points.

Still, sometimes it goes too far.

Take the comments by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on the Sunday morning CBS show "Face the Nation."

Host Bob Schieffer was asking Priebus about the rough and tumble primary season Republican candidates are having and whether that could harm the party's eventual nominee in the fall election.

Priebus said this: "In the end, in a few months, this is all going to be ancient history and we're going to talk about our own little Captain Schettino, which is President Obama who is abandoning the ship here in the United States. He's more interested in campaigning than doing his job as president."

I have no quarrel with the argument that Obama made a decision months ago to campaign instead of govern. I underscored that point just last week in a column about his State of the Union address.

But comparing the president to Francesco Schettino, the Italian sea captain accused of the crime of abandoning his ship, the Costa Concordia, following an accident in which 17 people are confirmed dead and 16 remaining missing, goes too far even for politics.

It's seeking to cash in on a tragic loss of life. It's comparing the president to a person charged with manslaughter. It's an insult to the family and friends of the Costa Concordia's victims. And it's a gross example of how low our political rhetoric has sunk.

And Schieffer's reaction was off-putting. A veteran newsman, admired and trusted, Schieffer, initially didn't seem to get the reference: "What did you say? What did you call the president?"

And when Priebus repeated the claim, Schieffer simply laughed. But it's not funny. Even if Priebus was attempting to be cute rather than callous, the attempt was too cute by half.

The same standard regarding over-blown rhetoric, by the way, applies to Obama's constant harping about tax inequality and Democratic pandering to voters about Mitt Romney's low tax rate.

The fact is Romney acts within the law and pays the tax rate the law requires on investment income. If Obama and Democrats are so outraged at this, why didn't they use their majority in Congress when they had it to change the law? And why aren't they now ardently pushing legislation to do so?

I'll tell you why. Because rhetoric is easier than reform. Because name-calling is easier than offering solutions. Because politicians in both parties care more about keeping or getting jobs for themselves than in being honest or even civil. GRRRR.



Daily News Political Columnist
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About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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