SIGN OF THE TIMES
Do lawmakers need bodyguards now? Almost half of Americans agree with the idea — 48 percent of the respondents say lawmakers “should be given bodyguards to help protect them,” says a new CBS News poll. Forty-two percent disagreed. The public is split about danger. A slim plurality — 47 percent — says the Arizona shootings were a random event and not likely to be repeated; 45 percent predicted there would be more incidents. The specter of violence already has taken an extra toll in that state, though.
“I wasn’t going to resign, but decided to quit after what happened Saturday. I love the Republican Party, but I don’t want to take a bullet for anyone,” says Anthony Miller — Republican chairman of Legislative District 20 near Tempe, and a former campaign worker for Sen. John McCain — who left his post following the violence, along with four other party officers.
Press and blogosphere have seized on the moment. Mr. Miller resigned over concerns of “tea party threats,” according to accounts in the Arizona Republic, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, Alternet and other news outlets.
Party on, partisans. But be nice, or else. The hall monitors are afoot with a “Unity Meter” to measure civility, and perhaps to hand out gold stars. The “No Labels” movement, launched in New York last month by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and a cast of thousands, has ramped up its message of political civility in the wake of the Arizona shootings, and just in time for President Obama’s State of the Union speech on Jan. 25. The group has organized 500 “bipartisan house parties” nationwide whereRepublicans, Democrats and independents will watch the speech, share crab dip and presumably feel better about themselves.
But wait. Behold, a cultural moment. The group also confabulated a “Unity Meter” to measure bipartisan applause during Mr. Obama’s oratory, and gauge if the speech and congressional reaction strikes the proper tone. Perhaps they should consult Emily Post. The meter will establish “discrete benchmarks” and track how often opposing lawmakers stand together and applaud.
“We may not agree with the person sitting next to us on every issue brought forward, but well clap when we agree and be civil when we dont. Our members will be modeling the behavior the American people want to see from their leaders in Washington,” says No Labels co-founder Mark McKinnon.
“We’ll be using this State of the Union to send a message to our leaders that they will be held accountable to a new standard of civility going forward, even after the news media shifts its focus back to the day-to-day realities of governing,” observes Nancy Jacobson, the other co-founder.
Of historic note: the civility urge has been on the splashy political radar, for some time. The first “Bipartisan Congressional Retreat” was staged in Hershey, Pa. for 200 lawmakers and their families in March 1997 — funded with a $700,000 grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Just so you know. Or if you care. C-SPAN will cover the Republican National Committee winter meeting at the swank Gaylord National Resort live on Friday, including the all-important, much-ballyhooed election of the new chairman from a field that includes incumbent Michael S. Steele and four more hopefuls. Things get under way at 10:30 a.m.
AND IN SUMMATION
With conservatives blamed by some pundits and press for the Arizona shootings, the Media Research Center has tracked hatemongering utterances of “left-wing radio hosts” that often get a pass in the mainstream news. Find the review of comments made by Ed Shultz, Randi Rhodes and others here: www.mrc.org.
KISS, MAKE UP, PROFIT