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The End of the President's 'Civil Discourse'

10:09 AM, Feb 22, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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In today's Wall Street Journal, Steve Hayes writes: 

The Tucson address was the best of Mr. Obama's presidency. It was a profoundly patriotic call for Americans to give their best to the country. Looking forward, the president insisted that the post-Tucson political debate not be conducted "on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle."

On Feb. 13, just the other side of the news cycle, a post on "Organizing for America," the website for the president's campaign arm, urged progressives to protest a proposal from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to reform public-employee benefits and limit collective-bargaining rights. The message, from Organizing for America's regional director for Wisconsin, began this way: "We've got a fight on our hands and it's personal."

Many Wisconsin voters cast ballots for Mr. Walker and his fellow Republicans in November despite these promises—or, more accurately, because of them. Republicans have a 60-38 majority (with one independent) in the state assembly and a 19-14 majority in the state senate. Republicans need 20 senators present for a quorum in order to vote on and pass Mr. Walker's proposal. So Ms. Taylor and her colleagues fled the state. It is hard to imagine a more antidemocratic move—attempting to thwart the will of voters by simply not showing up.

It was at this point that Mr. Obama weighed in. In an interview with a Milwaukee television station last week the president acknowledged that he hadn't followed the legislation in Wisconsin closely, but he characterized it as sounding like "an assault on unions." He made no mention of teachers violating the law in a de facto strike. He didn't say a word about the incendiary rhetoric or the tactic of marching on lawmakers' homes. And he said nothing about the missing state legislators and their antidemocratic walkout.

In Tucson, the president called on Americans to honor the victims with a "more civil and honest public discourse" that would "help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud." Perhaps it's unfair to expect him to answer for the offensive language and actions of Wisconsin's protesters, though Joe Kiriaki is an Obama donor and Lena Taylor was an Obama superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention. But given his words just a month ago, is it too much to ask him to emphasize now that he meant what he said?

Whole thing here.

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