Everyone has weighed in and it’s pretty much unanimous: the President hit it out of the park last night. Glenn Beck said it was “probably the best speech he has ever given.” Pat Buchanan called it “splendid.” A U.S. News and World columnist called it “Reagan-esque.”

Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post said the speech “seemed not to come from a speechwriter’s pen, but from the heart.”  Gail Collins joined a larger chorus who said the speech was transformation in his presidency adding,  “Maybe President Obama was saving the magic for a time when we really needed it.”
As much as anyone, I want to believe.  I want to believe there can be passionate and more civil political debate, one where there’s fighting and horse trading and deal-making and compromises and we all move the country forward.  Yes, I want to believe  the cynical political stand-off is over.  We are all sick of it.   Turns out, we’ve been sick of it for a very long time.
Obama is just the latest in a long line of presidents calling for a return to civility.
Have Some Fun:  See If You Can Source This!

WASHINGTON — Continuing his effort to claim the political center, (the candidate) pledged Wednesday to ”change the tone of Washington.”

(The candidate) blamed both parties for what he called ”eight years of excessive partisanship and finger-pointing.”

”The  administration has been the most relentlessly partisan administration in our nation’s history,” (the candidate ) charged in a speech to a lavish political fund-raising dinner here. ”But sometimes some in our party have responded in kind. Americans have seen a cycle of bitterness: an arms race of anger. The legacy is cynicism, a generic distrust.”

(The candidate) said he would break that cycle by setting ”a different tone” that restores ”civility and respect to our national politics.” He also promised to welcome ideas from ”conservatives and moderates and New Democrats.”


That latter reference was especially striking because it refers specifically to the centrist ”New Democrat” movement that has been a critical source of ideas for both President Clinton and Gore.. In a measure of his efforts to reposition his party, (the candidate) has recently moved closer than Gore to the positions of the Democratic Leadership Council — the principle New Democratic organization — on a series of issues led by entitlement reform and health care.

Aides to Gore dismissed the call for a more civil political tone as hypocritical, noting that (the candidate) has repeatedly attacked the vice-president’s honesty and integrity during the campaign.


Here is the original Los Angeles Times headline, date and author.

Reaching out to center, Bush urges return to civility

Posted: Thursday, April 27, 2000
Ronald Brownstein
Los Angeles Times

“Return to Civility” was also  a theme of  Bush’ 2001 inaugural address in which he define it as such: “Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos. And this commitment, if we keep it, is a way to shared accomplishment.”

“Civility” is just one of those concepts that “civilized” people cannot argue or impeach. Personally, I’m a complete sucker for the ideal and I have a variety of my own expanded definitions, the simplest of which is “I know it when I see it.”

I hope I’ll see it stick around this time.