Playing by unfamiliar rules

PLAYING BY UNFAMILIAR RULES…. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) caused something of a stir this week with a speech on the House floor about health care reform. “It’s a very simple plan,” Grayson said Tuesday night. “Don’t get sick. That’s what the Republicans have in mind. And if you get sick America, the Republican health care plan is this: die quickly.”

Republican leaders spent a fair amount of time yesterday expressing outrage and demanding an apology — despite the fact that many GOP lawmakers have used similar rhetoric, on the same issue, to attack Democrats.

Adam Serwer noted why those who use intemperate rhetoric would be disgusted by intemperate rhetoric:

What’s happened here is very simple. For months, the GOP has accused Democrats of wanting to kill old people, ration health care based on race or party affiliation, or usher in an era of totalitarian repression — and they haven’t been shy about the holocaust comparisons either. For the first time since the health-care debate started, a Democrat has accused Republicans of being the kind of inhuman monsters Republicans regularly accuse Democrats of being, and he has refused to apologize for it.

Matt Yglesias made a similar case:

I think the real issue — and the real import — of Grayson’s statement is that it involved breaking one of the unspoken rules of modern American politics. The rule is that conservatives talk about their causes in stark, moralistic terms and progressives don’t. Instead, progressives talk about our causes in bloodless technocratic terms. This is also one of the reasons that Ted Kennedy’s stark, moralistic attack on Robert Bork’s legal theories are for some reason often cast by the MSM as some kind of illegitimate smear campaign. The reality is that it was just him talking about a conservative the way conservatives relatively talk about liberals. Like Grayson he characterized his opponents’ views polemically, but wasn’t offering any kind of wild factual distortions. But moralism from the left is very unfamiliar to American political debates.

Quite right. Watching GOP lawmakers throw fits yesterday, one got the sense they were arguing, “He’s making an over-the-top argument, accusing his opponents of somehow being pro-death. That’s our job!”

For his part, Grayson hasn’t flinched. When conservatives demanded an apology, he responded with another speech: “I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven’t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America.” He then went on CNN and called Republicans opposing health care reform “foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.”

And while Republicans spent much of the day yesterday talking about some kind of House resolution to condemn Grayson, today the GOP caucus said it would not pursue the matter.