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Caprio: The final death knell of political civility?

It's just days until the election, and we've reached that inevitable point in the cycle when every American, Democrat or Republican, red or blue, left or right, longs for a little bit of peace.

Candidates' vicious attack ads blanket the airwaves and their negative comments at campaign stops takes on a fever pitch. Voters' online comments, already a vehicle for hate, boil over with poisonous bile. Many in the media, guilty of focusing too much on the biggest fights, ratchet up such coverage even more.

The apex of this biennial bout of incivility was reached Monday--though with six more days until the election, it may yet be topped--when Rhode Island Democratic gubernatorial candidate Frank Caprio said President Obama could take his endorsement and "shove it." Or actually, his lack of one. Caprio, the White House maintains, asked for an endorsement, but Obama chose not to give one to any of the candidates, out of respect to Caprio's independent opponent Lincoln Chafee, who has supported Obama in the past. As a result, Caprio was roundly criticized in last night's gubernatorial debate by his opponents--even those who oppose the president.

As he should have been. No matter how fight-hungry the media may be, no matter how vicious voters' comments can get, no matter how ugly the attack ads--long an accepted, if despised, forum for incivility in the electoral process--most people expect a certain amount of decorum from their leaders, even as it continues to dwindle in supply.

Caprio, who Republican opponent John Robitaille called out for behaving like a "petulant little child" and not respecting the president, is hardly alone in such behavior. The list of offenders is disturbingly long, though incidents like South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's "you lie" (cried during the president's 2009 address) comes to mind as the most notable. And lest we forget, similar outbursts are not a one-sided phenomenon; such behavior toward George W. Bush was all too commonplace.

I am hardly the first to mourn the loss of civility in the political sphere--its absence has become so expected, so complete, in our democratic process that bemoaning it feels trite and almost comical. Forgive me. I believe there is a line that Caprio and others like him cross where the attention they receive will hurt them and, ultimately, all of us as the process becomes further denigrated. Call me old fashioned, but I don't think it's too late to expect elected officials to meet a now very low bar of respect, civility and courtesy in order to be named leaders. If they aren't able to reach it, they don't deserve to be called one.

By Jena McGregor

 |  October 27, 2010; 11:55 AM ET |  Category:  Bad leadership , Federal government leadership , Government leadership , Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I was appalled at Caprio's comments. I'm a Rhode Islander living in Chicago and am embarrassed for my home state because of him. Hopefully the link works, but I was angry enough to post on his website's section for "Ideas for RI". Within minutes the post was deleted. So much for freedom of speech.

http://members.cox.net/blakeford1/caprio.JPG

Posted by: BlakeRodgers | October 27, 2010 5:06 PM

"God bless incivility, God bless anger, God bless vitriol. God bless anything that upsets libby libs and moves this country ever closer back to its founding."

"G-d bless anger and vitriol"? This "moves this country ever closer back to its founding." I doubt it. The founding fathers were thoughtful and compromised when necessary for the COMMON GOOD. That's what we need now.

Posted by: SilverSpringer1 | October 27, 2010 4:39 PM

You're absolutely right. In politics, we need more civility as well as a greater desire to govern for the COMMON good, not for one's "base."

Posted by: SilverSpringer1 | October 27, 2010 4:37 PM

How about some civility from Mr. Obama? His car analogy is getting tiresome, to say the least. What were the Democrats doiing during the Bush administration. Then to say that everyone who disagrees with him should go to the back of the bus. The Great Uniter....yeh, right!

Posted by: natalia9 | October 27, 2010 4:36 PM

When libby libs bemoan the loss of civility, what they're really saying is: "Conservatives (and any leftist who doesn't sufficiently tow the party line)--shut up." Attack ads, negative campaigning--libby libs invented these terms to deflect from the fact that most of the time it's simply telling the truth about libby libs. God bless incivility, God bless anger, God bless vitriol. God bless anything that upsets libby libs and moves this country ever closer back to its founding.

Posted by: kbarker302 | October 27, 2010 4:33 PM

You're right. Unfortunately, it's a visceral and anonymous media world -- the internet and mass anonymous donations for TV attack ads mean much more hiding, which makes it easier to spew much more hate.

Posted by: jbh3 | October 27, 2010 4:09 PM


wrw01011's public and disgraceful use of an ethnic slur in his post here shows little understanding of "civility". Would he use the "n" word as well? Where's the outrage?

