Ben Johnson

Nation Magazine: Bring Back the Duels?

Posted on October 3 2009 6:25 am
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For weeks, the Left has lectured conservatives on the importance of decorum and civility, warning of mythical incitements that could lead to assassination. But this week a writer for the chief publication of the Left, Nation magazine, went on TV to tell Congressional leftists it was OK to equate opponents’ positions with the Holocaust and offered as normative the murder of Alexander Hamilton.

Ed Schultz, host of MSNBC’s “The Ed Show,” asked John Nichols of Nation and Jonathan Alter of Newsweek if Rep. Alan Grayson (whom he’d interviewed earlier) was “out of bounds” for likening opposition to socialized medicine with the Holocaust. Alter said this hate speech was appropriate on outlets like “The Ed Show” (in fact, it seems to be Ed’s only form of discourse) but Congressmen should “try to keep it civil on the floor. That’s the way the Founders wanted it, and that’s consistent with the traditions of the American republic.” He added Grayson need not apologize, since Republicans were vastly more guilty of hate speech than Grayson (without offering any examples).

John Nichols said Democrats “need a lot more of this” kind of rhetoric, then cited the murder of one of America’s great Founding Fathers, saying:

Nation Magazine's John Nichols defends hate speech with bad history.

Nation's John Nichols (left, naturally) defends hate speech with bad history.

Nichols: Let me remind Jonathan Alter as regards the Founders that the third vice president of the United States was in a duel and shot the secretary of the Treasury, I believe.

Alter: Yeah, but that wasn’t good! We’re not for that!

Nichols: That wasn’t good, Jonathan, but the Founders were not that into civility. And the fact of the matter is, there’s not only no need for apology, I think this is what you take to the floor.

The reference is bizarre on any number of fronts, which is presumably the reason Alter is so taken aback by it. The duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton was not only anomalous but one of the most tragic events in the Founders’ era. Aaron Burr was hardly a “Founding Father”; he was an egomaniac whose contributions to American life include the political campaign and perhaps an early seccessionist movement. By all accounts, Hamilton, who wrote most of The Federalist Papers, went to the duel under duress. He knew Burr to be an ambitious scoundrel who had trapped him, by the conventions of the day, into facing him in a duel or renouncing his most deeply held political convictions. (Think of it as a more extreme form of refusing to settle out-of-court.) In a letter to be delivered if he died, Hamilton wrote to his wife, Eliza, “If it had been possible for me to have avoided the duel, my love for you and my precious children would have been alone decisive. But it was not possible, without sacrifices which would have rendered me unworthy of your esteem.”

Hamilton deliberately wasted his opening shot, firing the first of two rounds above his head into a tree. This was the ritualistic way of denoting one had too much honor to contest a duel to the parting of soul and body. Burr aimed, fired, and killed Hamilton.

Nichols smears America’s Founders as bloodthirsty devils — a longstanding goal of the Left — and places Grayson’s extremist rhetoric on the side of the angels. The Left had a different view of dueling a few years ago, when it was mentioned by another individual.

Alter tried later to act as the voice of reason, only to be rebuffed by fire-breathin’ Ed:

Alter: Yeah, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr had a duel, but why do we have these traditions: “My distinguished colleague from South Carolina, the esteemed gentleman from Pennsylvania….

Schultz: We’ve got too many friends!

Nichols let the truth slip about why he wants more of this moral idiocy: he admitted Obama is “losing” the debate over socialized medicine. He offered a unique reason for why this may be the case: Democrats, he claimed, have “pulled punches for the better part of 8 or 9 months.”

Hmm, slurring average American protesters with a sexual term, calling them racists, lying about the signs they carry, and laying the bodies of 45,000 people a year at their feet because they refuse to kill even more through government rationing is “pulling punches,” eh? And the implicit message is, if all else fails, it’s permissible to take conservatives out into the woods and shoot them.

The reference to political violence was most fitting from a publication that hewed to the Stalinist line during the Thirties and apologized for the show trials. For the Left, it is always an option to abolish the people.

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