The Democrats’ Rhetorical Flaw of Irresponsible Governing: Ignored by Media, Fatal to America, but Serviceable to Democrats
--Richard E. Vatz
Looking at the just postponed Shutdown and Debt Ceiling Fight, the Democratic politicians’ and Mainstream Media’s take throughout was incredulity: how could those evil Tea Party Republicans in the House just let the full faith and credit of the United States (per Obamaen rhetoric) be compromised?
As one who would not have gone as far as Ted Cruz and is not a Tea Party devotee but who believes in rhetorical fairness, my frustration is with the one-sided coverage and the acceptance of the patent unfairness of the absence of media criticism of the Democrats’ rhetoric.
Let’s look at some of the more egregious rhetorical thumbs on the Democrats’ side of the scale:
A. President Obama (and others) consistently depicted Republicans’ demand for negotiation as “extortion.” This is over-the-top rhetoric for a president, and it ignores all of the presidents, such as Lyndon Baines Johnson and Ronald Reagan, who viewed differences of opinion as challenges to be worked out. President Obama‘s refusal to negotiate was never examined either substantively or historically by ostensibly disinterested news sources. The Republicans retrenched and retrenched on their positions, but there was no give and take. The Democrats’ position was “It’s our way or the highway,” a favorite news reporting cliché to depict recalcitrant principals, but not when it’s a position held by President Obama or America’s political left.
B. The ongoing issue of the debt and deficit was substantively ignored. President Obama, who repeatedly criticized President George W. Bush in 2008 as “unpatriotic” for allowing the debt to rise to about $9 trillion, has not been cited in any significant way for blatant hypocrisy in his unconcern regarding his own doubling of that debt. He did say (only) after the temporary resolution, after going through the problems caused by the fight, that “The debt problems we have now are long term.” I have seen no criticism in the press for this dismissive acknowledgement.
C. The presidential apparent reluctant testimony in his speech statement on October 17 that “Let’s be clear, there are no winners here,” while Democrats so unprivately celebrated their “victory” that news outlets uniformly referenced them. So much for who is really concerned about political victories and who is concerned about the country’s economic welfare.
The public via the polls is repeatedly represented as “blaming the Republicans.”
Surprised by that? The citizens in the Soviet Union blamed the United States for all of the cold war conflicts. The press in the United States is nowhere near as closed and one-sided as the press in a totalitarian country, but when the interpreters of political events almost unanimously cite only certain issues and certain spins, it is axiomatic that the public will not make an independent judgment regarding political culpability.
Congratulations, President Obama and Democrats on your political victory. Your irresponsibility in governing and ignoring the deficit and the debt will create terrible consequences, but perhaps not for a few years.
Prof. Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2012, 2013)