James Hoffa Jr., the president of the Teamsters, is being excoriated by conservatives for his remarks at a Labor Day event. He told the crowd awaiting President Obama: “President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let’s take these sons of bitches out and take America back to an America where we belong.” Tea Party groups are calling for Hoffa to resign. (Why — isn’t he precisely what the Teamsters want?) Other conservatives are demanding that Obama (who wasn’t there for the remarks) apologize, while the head of the DNC doesn’t want to talk about it.
But here is the thing: A great many conservatives who find Hoffa’s thuggish remarks objectionable defended Texas Gov. Rick Perry when he called Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s monetary policy “treasonous” and said that if he came to Texas, it could get “ugly.” There isn’t much of a difference between how Hoffa and Perry came across.
And this is precisely why Perry should refrain (as he certainly has done since the Bernanke remark) from talking like a union thug. He’s running for the presidency of the United States against an incumbent whom conservatives claim to be overly partisan. So it really would help if he (and the other candidates) sounded, well, presidential. There is a difference between leading a Tea Party rally (which Sarah Palin did in Iowa on Saturday) and sounding presidential (which she didn’t).
Even if you think civility in and of itself is not a virtue, isn’t it tactically better not to sound like a Teamster? Well, of course. And I think Perry is a smart enough politician not to repeat his error.
The most effective Republicans present conservative ideas, even very innovative ones, without scaring voters and conveying a lack of seriousness. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) responded in a very bold way to the president’s State of the Union address, but did so in a tone and manner that projected soberness. He was trying to persuade not to incite.
But what about those in the right blogosphere who generally excused Perry’s excessive language and now are wagging their fingers at Hoffa? Well, they don’t look very credible, do they? This is a good example in which overeager boosters do themselves and their chosen candidate no favors. The right-leaning bloggers and talk show hosts would do better to do less circling of the wagons and more exhortation of candidates to live up to a standard that they, the Republican base and the country can be proud of. Otherwise they are creating a conservative bubble not unlike the one they perceive around Obama, which in the end, translates into a tone-deaf pol.