Elected officials should think before they speak

It would be difficult these days to find a member of Congress not concerned about acrimony in politics spurring a few crazies to commit violent acts. Even Montana Rep.-elect Greg Gianforte, convicted last week of assaulting a reporter, is calling for more civility.

But some of the very people whose denunciations of violent rhetoric are loudest should be looking in the mirror.

Mentioning no names — in this context, that would be hypocritical — some members of Congress have provided plenty of fuel for the fire. For example, insisting that a health care reform plan will kill millions of people certainly is not accurate, but there are those eager to believe it.

And if one truly believes millions of lives are at stake, the next step for some people may be to rationalize that something, no matter how violent, needs to be done to prevent enactment of the bill.

Hyperbole has come to be seen as essential to effective political rhetoric. Simply letting the facts speak for themselves no longer seems to suffice.

But accusing one’s political foes of dastardly motives — not just of being wrong, but also of being evil — is no way to end the dangerous incivility that has hijacked politics today. More than a few politicians should think about that before they open their mouths in front of a microphone.

And yes, more than a few Americans should ponder the fact that politicians would not be using vicious accusations to promote themselves and their causes if they were not working at the ballot box.


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