I can’t believe James Hoffa said all those nasty things about Republicans the other day with Obama on the stage. Doesn’t that bother you? – Fawn Liebowitz
Not especially. Because I’m a grown man with a fully-developed life that exists outside the manufactured outrages of some faux news cycle. And I strongly suggest you look into getting one of those as well. Let’s review the facts:
1) Did James Hoffa call Republicans “sonsofbitches”? Yes.
2) Was Obama, who has called for the need for civility in our discourse, present as Hoffa advocated on his behalf with such remarks? Yes.
3) Is this on its face, hypocritical? Sure, why not.
4) Is Hoffa himself a sonofabitch? One could make a case.
5) Does it trouble me? No.
If you took all the hypocrisy out of politics, it would no longer even be politics. The entire edifice is built upon gassy, divisive rhetoric, unconvincing artifice, and hoping that the other side gets caught fudging worse than yours does. That’s the American way. And if my cynicism sounds complete, it’s because that’s what the system as currently constituted requires of me. In fact, I’ve always found it useful to think of politics as the British writer Ernest Benn framed it: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.” Stake your identity on it at your own peril.
Though that seems to be the problem these days, people internalizing this stuff way too much. The expletive hadn’t even left Hoffa’s lips before every conservative commentator within screaming distance let loose with blood-curdling indignation. Considering paranoid, hypersensitive leftoids will use any opportunity to portray overheated or even underheated Tea Partyish rhetoric as hate speech, this is understandable. So on the one hand, fair’s fair.
Still, I was troubled less by the sonofabitchiness of the comment, than by the New Conservative Crybabyism, in which my winger brethren have become as comfortable on the language-police beat as the left, which once had the market cornered on screechy political correctness, but sadly, no longer does. Whether incessantly caterwauling over sexism or bias or hurt feelings, the right has, with alarming regularity, started sounding as whiny and pussified as their ideological rivals. If you find that kind of company desirable, why be a right-winger at all? Why not just become an associate professor of semiotics and communication theory at Oberlin, or get your own show on MSNBC?
Did Hoffa sound like a union thug? Of course he did. He is a union thug. That’s his job. With declining membership and an ever-shrinking manufacturing base, the labor movement doesn’t have a lot left to offer. So let them have an off-color word or two as a rallying cry, to remind them of past glories and what relevance once felt like. But as my friend Jonah Goldberg, who was virtually alone among conservatives, pointed out on Fox, “We are in a really weird place where the head of the Teamsters can’t talk tough. I mean, I guess ex-cons are the only ones left who can still talk like men every now and then.”
So toughen up, crybabies and civility scolds. Even if you’re being those things under the guise of tit-for-tat. The whole point of picking sides is that you believe yours to be better. So here’s a wild suggestion: why not prove it by actually being better? All I hear about these days from Tea Party types is what a fight we’re in. And one could easily argue that we are. But if you want to go around getting into fights, sooner or later, you’re going to have to learn how to take a punch without bursting into tears.
Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” is now available in paperback from Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.