Accountability

Published — January 13, 2011 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

A civil war of words

Introduction

If President Obama’s call at the Tucson shootings memorial for a more civil tone in America rang familiar, it was no mistake. From his early days campaigning for the White House, Obama has pleaded for more bipartisanship and civility in the political debate.

But in the time lapsed between Obama’s various pleas, a majority of Americans now believe the discourse has actually gotten worse, not better.

A Center for Public Integrity review of video clips reminds all of us of the strident nature of the political debate these last two years. There was the infamous incident of the congressman who yelled “You lie!” during the president’s 2009 health care address to Congress and the political ads that accused lawmakers of being Taliban members. Soon-to-be House Speaker John Boehner gave his famous “Hell no!” rant on the House floor about the secrecy of the health care debate, and even some of Obama’s retorts to his Republican critics dripped with sarcasm or ridicule.

Obama’s eloquent pleading to honor the Tucson victims with a more civil debate going forward was warmly received in the room. It remains to be seen, however, how America’s political leaders will respond with the start of so many contentious debates in Congress ranging from repealing health care reform to cutting the deficit. In the meantime, you can remind yourself of the uncivility just passed with the attached video compilation.

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