Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 10, 2009

SAYING WHAT FEW LAWMAKERS WILL.... Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) appeared on MSNBC's "Hardball" last night, and Chris Matthews asked the freshman lawmaker to comment on Dick Cheney's suggestion that President Obama might be guilty of giving "aid and comfort" to the enemy.

"You know, on the Internet there's an acronym that's used to apply to situations like this," Grayson said. "It's called 'STFU.' I don't think I can say that on the air, but I think you know what that means."

Matthews asked for a hint, before figuring it out and urging Grayson to avoid "crude language." (If you find it hard to believe that Chris Matthews has never come across "STFU," then we're on the same page.)

Whether lawmakers should make remarks like these is open to debate, but Grayson's on-air comments are a reminder that we're just not accustomed to liberal Democrats playing by these rules. It's jarring because it's so unusual.

Matt Yglesias recently argued that Grayson is "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.... [M]oralism from the left is very unfamiliar to American political debates."

I suppose everyone has different expectations and preferences when it comes to the standards of the political discourse. But Rep. Barney Frank's (D-Mass.) recent assessment of Grayson sounded about right: "I welcome Grayson's taking the fight to them. I think he has got to be a little more careful about his punches, but I am glad he's throwing them."

There's room on the rhetorical spectrum from staid, clinical wonkery to unapologetic firebrands. Grayson, love him or hate him, is filling a niche.

Steve Benen 8:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (53)

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Comments

One minor correction, Steve. Tweety Matthews was not urging Grayson to "stop talking in crude language", he was translating STFU without doing it literally.

Posted by: mw on December 10, 2009 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Given that Mr. Cheney basically accused President Obama of treason, I think telling him to STFU is the height of diplomacy.

Posted by: Mustang Bobby on December 10, 2009 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

And let's not forget Grayson was addressing his comment to Dick "Go F*ck Yourself" Cheney.

Posted by: JWK on December 10, 2009 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

But wait, Cheney is a F*U*C*K! Grayson was too easy on him! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on December 10, 2009 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Put me in the "love him" column. This guy rocks and he's providing cover for a lot of others who may be thinking about being a little more/not quite as agressive.

His comments are opening the floor for debate, and that's what we need right now.

Posted by: bdop4 on December 10, 2009 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

I find Grayson's candor refreshing. More Dems should do just like him: push back, HARD, against Republican lying and hypocrisy. It will get noticed; it will get heard.

Posted by: sjw on December 10, 2009 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

I am horribly, horribly offended that such hateful speech is finding its way into the political discourse. I mean, it's one thing to compare the President to Hitler and describe him as a radical terrorist sympathizer, or even pining over "kicking some teeth in" when talking about the other side of the aisle. But, STFU is just going too far.

Posted by: MynameisAL on December 10, 2009 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Grayson does what no other 'Democrat' will do, outside of maybe my Rep. B. Lee or Sherrod Brown. He speaks the truth in unvarnished language.

The truth about what is being done in D.C. is never welcome. It's antithetical to 'The Spectacle'. If you dont' know what that is read this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Society-Spectacle-Guy-Debord/dp/0942299795

There is a lot to be learned from the Futurist Moment about our current form of virulent, anti-humanist capitalism. Check it out.

I support Grayson's outrage at what Corporate Slave State America has, and is, doing to convert this nation into contraband.

If you think me too extreme let me ask you: 'How's yer Habeas Corpus today?'

Posted by: A.Citizen on December 10, 2009 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

I'm with those who vote "more of this, please". I've noticed time and again how thin the Rethug veneer of macho is. Take Steele's "next question" response to confrontation just the other day. Dems should take every opportunity to call them out on their obstructionism. After all it is, by their own admission, their MO. Call them out. Ask them why they hate their constituents so much. Their only reason for holding their jobs is to obstruct those trying to solve difficult problems. You simply can not say this enough. Let them deny and go ballistic and then...... obstruct again and again proving the point.

Posted by: Chopin on December 10, 2009 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps Matt Yglesias' observation about liberal and conservative political speech is correct today, but it wasn't always so. It seems to me in the 1960's when the two main issues were racism and war (with feminism third), then the rhetoric from the left was moralistic - and deservedly so. If liberals give up moral speech, then it appears they are not comfortable standing on the moral high ground. The change may have come in the 1980's when many liberals sounded a lot like Michael Dukakis.

