Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 20, 2011

THE WRONG LANE.... Over the last week or so, we've seen efforts to equate the labor dispute in Wisconsin to the political revolution in Egypt, some of which strikes me as misplaced. But the Washington Post's Charles Lane, in a deeply disappointing piece, instead draws a connection between developments in Madison and last month's tragic shootings in Tucson. (via DougJ)

It has been just over five weeks since a deranged gunman in a Tucson suburb left six people dead and 13 injured, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). In the wake of that horrific tragedy, Americans reflected on -- and argued about -- the possible connection between the violence and today's often nasty, polarized political discourse.

President Obama, in a moving eulogy for the fallen, called on all Americans to "pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds."

Yet today in Wisconsin, anger and vilification are once again the order of the day -- and the incivility emanates from the progressive end of the spectrum....

Perhaps most disappointing of all is that the president himself, rather than living up to the words he spoke so eloquently in Tuscon [sic], has chosen to fuel the fury on the Great Lakes. He labeled Walker's legislation "an assault on unions," while the White House political operation bused in more demonstrators to join those waving Walker = Hitler placards. These are the words and deeds of a partisan politician, not a national leader.

If the brave Gabrielle Giffords could speak normally, what would she say about these events? I hope she would agree with me: This is a sad moment for liberalism, for the Democratic Party, and, really, for the whole country.

Keep in mind, Charles Lane isn't some Fox News personality. I've seen him publish a variety of worthwhile commentaries in recent years.

But reading this, I can't imagine what he was thinking.

Lane seems to believe unions trying to protect their collective bargaining rights -- unnecessarily targeted by a conservative governor on some kind of crusade -- are in the wrong. Lane doesn't explain why, exactly, and on the substance, I obviously think he's mistaken.

But it's Lane's thoughts on "civility" that are just inexplicable.

To be sure, those carrying placards with swastikas are deeply misguided, and anyone equating Scott Walker with Hitler is ridiculous. Though these appear to be a tiny handful of folks in a much larger protest, Lane is on firm ground calling them out.

But his criticism of the White House is just bizarre. President Obama believes Walker's union-busting efforts are "an assault on unions." He said this because, in reality, Walker's union-busting efforts are "an assault on unions." It's not uncivil, it's not inaccurate, and to condemn the president for trying to "fuel the fury" is silly. Obama was asked by a Wisconsin reporter for his opinion, and he offered a fair, mild-mannered assessment. Why Lane found it outrageous is a mystery.

What's more, Lane appears shocked that the Democratic Party would side with their own allies, against Republican overreach stripping school teachers and other public employees of their collective bargaining rights, as if the Post writer temporarily forgot that the Democratic Party has always been a champion of labor rights. Worse, he somehow connects the party to offensive placards, which Dems had nothing to do with, based on nothing.

And then Lane concludes by somehow connecting Gabrielle Giffords to his position, again based on nothing.

I'm genuinely amazed Charles Lane published this. It's my sincere hope that he'll give this some additional thought, and realize that this was an offensive mistake, worthy of an apology.

Steve Benen 10:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (42)

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Comments

What's worse about Lane's blog is that he claims Ezra Klein debunked the "myth" that Scott Walker created this issue, when in fact he confirms that Wisconsin's deficit was created by Gov. Walker and the GOP legislature giving away tax breaks for corporations.

I think there those in the "village" who don't like teacher unions and SEIU and AFSCME. Now I do agree that public employee benefits may have spun out of control, but Gov. Walker's approach is extreme and unreasonable.

Posted by: mikeel on February 20, 2011 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

" It's my sincere hope that he'll give this some additional thought, and realize that this was an offensive mistake, worthy of an apology."

Eddie Murphy could do a great white guy's voice for that line. Ewww!

Too much handwringing on the left in the US.

Like Elvis sang, "A little less conversation, a little more action please."

Posted by: Bob M on February 20, 2011 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Here is a news flash - Ever since the Washington Post had problems with their printers in the 1970s they have absolutely hated labor. Don't ever expect to get an honest story from them about any labor dispute.

