Swindle: The two Irishmen

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Sometimes, I am speechless where I hear the tone and “low road” approach to issues affecting our country today.

For example, I recently commented on a thread about the inappropriate, illegal and embarrassing acts of the city manager in Camilla when he locked the newly elected mayor out of his office. (According to numerous news reports).  While I condemned this action, I was shocked when I read the other comments and responses to my post.   This example does not apply to the many good men and women who serve the public and the millions of people who refuse to lower themselves to such depths.  But, this trend of partisan ferocity and acceptance of uncivil behavior is unhealthy and potentially dangerous.  This applies to the right, left and otherwise. Things have not always been this way in America. Vigorous debate over the role of government has been going on since the founding of this constitutional republic. But, at least publicly, the debate and the impassioned battle of ideas seems to have been waged with a much higher degree of civility.  After I saw the posts, I read a column by Chris Matthews, who is not my favorite television host.  But, he provided the best example of fierce warriors with opposing viewpoints who treated one another with dignity and respect. The warriors were also friends. The two men he wrote about were President Ronald Reagan and Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill.

Reagan was the man with black hair from California who possessed strong conservative convictions. O’Neill, the white-haired statesman from Massachusetts, was the liberal Speaker of the House for many years. Matthews wrote, “Over three decades ago, Reagan went to the Capitol to deliver the State of the Union address. His designated ‘holding room’ was the speaker’s ceremonial office just off the House floor.” Matthews was a senior aide to the speaker, and wanted to lighten the mood. “Mr. President, welcome to the room where we plot against you,” he said. “Oh, no, not after 6,” Reagan replied. “The speaker says that here in Washington we’re all friends after 6.”

For years, the two Irishmen engaged in tough partisan competition. But, there was something the American people liked about their battles. Voters saw these political heavyweights jousting over ideas and dealing with each other as worthy opponents. The story shows how public servants can recognize their shared humanity, despite their philosophical differences.

Jason W. Swindle Sr. is a Senior Partner and Criminal Defense Attorney at Swindle Law Group in Carrollton.