09/19/2011 12:29 pm ET | Updated Nov 19, 2011

They Can't All Be Idiots!

Today when politicians don't like what each other are saying they resort to calling each other idiots or worse. Recently Representative Joe Walsh (R-IL) called the President idiotic and said he would boycott the President's speech on jobs and the economy to Congress. Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) said, "And as far as I'm concerned, the Tea Party can go straight to hell." When questioned about these comments on TV, two commentators who often speak for their party, Mary Matalin for Republicans and Donna Brazile for Democrats, couldn't manage to condemn the members of their own party for saying outrageous things.

How do we expect to see more civility in public discourse if we don't ask our politicians to curb the temptation to insult those on the opposite side of the isle and condemn them if they don't. It is just too easy to look at someone you differ with, call them an idiot, and consider that you have ended the debate. Children do that but adults, especially ones that are role models and can impact our future, shouldn't.

Now the word idiot or worse may spring to my mind when I hear some of the inane things that Michele Bachmann has said, and I am sure that those in the Republican Party think the same of some Democrats. But the time has come to curb our tongues, keep those thoughts to ourselves, and show our children what it means to have a real debate. There will be people on both sides of the isle making themselves look and sound like idiots, but lets give the majority of the American people the credit for coming to that conclusion on their own without throwing it in their faces.

What has been lost in public discourse is the use of hard facts to make the point we want to get across. Part of the reason is that media outlets like Fox News and many blogs put out falsehoods as if they are true. Today, reporting is too often simply the restating of what someone else says without checking to see if the person had their facts right. And instead of reporters the American people are getting their so-called news from talking heads on TV who have made up their minds where they stand on issues and then either slant the facts or leave out the ones that are inconvenient to their point of view and many people think they are actually getting hard news.

In a debate if you really feel the other side is being so outlandish you want to make them look foolish there are ways to do it without calling them names. It is too easy to think and say, "I am right, you are wrong, so you must be an idiot." Recently I caught a YouTube video of conservative economist Ben Stein debating Bill O'Reilly over whether raising taxes on the wealthy would cost jobs. O'Reilly pontificated as he usually does, blustering about how if we raise taxes on the wealthy we will hurt job creation, using unproven statements to make his point. Then Stein gave his views with his set of facts and figures to prove that raising taxes on the wealthy doesn't impact job creation and showing how our most robust job and economic growth came in times of higher taxes. When O'Reilly wouldn't give in, Stein didn't call him an idiot but simply said, "If you can show me real numbers and proof of what you say I will eat your shoe". A funny line and O'Reilly couldn't respond and ended the discussion. Stein won the debate and O'Reilly looked like the word that Stein managed not to use. Really very effective.

If we can't have a serious debate on the issues that must be resolved so that we can move our economy forward, but rather have each side retreating to their corners, calling each other names and not be willing to give an inch, the American people will continue to suffer. It isn't enough to say a pox on both your houses because then nothing does happen. We actually need to find common ground if we are to put the American people back to work. We need to stop listening to the TV and radio pundits on the far right and far left who love to say outrageous things to boost their ratings but end up having a detrimental impact on what we really need to do and that is compromise.

Compromise isn't capitulation. There is a difference. When the President presented his American Jobs Act to Congress there was the beginning of a change in attitude when members of the Republican leadership said they liked some of it. That lasted all of a week until Speaker Boehner (R-OH) reverted to a position of no tax increases and said there could be no discussion on that issue. There has to be discussion and real debate on all issues or we don't move forward. The debate must be civil and it has to be taken to the American people. They need to be presented with the facts and figures to decide which plan, or the parts of a plan, they like best.

Having our politicians continue to take the stage and call each other idiots or worse will only poison the well more than it is already and lead to more of the chaos and dysfunction we have seen in Washington for the past few years. We can't afford that anymore.