Posted by: tomb on December 10, 2009 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Nothing better than a tough liberal. Somebody -- anybody -- should be jumping for that role, for I'm afraid Obama has passed on it. Too bad, for it is an excellent counter to hysteria and name-calling, much better than calm discourse.

Posted by: Bob M on December 10, 2009 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Put me in the "love him" column too. It's about time someone pushed back hard. I'd have more respect for some of these guys if they were only half as good as Grayson. I saw him on Bill Maher and he's not just throwing fireballs. He's also a pretty intelligent guy.

Posted by: kanopsis on December 10, 2009 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

put me in the 'love him' column

Posted by: bkny on December 10, 2009 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

I would have been even less polite than Grayson was had I been asked that same question. Good for Grayson and keep hitting them in the mouth.

Posted by: Eric on December 10, 2009 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

About time. 6 deferment Dick must return to his secure undisclosed hiding place at once. If he takes his rancid daughter with him, so much the better

Posted by: Patrick on December 10, 2009 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans are classic bullies -- acting tough, but really weak. The way to deal with a bully is to show no fear and punch him right in the nose.

Posted by: TR on December 10, 2009 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Now how bad could that word be if the former VP used it on the Senate floor?

Posted by: Crgabe on December 10, 2009 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

It'd be nice if we had about a hundred more Graysons in the House, and maybe a dozen in the Senate.

And a bunch on the radio and teevee, too, telling Beck, Hannity, O'Reilly and Lardbaughl to STFU.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on December 10, 2009 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

@ MynameisAL on December 10, 2009 at 9:09 AM

LOL!!

(Has our buddy Al been around lately?)

Posted by: msmolly on December 10, 2009 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Dick Cheney is a freak and he creeps everybody out.It seems pretty safe to talk shit about him.Who's going to be upset other then the total nuts,and they're all wrapped up in Palin.

Posted by: j setala on December 10, 2009 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

P.S. I'm down with "love him" too!

Posted by: msmolly on December 10, 2009 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

Love Him.

Posted by: ckelly on December 10, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Two thumbs way up for Rep. Grayson. I'm all for Smash-mouth Progressivism!

Posted by: r_m on December 10, 2009 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Me too. Without reservation.

Grayson makes you realize that 99.999% of what is said in Washington is b**ls**t and that 99.999% of the energy that is being expended is in avoiding basic, straightforward communication..

MOTP - More Of This Please. Please.

Posted by: PowerOfX on December 10, 2009 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you Mr. Grayson for not letting mendacious Republicans walk all over you.

I just went to my company's annual health insurance meeting. After hearing about how we're going to have to pay a lot more for a lot less, like we do every year, all I could think of was how correct Grayson's "Don't get sick or die quickly" assessment is.

Posted by: petorado on December 10, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Franken-Grayson 2016!

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on December 10, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

Where's my "Like" button????

Posted by: Eeyore on December 10, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

Senator Orrin Hatch , is suffering from the loss of his friend Ted Kennedy . I am certain the Liberal Lion was more than just a measuring stick for civil behavior . Ted was most likely , amongst his many talents , a support for weak kneed Nellie's like Senator Orrin Hatch . Every variety of coping mechanism has its hard edges , but the tendency to become crotchety and irascible as the subject ages is pretty certain in the empty bag of republican empathy . Why I hear even sweeet joe lieberman has become testy .
These shallow mean spirited sorts , bereft of their little solace of human contact revert to the unrestrained behavior their thin veneer of civilized hardly covered in any case .
Alan Grayson speaks to my frustration with the lot of these self righteous , iron necked , ham fisted , knowing next to nothings .

Posted by: FRP on December 10, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

The most important task ahead is to make sure that people like Grayson cruise to reelection. Reelect the good guys who are willing to take a stand and change the conventional wisdom. I long for the day when "Blue Dog" and "former congressman" are synonymous.

Posted by: Th on December 10, 2009 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

More like this, please.

Nice to see a champion of "the rest of us" speak in such a way that authoritarians everywhere reach for their smelling salts.

Posted by: IntelVet on December 10, 2009 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Grayson's got his own money, so he's fearless. Too many of the Dem wimps are beholden to special interests who demand "civility" even when the other side is throwing bombs.

I, too, would like for Cheney to STFU. Or perhaps he could speak while defending his actions to the court at the Hague. But mostly he can just go Cheney himself, just like he told Senator Leahy.

