The Campaign Spot

Even the Worst Political Hacks Are People, Too

In the Jolt, some thoughts on the egregious mockery of Trig Palin over at Wonkette.

What the crew at Wonkette are arguing is that children are fair game. They deserve it, if you’re angry enough at the parents. The author, Jack Stuef, could just have easily written about Sarah Palin. He could have argued about her policies or any one of a million topics. He chose her child.

I hope when I reached my angriest, I’m not like this, and I hope you’re not like this either. I think it’s probably a good sign if you still see the other side as human beings, and you refrain from dismissing entire sections of the population as “parasites,” as Andrew Sullivan said of people who work on Wall Street this weekend. Here’s an example: Early in Obama’s first year, NBC did an hourlong prime-time special, entitled, “Inside the Obama White House.” Those who feared an hour of propaganda found plenty to object to in the program. But there were two moments that stuck with me. The first was David Axelrod, talking to Brian Williams about living several states away from his adult daughter who has, in his words, “profound problems with epilepsy,” and showing a painting she made that he keeps in his office. Then Rahm Emanuel talked about working in Washington while his wife and three children remained back in Chicago, not seeing them for weeks at a time. Apparently, even fire-breathing Rahm had days where he came into Axelrod’s office and talked about the difficulty of being away from his family for so long.  (This section of the program can be found here.)

Now, regular readers of this newsletter know that derision and mockery of David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel are pretty much standard fare. In their professional lives, Axelrod cynically exploited a way-too-friendly media to elect a fundamentally unprepared man to be president; if Rahm Emanuel were not protected by the “D” after his name, the table-stabbing, fish-sending anecdotes would be cited as evidence of him being a raving maniac, not merely a passionate, foul-mouthed operator.

But in those moments, you can see two men, working long hours and away from their loved ones and wondering if they’re making a mistake and sacrificing what matters most. They’re fathers and husbands. Human. With vulnerabilities and regrets and doubts. Somewhere in Chicago, there are children who miss their dads, kids who have never given you or me any reason to dislike them.

What’s striking about this is that we have people – quite a few people, I increasingly suspect – in the political world whose entire interaction is based on sticking it to the other side. This is what matters most to them. Vengeance, or lashing out, against their political foes is preeminent in their hierarchy of values, outranking everything.

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