If you haven’t yet heard the opinion of Hank Williams, Jr., regarding the “relationship-building” golf game between President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), here’s the transcript (or a reasonable attempt at one) from his appearance on “Fox and Friends” (hosted by Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson, and Brian Kilmeade):
Williams: “You remember the golf game they had, ladies and gentlemen? … That was one of the biggest political mistakes ever.”
Doocy and Kilmeade: “Why?”
Williams: “That turned a lot of people off. You know, watching, you know — it just didn’t go over. It didn’t go over.”
Carlson: “You mean when John Boehner played golf with President Obama?”
Williams: “Oh, yeah, yeah. And Biden and Kasich. Yeah, uh-huh.”
Carlson: “What did you not like about it? It seems to be a really pivotal moment for you.”
Williams: “Come on, come on. That’d be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu, OK?”
Williams: “Not hardly. In the country this shape is in? The shape this country’s in, I mean.”
Kilmeade: “So, yeah. I don’t understand that analogy, actually.”
Williams: “Well, I’m glad you don’t brother, because a lot of people do. You know, they’re the enemy, they’re the enemy.”
Kilmeade: “Who’s the enemy?”
Williams: “Obama! And Biden. Are you kidding? The Three Stooges.”
Doocy: “That’s only two.”
In the midst of this diatribe, there is actually a legitimate point that’s worth paying some attention to.
No, it’s not calling Obama and Biden “the enemy” on par with Adolf Hitler, that’s just name-calling and demonizing.
Nor is it the irony of Williams making the biggest political mistake of his life while trying to outline someone else’s “biggest political mistake” (I guess he’s really not going to be running for Senate in 2012 now, is he?).
And, no, it’s not Williams naming only two people to fill the roles of the Three Stooges (really, it took more than three people to play them).
It’s not even the question, “Hitler and Netanyahu? Who fills out that party of four?”
No, the good point to be extracted from all this has to do with phoniness.
Our political leaders routinely demonize one another. I’ve catalogued many instances of that on this blog (though not even close to a fair fraction of the total). Democrats and Republicans routinely say that the other side is actively, intentionally trying to destroy the country. This might not be said with quite the same vitriol as the anti-Semitic rhetoric that came from Hitler and the Nazis, but it’s not completely dissimilar, is it? Each side describes the other as a hateful enemy, and then, from time to time, they pal around, either by playing golf together, or telling jokes at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. They present themselves as getting along with one another.
This is phony. You can’t describe your opponents as the Devil and then be amicable with them. You can’t describe someone as Hitler and then treat them like your favorite uncle. Either the name-calling is fake or the appearance of friendliness is.
Really, this is just part of a larger charade in which politicians act outraged at any name-calling and incivility that comes from their opponents, while being quite content with any name-calling and incivility directed at their opponents from their own side. The call for civil debate is something that only applies to the other side, you see. It’s only those blood-sucking Nazis out to destroy the country who need to rein in their rhetoric, right?
It’s a shame that Williams said so much else beyond this, because it obscured some good lessons about golf: First, don’t play golf with your enemies. And, second, if you can tolerate someone enough to play golf with them, then admit that they’re not your enemy, and don’t describe them as one.