Posted by: BuzzMon on December 10, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

More Grayson!!!

Posted by: Nothing But the Ruth on December 10, 2009 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

Grayson for speaker of the house!

I know it's a pipe dream, and Nancy Pelosi gets a B+ from me for her effort but, we need a take no prisoners ruthless S.O.B. to kick ass and take names.

Posted by: Banana-Eating Jungle Monkey on December 10, 2009 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Grayson makes for good T.V. He knows it, and the producers who book him know it.

It is nice to see a democrat talk in layman's terms about issues he cares about. He doesn't resort to rhetorical flourish, he talks like the people you meet at a beer joint, sitting around a table watching a sports game on the big screen.

We need a few more Grayson's out there. Barney Frank deserves credit for, well, being frank. Did anyone see some of his epic smack downs during the town hall circus back in August?

Anyway, telling Cheney to go f**k himself is just about right in my book. You reserve that sort of language for the snakes that deserve it.

Posted by: ChrisNBama on December 10, 2009 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

OT: I'd just congratulate FRP on his first semi-coherent post. Good job, FRP!

Posted by: JTK on December 10, 2009 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Grayson is a grandstanding idiot. The "die quickly" thing was great, but contrasting Obama's bow to Bush 1's barfing and then making sexual innuendo about Bush 2 and the Saudi prince is just idiotic. It's the Democratic version of the "birther" type of nonsense and it is offensive even when it comes in "defense" of prrinciples which I support; maybe even more offensive.

Posted by: Bill H on December 10, 2009 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Rep Grayson is really on to something. He has provided the mold, now some Democrats need to follow suit and get with the program. Attack the fake christians. Call them out and get nasty with them. They do it to us all the time. C'mon fighting Dems. Don't let us down like you always seem to. We need you to take the fight to the enemy. Go after those hypocrits with the intention of causing a stir and shaking them up. We like seeing Rush and Hannity and all those asshole wet their pants and call Democrats mean. Get after them. You need to be outrageous enough to be the talk of all the pundits. Get angry. Punch low. Stop being nice to them while they walk all over us. Is Grayson the only man among you?

Posted by: Patrick on December 10, 2009 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Is Grayson the only man among you?

Evidently, yes.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on December 10, 2009 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

A long as he keeps speaking truth to power, then I have absolutely no problem with him expressing himself in any way he cares to.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on December 10, 2009 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

More Alan-Grayson-comments from Alan Grayson, please. And, please make all the other Dems grow balls.

Posted by: phoebes-in-santa fe on December 10, 2009 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Love him. If he gets re-elected in his purple district, he should have a leadership position.

Posted by: benjoya on December 10, 2009 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Grayson is my dream politician, but he's likely going to damage himself along the way. As Barney Frank alludes to, throwing hay-makers opens him up to getting KO'd himself.

Posted by: joekool on December 10, 2009 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Oh come, using such language is not "tough" its just ignorant. What will Cheney's response be? "Come here and say that"? How does this advance the discourse? If your going to have a chance to speak to the public be articulate and explain concisely why Cheney shouldn't be calling the president a traitor.

Posted by: Maineiac on December 10, 2009 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

If your going to have a chance to speak to the public be articulate and explain concisely why Cheney shouldn't be calling the president a traitor.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. If you have to explain at all why Cheney shouldn't be calling the president a traitor, then the Republicans succeed in moving the Overton window yet again. Grayson's response is clear and articulate: Politicians, Cheney least of all, have no business whatever speaking so irresponsibly, and shame on those who think they do.

Posted by: Gregory on December 10, 2009 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

I love Grayson! Thank goodness! At LAST! As for his allusion to the F word: hey, you talk to Cheney in his lingua franca, and if you don't know what that means, Tweety, ask Pat Leahy who got an earful in the Senate sover which Mr. FU was, at the time, presiding top dog.

Posted by: SF on December 10, 2009 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

If your going to have a chance to speak to the public be articulate and explain concisely why Cheney shouldn't be calling the president a traitor.

Articulate, concise explainatins are utterly ignored at best or denigrated at worst by the corporate media.

Like or not the most ill-mannered, classless loudmouth gets to frame the debate and discourse (See Sarah Palin). They write the Op-Eds, and they appear on the teevee. Without people like Grayson lobbing rhetorical bombs the progressive POV is ignored.

