Being Nice Versus Being Honest
I wasn't a fan of the "death panel" terminology used by Palin. But can one argue that it wasn't effective? That it wasn't rooted in some semblance of reality? The answer to those are clear. And that speaks volumes.
Candour is when you tell a truth that is disturbing, in language so unambiguous that persons in polite company will not want to hear you. It is a way to lose the respect of the genteel -- of those who are "respectable" in the shallowest sense. Rude language is quite unnecessary to this end: the hard truth itself, spoken plainly and publicly, will give sufficient offence.Thuggery is unrelated to this. It consists not of candid argument but of naked intimidation. It may be done crassly -- for instance, by the union thugs who have begun to appear at U.S. townhall meetings, to confront opponents of the Democrats' health-care agenda. Or it may be done smoothly, with the politically correct gesture, that conveys the threat of later reprisal against anyone who utters the contrary, "incorrect" thought. A good example would be the "firstname.lastname@example.org" e-mail address that was set up on the official White House website, to which Obama supporters across the country were invited to report "fishy" opposition to that health-care agenda.
And "niceness" is something else again, usually allied with hypocrisy. For one can be very selectively nice -- outraged, scandalized, breathtaken with surprise, when Richard Nixon was caught compiling an "enemies list." Yet perfectly indifferent when Barack Obama advertises for input to compile his.
How many "nice" people I know, who casually asserted that a certain George W. Bush was mentally retarded, resembled a monkey, and was guilty of war crimes. Suddenly the same people have "had it up to here" with squalid personal attacks on his successor.
...Needless to say the proposals themselves had been couched in "feelgood" language, with public relations campaigns at the ready in case someone like Palin called a spade a spade. She did so in full knowledge of how that publicity machine would respond.
It is assumed she will be running for president on the redneck ticket. But as we saw last week, she does not need any office to get results. For after many nice legislators had condemned her for her "unreasonable" criticisms, the U.S. Senate finance committee this week dropped a key provision to which she had referred, from the House health-care bill before them. According to the ranking Republican member, it was dropped "because it could be misinterpreted or implemented incorrectly."
That's a very nice way of saying that Sarah Palin had a point. And it is a point that would have passed unnoticed, had she confined herself to "nice" language.