His post clearly violates the Post's discussion policy and should be deleted. ("degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or other classification")

Posted by: johndrake2 | October 27, 2010 4:07 PM

Would you post here a listing of all the articles you wrote condemning the lack of civility toward Bush during his eight-year tenure? Sweetheart, you are a fraud. If you wanted to write about leadership, you could tell The One, the Supreme Leader, that telling citizens to shut up and get out of the way and not to listen to his critics, is not leadership. But go ahead and concern yourself with Caprio if you like. Your template is going along with the Progressive Movement to get along.

Posted by: chatard | October 27, 2010 3:46 PM

Let's face it, Ms McGregor only cares because Caprio (like Wilson) called out Obama. I would bet heavily that Ms McGregor never criticized anybody who was uncivil to Bush -- like, say, when Senator Reid called Bush a "loser" a few years ago.

To Leftists like McGregor, incivility consists of the act of criticizing Obama; it doesn't matter how the criticism is done.

Posted by: asudnik | October 27, 2010 3:35 PM

This as thugs supporting Rand Paul and Eric Cantor, physically attack opponents at their campaign events. In the week preceding the Rally For Sanity...

We have a frothing, badly misinformed segment of the public that wants a return to failed laissez-faire Bush policies, and will use any means to try to bring it back.

- Balkingpoints / www

Posted by: RField7 | October 27, 2010 3:29 PM

Who does this guinea think he is? In five years , Obama will be in the history books, and Caprio will be in jail.

Posted by: wrw01011 | October 27, 2010 3:02 PM

Let's start throwing shoes!

Disrespect started with the rise of the put party above country fool, Gingrich.

Posted by: debrawalt | October 27, 2010 2:53 PM

"...I don't think it's too late to expect elected officials to meet a now very low bar of respect, civility and courtesy in order to be named leaders."

For whom to expect? If you're referring to the voting public that engages in American idolatry by dancing with the stars and who have no interest in meeting the press this week with Christiane Amanpour then I suspect that you will be greatly disappointed. This is not the society where an insult is answered with a soft glove across the cheek; we now respond with a fold-up chair across the back and a piledriver into the concrete.

Civility? You might as well call for a return to chastity belts - there'd be more support for the latter than the former...

Posted by: Keystroke | October 27, 2010 2:46 PM

I hope Frank Caprio loses and loses big. If he'll say and do the things he has done publicly, what will he do behind closed doors? Yikes!

Posted by: peterpan1 | October 27, 2010 2:09 PM

THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS THAT JOE WILSON WAS RIGHT. OBUMA IS A GREAT FOR NOT TELLING THE TRUTH. MANY OF THE CLAIMS THAT HE HAS MADE ON THE TRAIL ABOUT THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY HAVE BEEN LIES. THE PROBLEM IS THAT HE TELL SO MANY FALSEHOODS THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO KEEP TRACK OF THEM.THE PEOPLE HE IS USUALLY SPEAKING TO ARE TO BLIND TO EVEN INVESTIGATE WHAT MAYBE THE TRUTH. WHAT IS WRONG WITH A PERSON SPEAKING HIS MIND SO LONG AS IT DOES NOT CAUSE ANOTHER PERSON HARM? PERHAPS IF THOREAU HAD EXPERIENCED THE DEPRAVITY OF THIS WHITE HOUSE AND ITS POLITICS HE NEVER WOULD HAVE MADE THE STATEMENT.

Posted by: MALBENNET | October 27, 2010 2:08 PM

No, I disagree 100% and let this person know how wrong it was for him say to our President of the United States to stick it up his azz.

However, if he wins it shows how much Americans really are American enough to allow such a person disrepect our great leader.

Posted by: weaverf | October 27, 2010 2:03 PM

Like the low standard our president has been displaying? Since I am a taxpaying, hard working Republican American who disagrees strongly with Obama, I should "sit in the back" as Obama would say? Yes, ALL politians need to show more civility, starting with the man who lives in the Whitehouse.

Posted by: mmourges | October 27, 2010 1:59 PM

I think it was Thoreau that said, "Just because you have the right to say something doesn't mean that saying it is right."

Posted by: bucinka8 | October 27, 2010 1:57 PM

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