On the night of his election, standing atop a stage in Grant Park, Barack Obama reiterated one of the central themes of his candidacy. “Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long,” the Great Unifier said.
In Denver, during the Democratic National Convention, he said this: “One of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and each other’s patriotism.”
So how are “resisting the partisan temptation” and “changing our politics” going in the Age of Obama?
Not well—if the evidence from the Democratic side of the aisle over the last 24 hours is to be trusted.
Representative Louise Slaughter, in talking about the GOP effort to stop government money from going to Planned Parenthood, said Republicans are “here to kill women.” She went on to compare them to—wait for it—Nazis.
Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, adding her typically gracious touch to things, said that what Republicans are doing is declaring a “war on women.”
Eleanor Holmes Norton, in keeping with the spirit of the metaphor, said that Republicans are advocating the “functional equivalent of bombing innocent civilians.”
Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, emerging as the softy in the bunch, said Republicans “want to shut down the government because they think there’s nothing more important than keeping women from getting cancer screenings.”
You might think that the man who promised to raise the level of our public discourse would have something to say about this bile. We’ll see. But his track record so far on such matters is not terribly reassuring. And if Mr. Obama has nothing to say about the sewage that is pouring out of the mouths of lawmakers from his own party, it would only be fair to conclude, I think, that his campaign—at least in this respect, at least on these matters—was a well-executed con job (one for which I fell in part). It would also be fairly strong evidence, in fact, that what we saw on display in 2008 was an unusually cynical and a fundamentally dishonest campaign. That’s something voters might well take into account the next time Obama asks for their support.