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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Tone Setting

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Honestly, the media wondering, very out loud, if President Trump is responsible for “setting the tone” that has lead to our increasingly vitriolic, and now occasionally violent, political debate would be hard not to laugh at save for how ugly things have actually gotten.  The host has very effectively answered the “incitement” question, but there is still this whole “set the tone” business.  On Sunday I made a crack about TV producers “better suited for Jerry Springer than cable news,” but I had no idea how like Springer they were going to play recent events – making political conflict out of whatever material they have at hand.

As a rule of thumb I try to avoid “who started it” arguments – they are deflecting rather than dealing with the issue.  Not to mention they are childish.  But think about it, what is the “set the tone” discussion about other than a “who started it?”  So let’s examine things for just a minute.

I’ll choose an unusual starting point.  I went through a very tough time my freshman year in college.  During that time I got an extremely moving letter from my father – one that it took me all of five seconds to lay my hands on when I sat down to write this.  A brief quote, “I know that I do not express emotions much and that includes love.  I have always tried to demonstrate love by doing it rather than talking about it.”  Let’s put that another way – “actions speak louder than words.”  I think that speaks to a lot of things besides father/son relationships. I think maybe it speaks about presidential communication.

Yes, President Trump talks tough, tougher than most, but if you want to talk about communication rather than just talking, I think we should talk about Barack Obama.

I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone” – what kind of tone does that set?  And how did that come out?  Well:

The Obama administration in its first seven years finalized 560 major regulations — those classified by the Congressional Budget Office as having particularly significant economic or social impacts. That was nearly 50 percent more than the George W. Bush administration during the comparable period, according to data kept by the regulatory studies center at George Washington University.

An army of lawyers working under Mr. Obama’s authority has sought to restructure the nation’s health care and financial industries, limit pollution, bolster workplace protections and extend equal rights to minorities.

Now, whether you agree with Obama’s orders or not, that much executive action – circumventing the legislature, the body designed to express the will of the people – is pretty combative.  What tone was set?

Oh, and thousands upon thousands contributed to the Senate campaign of Scott Brown specifically to change the Senate and stop Obamacare.  When Mr. Brown won, suddenly reconciliation came into play.  What tone was set?  I could go on like this for a while, but its late and you don’t want to read that many words anyway.

Yes, things are very combative, even violent, in our politics right now, but if you want to ask about who set the tone for it there is little doubt that Obama’s actions set as much tone as President Trump’s words.  As president, Obama had words and words and words – some of them very beautiful, very moving, very inspiring.  But his actions in office stand in sharp contrast to those words and speak much more loudly.

But then it was Jesus who said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone”  Like I said, “who started it” arguments are typically non-productive.

What is clear is there is a problem in the heart of our nation.  The causes are complex and numerous.  I cannot help but think we would all be better off trying to figure out how to fix things rather than trying to figure out who to blame.  But then I guess there are no ratings in that, so I’m probably just being silly.


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