Integrity Matters
July 25, 2007

Lawmakers should take lessons in civility

Question: (E-302)
What has happened to civility? July 15 on Tim Russert's "Meet the Press" program, Sens. Lindsay Graham and Jim Webb erupted in abrasive arguments regarding the ongoing Iraq war. Is the U.S. Senate having a collective meltdown?

No, even though the public sees an increasing amount of uncivil behavior among some members of Congress, it's too soon to conclude that civility is dead. But politicians who justify playing the "gotcha' game" - fueling partisan sniping with vicious personal attacks - should not be re-elected.

Macho bullying has "leapfrogged" from little boys on grade school playgrounds to corporate boardrooms and the hallowed halls of government, involving both men and women. Mean-streets trash talk has sullied Main Street. Gross four-letter words and filthy gestures, once the out-of-bounds-behaviors of the crude, criminal and uneducated are now exhibited indiscriminately by elected representatives, sports stars, corporate executives and even candidates for the highest of offices. Civility must be restored, everywhere.

Until graciousness retakes center stage, society is at risk of losing its soul. Competent leaders can disagree, even strongly, without resorting to personal attacks.

Knowledgeable students of the political process suggest that the 2008 presidential election will be decided by voters in Ohio and Florida. Assuming the Blue States stay blue and the Red States stay red, which is plausible, then the battle will be won in two "as-yet-undecided" states. If this turns out to be true, then is the multibillion-dollar presidential campaign a charade for the voters in the other 48 states?

In spite of low approval ratings for the current president, members of Congress have earned even lower scores. And, if history serves as any indicator, perhaps 90 percent of those now in Congress will be re-elected, continuing the same stifling, strident, immobilizing behavior in Washington. Gridlock will flourish while unrepentant, re-elected officials fiddle (with our future) while Rome burns (in pork-barrel legislation and ever fatter rewards for the political elite). What might motivate rude elected representatives to be more civil?

Are you willing to make interpersonal integrity, including character and graciousness, a key factor in determining who gets your vote? Candidates repeatedly exhibiting inappropriate behavior (rude, crude or socially unacceptable) should be defeated and encouraged to enter rehab so they can focus on how they live and work with others. Integrity matters.

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