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Hug or heresy? The left's attack on Dianne Feinstein is a sad sign of our times

Hug or heresy? The left's attack on Dianne Feinstein is a sad sign of our times
© Greg Nash

At the conclusion of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettOvernight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision Supreme Court unanimously sides with Catholic adoption agency that turned away same-sex couples MORE to the Supreme Court, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinProgressive groups ramp up pressure on Feinstein Youth climate activists march outside California homes of Pelosi and Feinstein Cosmetic chemicals need a makeover MORE (D-Calif.) approached Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden support, gas tax questions remain on infrastructure This week: Senate set for voting rights fight MORE (R-S.C.) and exchanged words of respect for the way in which the hearing was conducted. Their exchange ended in a mutual hug of friendship and collegiality.

No sooner did the embrace end than the storm began.

Some Democrats decried Feinstein’s show of respect as a sign of weakness and heresy. There was no stauncher opponent to the hearings and to the probable confirmation of Judge Barrett than Sen. Feinstein — yet, when the battle was over, the combatants sought to beat their swords into plowshares and agree to fight another day.

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The hysteria over one senator’s act of kindness and mutual respect for another was proof positive of the venomous hyper-partisanship that exists today, mainly from the political left. Just take a look at the headlines that appeared within hours of the now infamous hug:

The Guardian: “‘She represents the past’: a Senate hug symbolizes California’s Dianne Feinstein fatigue.”

Slate: “Oh good, Dianne Feinstein concluded the Barrett hearings by giving a maskless Lindsey Graham a hug.”

Fox News: “NARAL becomes latest group to slam Feinstein after Graham hug.”

The Hill: “Feinstein’s hug of Lindsey Graham sparks outrage on the left.” 

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Republicans did not rise up in outrage over the hugging episode. In fact, no one gave it a second thought because that kind of behavior should be expected and applauded, not demonized. The hug was not a surrender or a sign of weakness on Sen. Feinstein’s part; it was a sign of strength and decorum by her. Legislators live to fight another day; that is how statesmen should comport themselves.

What has happened to civility in our society? For the answer, look no further than to the example that is set by those who lead our country. When it becomes out-of-bounds to compromise, to show respect or to behave with manners, then we can only blame ourselves for the debasement of social norms and decency.

Compromise has become a four-letter word on Capitol Hill and in party politics — and civility has become a sign of weakness.

Think about it: Life demands compromise, and we all do it every day. We do it at work, we do it with our families, we do it with our neighbors, we do it with the choices we make daily. Civility is a requirement of daily living as well. Mutual respect is the cornerstone for success in America. So, if we must compromise in our daily lives and we must conduct our affairs with civility and mutual respect for one another, why then are government and party politics the exception? It does not make sense.

Now is the time for citizens to demand a return to civility, compromise and mutual respect in our elected officials, regardless of party affiliation. The challenges America faces are not exclusively Republican or Democratic problems — they are America’s challenges. And the solutions for many of our problems are not exclusively Republican or Democratic, either. It is about time that we followed the Constitution as written and not try to amend it by tradition. When we stray from the Constitution, that is where our problems begin.

Democrats know full well that, had the shoe been on the other foot with regard to a vacancy on the Supreme Court, they would have done exactly the same thing that Republicans have done and that is to fill the seat as soon as possible. The president is fully within his constitutional authority to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, and Democrats know it. Democrats’ hatred for this president is so pervasive, corrosive and divisive that even a hug can be seen as a surrender.

Government needs to lead by example. We need to play by the rules, to fight for what we believe, to respect each other’s opinions and, when the battle is over, to unite with a common purpose.

I say: More hugs and fewer thugs.

Bradley A. Blakeman was a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004. He is a principal of the 1600 Group, a strategic communications firm.