RNC slaps away ‘civility’ outreach

RNC SLAPS AWAY ‘CIVILITY’ OUTREACH…. After a week featuring some overheated rhetoric and actual right-wing violence, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine decided to reach out to Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele about issuing a joint statement condemning all politically-motivated threats directed at officials.

The draft text of the statement says that while Steele and Kaine disagree on the health care bill, they would “together call on elected officials of both parties to set an example of the civility we want to see in our citizenry” and ask “all Americans to respect differences of opinion, to refrain from inappropriate forms of intimidation, to reject violence and vandalism, and to scale back rhetoric that might reasonably be misinterpreted by those prone to such behavior.”

DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse told reporters that Kaine sent the letter to Steele [Friday] and then phoned him asking the chairman to release a joint bipartisan statement “condemning the threats and acts of vandalism over the past week, calling for an end to such tactics and urging a more civil tone in our politics.”

The outreach was not limited to the chairmen. The DNC’s executive director and communications director also reached out to their RNC counterparts about the value of a joint statement that might help send a signal about the civil discourse.

Republicans refused. RNC Communications Director Doug Heye said Steele rejected the draft statement because “we don’t need to do anything on their schedule or on their timetable.”

What a surprise.

We are, after all, talking about an RNC that recently put together a fundraising presentation filled with donor insults, offensive caricatures, and an admission that the party will rely on little more than “fear” to win. In the wake of the health care breakthrough, the RNC is desperate to make right-wing activists as angry and agitated as possible — which is why Michael Steele is describing the Affordable Care Act as “Armageddon” and demanding to see Speaker Pelosi on “the firing line.”

What possible value would the RNC see in a joint statement intended to lower the temperature?

To be sure, I’m not convinced a joint statement of civility would make much of a difference. For nutjobs inclined to spit at members of Congress, cut gas lines, make death threats, hurl bricks through windows, and send faxes with nooses, party leaders urging a respectful tone in American politics would likely be ignored.

But prominent figures can set an example and establish a tone. Steele no doubt understands this, which is why he didn’t hesitate to ignore the DNC’s request.