Posted by: Fritz Strand on February 20, 2011 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Lane is just engaging in that most time honored tradition of the New Republic, with contrarian liberalism.

That makes you a serious liberal nowadays. Regardless of what Ezra Klein actually said, Lane found that kernel to latch his predetermined notions on.

Posted by: RomanX on February 20, 2011 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Would this be proof of the liberal bias at the Washington Post? Or, more accurately, this is proof that there is nothing left of the (if there ever was one) liberal slant in the media.

I read stuff like this and it has the intended effect. It makes me feel that the Repugnant Ones are winning and that I'm helpless to stop it.

Crap never sleeps!

Posted by: Mark-NC on February 20, 2011 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Charles Lane knows where his bacon comes from. If he told the truth, he'd get canned. What's so hard to see? He's on the take just like the rest of the MSM. It isn't that they don't get it.

96% of the MSM is owned by 6 corporations. Why would those corporations allow any of their employees to bad mouth management?

Posted by: Jim B on February 20, 2011 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

. . . it's Lane's thoughts on "civility" that are just inexplicable.

His thoughts, though wrong, are easily explained. For conservatives, being non-partisan means doing exactly what they want.

Unfortunately, Democrats are non-partisan 'way too often.

Posted by: SteveT on February 20, 2011 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

As Fritz pointed out, WaPo is a virulently anti-union paper. I don't know how this has effected Lane's thinking, but it certainly adds to WaPo's anti-union credentials.

Posted by: martin on February 20, 2011 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

One of your most endearing characteristics, Mr. Benen, is that you keep on giving the other side the benefit of the doubt. Do keep in mind, however, that at some point they will use your fairness against you.

Lane is lying. Through.His.Teeth. And he knows it.

Posted by: Emma on February 20, 2011 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Lane's comments degenerate into inexcusable tackiness when he attempts to put words in the mouth of Rep. Giffords. There's really nothing more to be said.

Posted by: Michael on February 20, 2011 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Uppity peasants are a threat to Whigs and Tories alike.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on February 20, 2011 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think Charles Lane wrote this.
I think Stephen Glass did.

Posted by: Newton Whale on February 20, 2011 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

That use of Giffords is repugnant.

Posted by: N.Wells on February 20, 2011 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that being on the same side of an argument as Joke Line is a pretty good indication that you're full of shit.

Posted by: Newton Whale on February 20, 2011 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Lane seems to believe unions trying to protect their collective bargaining rights -- unnecessarily targeted by a conservative governor on some kind of crusade -- are in the wrong.

It's not just wrong according to Lane, it's tyranny, i.e., this governor's despotic crusade funded by plutocrats is democracy in action, but teachers demonstrating for their rights are tyrants. It's no wonder that Lane feels exactly the same way about all those Teabagger events, also funded by the same anti-democratic plutocrats. Oh wait, he thinks those are democracy in action, too.

Posted by: R. Porrofatto on February 20, 2011 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Liberals are always supposed to just take it. Anything else is as bad as shooting people in the head.

Posted by: ben dover on February 20, 2011 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Lane is on a fishing trip to stir the waters. He assaults the evidence, the events and the language. How many arrests have there been? How much tear gas has been used? How many national guard have been called out? Why would Lane view 1st Amendment rights through such a filter?

Lane owe us an apology for wasting our time with his perverse fantasies! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on February 20, 2011 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Oh come on now, these days, every body is Hitler.. It's kind of like Saint Patricks day now, everybody is Irish!

Posted by: Trollop on February 20, 2011 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

A Godwin moment:
Steve, you brought it up, "To be sure, those carrying placards with swastikas are deeply misguided, and anyone equating Scott Walker with Hitler is ridiculous."

