Inside the Beltway: Oh behave — the public condemns political incivility

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Boorish bombast and churlish behavior in elected officials? Heavens. Such demonstrations thrill journalists who see politics as a spectator sport. But the voting public appears to condemn incivility, and blames politicians for setting a poor example.

“Hot tempers and heated words have always been part of the U.S. political scene. In fact, Aaron Burr challenged Alexander Hamilton to a duel in the early days of the United States,” says Larry Shannon-Missal, research manager for the Harris Poll, which has plumbed the sentiments of Americans on their lawmakers and officials who behave badly.

“While politicians may not be dueling, findings indicate that roughly nine in 10 U.S. adults — 89 percent — believe that political discussions today are angry and bad tempered, and roughly seven in 10 — 69 percent — believe that today’s political climate is more angry and bad tempered than it was in the past,” the pollster says.

But Americans also perceive some collateral damage here. Another 89 percent agree that those rivalries prevent politicians from taking care of business and addressing the public interests. Ironically enough, both 91 percent of Republicans and 91 percent of Democrats agree with this. And whether they like it or not, politicians are also perceived as behavioral role models.

“To what extent do you think that how American politicians treat one another influences how American citizens treat one another?” the Harris Poll asked respondents. Seven out of 10 agreed with the statement. The Grand Old Party, meanwhile, has a worse reputation than the Democrats, the survey found, something for GOP strategists to keep in mind as the 2014 midterm season gets rolling.

“Looking at recent partisan bickering in Washington, three in 10 Americans say Republicans deserve the most blame, down a bit from 34 percent last October, in the wake of the government shutdown,” Mr. Shannon-Missal says. “The percentage blaming Democrats most holds steady at 17 percent. But nearly half — 47 percent, up from 42 percent in October — say both parties are equally deserving of blame.”

KINDER, GENTLER, ET CETERA

Two schools of thought seem to be emerging among GOP strategists as the midterms loom. Some insist that Republican voters are eager for fearless “fighter” candidates who get a clear message out, modeled by the likes of say, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas or Rep. Darrell Issa of California. There’s also a new call out for the old Ronald Reagan-style optimistic touch, and some straightforward talk besides.

“We can turn things around with the right ideas — the right positive agenda — to put forward for the American people in this election and in the next election so that we can have a governing majority when we win. And we will win. But we need to have a positive agenda,” former Republican National Committee chairman and U.S. Senate hopeful Ed Gillespie told a recent Ripon Society forum.

“We have to talk in terms that resonate with people in everyday life and make those lives better,” he advised, adding, “We can’t talk shorthand all the time. Shorthand is great with our base, but it doesn’t resonate with those voters in the middle.”

THE WHOLE KITCHEN SINK

Republicans positively relished David W. Jolly’s defeat of Democratic challenger Alex Sink in a special Florida election on Tuesday, casting it as a positive predictor of things to come. Why, it could signal that it’s 2010 all over again, right?

But the ever-clever press appeared to relish it even more. A few headlines in the aftermath:

“Sink sank sunk” (Wall Street Journal), “Why Sink sank” (Powerline.com), “Florida’s politcal sinkhole is no national belweather” (Huffington Post), “A Jolly night for GOP” (The Daily Beast), “Does Sink’s defeat sink Democrats hopes?” (PJ Media).

Congressman-elect Jolly, incidentally, is leaving Florida in a hurry. He will be sworn in on Thursday afternoon in the nation’s capital at 2 p.m.

“I recognize that nearly half of the county supported another candidate. My job begins today and I’m committed to doing this job the right way,” he said during a press conference after the election.

AND THE LADIES ENGAGE

Twitter can be, uh, scintillating. What follows is a brief clash of the titan-esses, all done in 140 chracters or less, between the succinct Townhall.com news editor and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich, versus the very clever party culture maven Betsy Rothstein, of the Daily Caller. Ms. Pavlich was irked at Ms. Rothstein for suggesting that the Brietbart News CPAC after-party “had an orgy vibe.” And here’s what followed, Twitter patois intact, in a repartee that lasted some seven minutes on Wednesday afternoon:

“Wow @betsyscribeindc uses an anonymous source to smear ppl at CPAC party as ‘would be orgy’ participants. (Pavlich)

“Where’s the smear? I don’t see it at all Katie. You can be overly sensitive if you want. That’s your choice. (Rothstein)

“And you can call serious writers at a party ‘would be orgy participants’ all you want, keep up the garbage (Pavlich)

“Thanks for the permission slip. Clearly I was waiting for you to give me the ok. Oh wait, you’re not my editor. Imagine that.” (Rothstein)

“I’m not your editor because I don’t work at a trashy tabloid that used to be a decent news outlet. Take care” (Pavlich)

“You ‘take care’ Katie. No one sought your approval. And who cares if you don’t like The Daily Caller? Free world.” (Rothstein)

MR. JOHNSON TO CAPITOL HILL

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson pays a call on the House Homeland Security Committee Thursday to go over President Obama’s FY 2015 budget, and all the implications therein.

“The president’s budget again shows that his priorities do not match up with the American people’s. Ultimately, his proposal increases fees to taxpayers, travelers and businesses while decreasing the overall budget for securing the homeland,” says Rep. Mike McCaul, Texas Republican and committee chairman.

“Americans know the borders are not secure and yet the administration is aiming to decrease funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement by almost $250 million — including the reduction of detention beds by almost 3,500 — and wants to cut the Coast Guard by more than $300 million, resulting in fewer ships interdicting drugs and potential criminals bound for the United States,” the lawmaker observes.

“Meanwhile, the president increases funding for more bureaucracy, including throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at a new headquarters instead of spending precious funds on keeping Americans safe.” he adds.

POLL DU JOUR

• 92 percent of the “young millenial” attendees at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference believe there will be another Republican president “in their lifetime.”

• 75 percent say there is not enough conservative activism on college campuses.

• 48 percent identify themselves as Republicans; 21 percent identify as Libertarians, 21 percent as “conservative, not Republican.”

• 34 percent say the most important issue to them is jobs/the economy; 24 percent cite the national debt.

• 33 percent cite Sen. Rand Paul as their preferred 2016 presidential candidate; 10 percent cite Sen. Ted Cruz.

• 7 percent cite Ben Carson, 7 percent cite Gov. Chris Christie.

• 6 percent cite Sen. Marco Rubio, 6 percent cite Rep. Paul Ryan, 6 percent cite Gov. Scott Walker, 3 percent cited Sarah Palin.

Source: A Turning Point USA poll of 855 CPAC attendees ages 18-28 years conducted March 6-8.

Polite chitchat, annoyances to jharper@washingtontimes. Follow her at Twitter.com/harperbulletin

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