Posted by: Winkandanod on December 10, 2009 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Every time someone is asked to comment about Cheney they should start by reminding the audience that Cheney rigorously avoided serving his country in a time of war, and that he offers the sorriest of excuses for his lack of commitment. If that keeps getting repeated he will STFU.

The working model for this tactic is the way Markos Moulitsos rhetorically bitch-slapped Tom Tancredo.

"Tom, I`m a veteran. Ok? I did not get a deferment because I was too depressed to fight in a war that I supported in Vietnam. I`m a veteran."


No one has seen Tancredo since then.

Posted by: Winkandanod on December 10, 2009 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

And one more thing: Steve, you are terrific; you do us great service with this site. But you are, often, too polite. You do not, as often as you could, "take it to them" and smack destructive, undemocratic, truly ruinous Republican bullies and babies down.

The last time I looked we had: a dysfunctional congress, in large part because the Senate is the most undemocratic governing body in the western word dominated by an obstructionist minority that is itself dominated by men who often appear gaga and are otherwise compromised by sexual idiocies and lies and lobbyists; a dystunctional financial system dominated by greedy millionaires and billionaires who put nothing back into the society and support no real business, only personal profit, and are without regulation, and have now added the generous tit of the US government and the very taxpayers they have betrayed to their asset list; a constitutional law professor president whose election made me weep with joy because he promised change but who is now delivering compromise -- on the wars which even he cannot convincingly defend, on the economy (how about a piece on how many of Bob Rubin's acolytes are in the Obama government, starting with the verbally abusive Rahm Emanuel, who is managing even now to protect his buddies on Wall Street and that includes giving up before the start on the public option in health care), on torture (which means on the very integrity of the national identity). And don't get me started on the restriction of women's rights being perpetrated in the Congress and by men who, if they manage to outlaw abortion will move on -- indeed, have already started moving on -- to birth control too.

So, Steve, I think Grayson is great. And you could be a tougher on the hound dogs sending us straight to (non-sectarian) hell.

Posted by: sf on December 10, 2009 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK
Is Grayson the only man among you?

Among us? No.

Among Dems on Capitol Hill (or the White House)? Sadly, yes.

As far as those who say comments like Grayson's "coarsens our discourse" or fails to move it forward, I have a few questions:

    1. Elected officials on the left have been incredibly civil to elected official on the right over the past 30 years, no matter how uncivil the right has been. How's that worked out in terms of progressive legislative success?
    2. What's more offensive: An acronym that refers to the f-bomb shared by a Dem? Or the GOP's willful lying to the American people about ... well, everything?

It's simple: The GOP has ran roughshod over our discourse since Reagan, spreading disgusting rumors, lies, and fear with the help of the media.

Since asking them to kindly stop hasn't worked, someone with some guts needed to stand up to the bullies and (rhetorically) kick them in the teeth.

IMHO, if a few folks with delicate sensibilities get upset in the process, tough shit.

And as others have already noted: More like Grayson, please. A lot more.

Posted by: Mark D on December 10, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

"If your going to have a chance to speak to the public be articulate and explain concisely why Cheney shouldn't be calling the president a traitor."

Ok, I'm game - Cheney should not be calling our duly elected president a traitor because, well, he is the duly elected president who is carrying out in good faith and in all due deliverance, his duties as the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces!

As for Cheney's penchant for the profane, we are witnessing it on a daily basis when he speaks!

History will not be kind to a man who spent 5 deferments to stay out of combat when he could have served, and the same man who condemned many a good American service man and woman to death in a conflict he lied to us about in order to get our support!

Cheney in any measure of the word is a failure, and as such, he should STFU! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on December 10, 2009 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

I love the advice to be intellectual, fair and civil in all public discourse, whether it comes from liberal panty-waists or devious concern trolls.

Pleeese don' throw me in that briar patch, Mr Fox!

Posted by: JoJo on December 10, 2009 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

"History will not be kind to a man who"

History will be as kind to him as history always is kind to winners.

After all, Cheney got his war on.

Posted by: JoJo on December 10, 2009 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

It's not important what Grayson said or how he said it. What is important is whether it will get blasted all over the TeeVee so everybody hears about it. I suspect he has chosen the correct, er, um, modality.

Posted by: Marko on December 10, 2009 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK
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