When did bluster and rudeness begin to supplant reasonable discourse and responsive answers? It seemed shocking in 2008 when Sarah Palin during the vice-presidential debate with Joe Biden looked squarely into the camera and said "I'm not going to answer the question, (posed by moderator Ifill} I'm going to speak directly to the American people." When did that ever pass muster before? Were there no guidelines about the way the debate would be conducted? In the end, Palin winked and was gone with nary a rebuke from either side.
That may not have been the first departure from the rules of the game, but it was a hint of what was to come. Increasingly rude and disrespectful behavior has seemingly become acceptable since President Obama was elected. The right wing, having more or less successfully defined Obama as "the other," wantonly discarded manners and respect for the office of the president and the man himself because, well just because. Now what, as Bill Maher queried, could possibly explain such behavior after the election of our first black president - something of a proud moment for our democracy but an opportunity for ridicule among the under-educated, partisan-riddled likes of Tea Party elites.
Perhaps more shocking than the "you lie" outburst from Representative Joe Wilson during the president's state-of-the-union speech in 2009 was the fact that he was rewarded by supporters with a fundraising surge. One might have thought everyone on all sides would have been embarrassed by such disrespect from what in other cultures might have been called a "back-bencher." Not so these days when odd and disrespectful behavior has been countenanced by Fox News and others accompanied by laughter and derision as if there were no portentous matters worthy of discussion.
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