Trade Unions banned - 2 May 1933

The Trade Unions offices were closed, their money confiscated, and their leaders put in prison. In their place, Hitler put the German Labour Front which reduced workers' pay and took away the right to strike.

source http://www.johndclare.net/Nazi_Germany1.htm

Posted by: foghorn on February 20, 2011 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Well, ben dover said it a lot better than what I was thinking of writing, and in a lot fewer words, so let's just repeat his comment:

"Liberals are always supposed to just take it. Anything else is as bad as shooting people in the head."
Posted by: zandru on February 20, 2011 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

the White House political operation bused in more demonstrators to join those waving Walker = Hitler placards.

Really?

I had not heard this, it's a good thing we have an objective free press to inform us.

This in fact, sounds suspiciously like what Dick Armey and Co., Inc. did during the health care debate.

Posted by: Winkandanod on February 20, 2011 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

The cost of shooting people
Liberals/ $1 a bullet , one less annoying Liberal .
Profit
Teu Baggeurs/ $1 a bullet , one less annoying ally , plus added special endless benefits of blaming Liberals for shoshalism and everything else too ...
Profit

Posted by: FRP on February 20, 2011 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Charles Lane is a dick.

There's his civility.

Posted by: David Bailey on February 20, 2011 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

If the brave Gabrielle Giffords could speak normally, what would she say about these events?

She'd say "STFU and don't presume to speak for me you disgusting right wing tool."

Posted by: g on February 20, 2011 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

He needs a lesson in the difference between name calling and calling something by its name.

Incivility? For thee but not for me, I guess.
Speaking for the victims seems to be all the rage in the media these days. I'm sure she will apologize for being shot in the face any minute now, according to some journamalist.

Posted by: thebewilderness on February 20, 2011 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Lane makes reference to "One certified progressive, Joe Klein", but then he links to that jackass who writes for TIME. Anyone have any idea where the progressive Joe Klein posts?

Oh. Wait. Do people inside the Beltway actually think that Joke Line is a progressive?? Seriously? Oh, man.

Again, I think we really need someone to analyze the water. There have GOT to be powerful drugs they are all on.

Posted by: biggerbox on February 20, 2011 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Charles Lane is doing what 'journalists', 'pundits', 'opinion' writers engage in. They don't look at the FACTS, they look at the tweets. They look at what congresscritters are saying. NO ONE looks at the facts. NO ONE challenges them on the FACTS. Talking Points Memo is about the only one I've seen that actually has dug in to what is happening and what is at stake. As far as Egypt is concerned...they are fighting for what they perceive the US to HAVE, while Wisconsin is protesting to KEEP what they have. The Gabriel Giffords analogy? ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

Posted by: SYSPROG on February 20, 2011 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Please. Lane has been a nit-wtted mega-hack ever since he went to the Post.

Just because he edited TNR long ago (where he massively bungled, of course), we really don't have to spend the next decade kissing his once-approved keister.

Posted by: bob somerby on February 20, 2011 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

@ mikeel on February 20, 2011 at 10:16 AM

Now I do agree that public employee benefits may have spun out of control,...

That's Sock-Puppet Talk.
What's happened over the past 30+ years is Unions have been systematically destroyed and wage slave benefits have "spun" down the toilet.

Posted by: cwolf on February 20, 2011 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

TAKE DOWN THE SICK POST AT
FRP on February 20, 2011 at 12:36 PM

Posted by: cwolf on February 20, 2011 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Lane linked to one Journal-Sentinel photo of a placard at the Wisc. capitol building that depicted "Mubarak + Hitler = Walker."

From that photo, Lane concluded that "union-backed demonstrators" were comparing Walker to Hitler. He offered no proof that the one sign was "union-backed" or held by a union member.

And then he started bawling about a "sad day for America."

There were at least 30,000 protestors at the capitol on the day the photograph was taken. Lane demonstrates no pride that America allows for such a glorious display of free speech and assembly. Instead, he pisses himself while prattling about "mobs" and "tyranny."

Charles Lane hates America.

Posted by: Roger Ailes on February 20, 2011 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Why have an ethical compass when the other side pays so well?

All that it takes for evil to win is a few lies in the Post.

