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July 30. 2011 8:30PM

Shaheen’s civility: It has its limits

In an op-ed column in this newspaper back in April, in the aftermath of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen wrote these words: “Too much of our political debate in New Hampshire, as well as in Washington, on both sides of the aisle, has become an exchange of insults and slanders more appropriate to reality television than a legislature. It has to stop.”

Last week, Shaheen was being interviewed by the ever-so-civil Chris Matthews when he maligned many of Shaheen’s own constituents by using the term “crazy Tea Party people.” Did she correct him? Did she object to the term? No, she smiled and nodded knowingly.

The debt limit debate has enraged the political left, and that anger is being taken out on Tea Partiers, who are being insulted ad nauseum for merely insisting that spending cuts be made in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. For that audacity, they are being called “crazy” and “insane” on a daily basis. Shaheen, champion of civility, nods her head in agreement.

In a fund-raising email in June, Shaheen wrote of the “right-wing fringe of the Republican Party who want to turn back the clock” on same-sex marriage and voting rights. “Already, New Hampshire has seen Tea Partiers and Free Staters vote to defund Planned Parenthood, curb the voting rights of young people, and now they want to repeal our landmark marriage equality law.”

Aside from simply not understanding her own state (Free Staters tend to be libertarian, and thus for same-sex marriage), Shaheen casts those who disagree with her as members of the radical fringe and deliberately miscasts their motives as sinister.

“I’ve always tried to be civil. And I try not to get personal,” Shaheen said last year in response to a New Hampshire Public Radio listener’s question about civility in politics. Except when it comes to those crazy Tea Partiers, apparently.


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