Toledo Blade: When, in 1968, a person on his campaign staff called President Lyndon Johnson a “baby killer,” Sen. Eugene McCarthy fired the name-caller.
The premise of calling the president a murderer was that the Vietnam War was wrong and the president was executing that war. Since a person who opposed the war was “right” and therefore virtuous, such a person was justified in demonizing the commander in chief.
The current penchant for demonization in American politics is not only rude and over the top, it is deeply destructive. If it continues, it will tear the nation apart. We must find a way to restore civility and what Gen. James Mattis calls an essential “friendliness,” in our common public life. We must be able, once again, to debate and disagree, even ferociously, and then be willing to, as the general says, share a root beer and a laugh together.
How do we get back to the friendship of adversaries – Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill, Richard Nixon and Jack Kennedy, Barry Goldwater and Mr. McCarthy?
First, by doing what those men did: getting to know each other by working together. There is no better example here than Sen. Rob Portman. He works at legislating, and he goes out of his way to work with liberal Democrats.
Second, by a revival of civic education. Only our new citizens know our Constitution and our system, because only they are required to learn it. It is not possible to truly love country, or countrymen, in a cloud of ignorance.