Posted by: Sparko on February 20, 2011 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

A lack of civility? According to several WI papers today, there have been no arrests at any of the protests in Madison, even with the rival protests on Saturday. The only "event" I have heard/read about was when a anti-union protester rushed some union supporters and pulled down their signs. The police were quickly called, tempers cooled and no arrests were made. I would say that these protests have manifested incredible civility toward a governor and Republican legislature that has shown no civility at all.

Posted by: Dr Cheese in WI on February 20, 2011 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Lane has an out he can play: He's been punked again by Stephen Glass.

Posted by: Larry Reilly on February 20, 2011 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Be hard on the problem and gentle on the people" What is so hard with that? There is an aspect of human nature that leans towards, "Shoot the Messenger". If your position lacks substance or support, then there is an inclination to go after the other side's proponents. Dehumanize them, vilify them, and even in some cases kill them. When this happens everyone loses. You end up with two armed camps, both trying to force their solution on the other side, usually to no avail. What should be criticized isn't lack of civility, it is allowing of personal attacks, vilification and threats to enter the debate. These should be roundly challenged by both sides. Only then can the issues be debated on their merits.

Posted by: Shivas on February 20, 2011 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

The double standard is transparent. Republicans get to use Koch funded flash mobs to deliberately disrupt Congressional town halls, but so organized opposition to conservatives with an obvious agenda means "liberals" aren't serious. Feh!

Posted by: Russell Aboard M/V Sunshine on February 20, 2011 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Would "Walker is a Communist/Fascist" meet with Mr. Lane's approval?
It's much more accurate since the one thing both those groups did immediately after taking power was to outlaw independent labor unions.
Which is what Gov. Walker is doing...

Posted by: Doug on February 20, 2011 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

I believe this is a Walker/Koch set up to destroy the American worker and remove the last vestiges of the labor movement. As Walker has indicated he believes what he has started will swept across America. I also believe that the public employees should divide themselves into several groups taking turns returning to work while also manning the ‘barricades’ with as many as can returning on the weekend. This may take a long time before it is over, and it must end in a victory for labor, working people of all types and our country. The democratic State Senators must stay away. They have shown great courage and should be treated as heroes.
In 1960, Fred C. Koch described the old Soviet Union as “a land of hunger, misery and terror”. Now his sons are attempting to turn America into their father’s failed Soviet state.
Here are a list of some of the products they profit from: Brawny, Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, Mardi Gras, Stainmaster carpets, Lycia fibers, oil products refined at Flint Hill Resources (refineries found in 6 states), fertilizers made by Koch Fertilizer, LLC; Koch Nitrogen Co., LLC; Koch Mineral Services, LLC and much more which they sell to other industries and corporations. As we all learn more please undate the list.

Posted by: iyoumeweus on February 20, 2011 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

It's my sincere hope that he'll give this some additional thought, and realize that this was an offensive mistake, worthy of an apology.

He won't. Not only that, if pressed on the matter he'll double down. Bet on it.

Posted by: Peter on February 20, 2011 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

The pearl-clutching about "civility" is a dead giveaway, Steve. Lane is a paid hack, nothing else.

Posted by: Tom65 on February 21, 2011 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Progressives, Democrats, labor -- we all need to learn from Republicans what the peaceful exercise of our First Amendment rights looks like. Whenever I think of "civility", I'm reminded of this
http://img524.imageshack.us/img524/1820/miamiriotersjpg.jpg

Posted by: NancyPinSF on February 21, 2011 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

You musn't have read Charles Lane's writing during the last two years. He's written screeds attacking everything from the individual mandate, electric and hybrid cars, to the rescue of the domestic automobile industry. He even hopped on the "death panels" bandwagon last year, not just in several blog posts, but in an Op-Ed that actually appeared in the print version of the Post. Don't let his past at TNR fool you. At this point, his commentary has become virtually indistinguishable from Charles Krauthammer's.

Posted by: atlasfugged on February 22, 2011 at 5:58 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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