Civility in politics

by | Feb. 24, 2010

Everything Else

On Feb. 3, the day before the National Prayer Breakfast, Christian PR man Mark DeMoss had a 40-minute meeting with Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Barack Obama, and Joshua DuBois, the director of Obama's faith-based office. The subject of the meeting: civility.

DeMoss was an unlikely visitor to the West Wing. The staunchest of conservative Republicans, his most famous client is Franklin Graham, who once quizzed Obama on the nature of his Christian faith. DeMoss worked for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in 2008, endeavoring to build bridges between the Mormon candidate and the conservative evangelicals who have traditionally formed such a powerful part of the Republican base. And it was this PR effort—the pitching of the Mormon politician to Christian voters—that showed him just how uncivil political discourse had become. "A lot of the attitudes and rhetoric aimed at Mormons from fellow evangelicals, and at me for backing a Mormon, were pretty ugly. And while I couldn't be more different politically from Obama, I was bothered by the rhetoric about him from conservatives and evangelicals and people who didn't like him."

So DeMoss got to work on the Civility Project, which he launched last year and is nothing more than a kind of Boy Scout pledge to be respectful in public, even to political opponents. To aid him in the cause, DeMoss enlisted the help of Lanny Davis, a notorious Democratic spinmeister and onetime chief counsel in Bill Clinton's White House. During the 2008 campaign, Davis had been a ubiquitous surrogate for Hillary Clinton, and after she bowed out DeMoss, who had never met Davis, wrote the Democrat a mash note. "I am a conservative evangelical and a Republican, and I suspect that politically you and I have little in common," it said. But "in an increasingly polarized political context and country, you have always been gracious, soft-spoken, thoughtful and respectful of your opponents."

Read the rest of this story at newsweek.com
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