Thomas and Maddow Give A Lesson in Class

A pundit makes a nasty remark on the spur of the moment. He is ashamed of himself and apologizes to the target of the insult, who graciously accepts.

Props to Cal Thomas for coming clean, and to Rachel Maddow for being big enough to accept the apology.

But it’s sad that basic civility has become breaking news in our political discourse these days.

h/t James Joyner


  1. Mark Kleiman says

    Yes, this is to Thomas’s credit.

    But it seems to me that the telling aspect of the story is one he doesn’t mention: the CPAC crowd loved it. No one in a “pro-life” crowd protested at Thomas’s expressed wish that Rachel Maddow and all her colleagues had never been born. None of his fellow-conservatives called him out on it in print or the electronic equivalent.

    Thomas suggests that his lapse from good taste and good manners was due to demonic possession. I think he’s joking. But, though the epidemiology of possession is poorly understood, it’s thought to be contagious. Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

    • Mark Kleiman says

      Here’s the clip if you want to see the original remark, and the positive reaction from the crowd and the other people on the panel:

  2. Bruce Wilder says

    Thomas’s column is eloquently unqualified in its expression of regret. The headline uses the term, “civility”, and attaches a first-person possessive pronoun, but Thomas, in his text, does not; though he refers to “name-calling” in the abstract, it is the hypocrisy of a pro-lifer wishing someone unborn, to which he calls specific attention.

    Civility is a weak reed, at best, in a democracy, and, like honor, too often a mask for a society, which has given up democracy for something else.

  3. politicalfootball says

    Eh, I’m not impressed. Not with the insult, not with the apology.

    It didn’t matter that far worse things have been said in print and on TV about me.

    Well of course it didn’t matter, unless it was Maddow who insulted him. Why even bring it up? It would have been a bit more relevant if he’d said: “It didn’t matter that Maddow is routinely subject to worse insults.” But his point here is that he’s better than those insulting liberals.

    Bruce is right that civility, in this context, is a mask. Preferring that someone hadn’t been born is pretty weak, as far as insults go. Thomas chose to highlight that insult and the apology because it hides his routine barbarism.

    • says

      I disagree. I think he’s referring to the normal partisan tactic of excusing every horrible thing that your own side did with the claim (often false, but sometimes true) that the other side is worse.

      He’s saying it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if someone has compared Cal Thomas to Hitler or said that he drinks the blood of Jewish babies or said that he’s worse than Jeffrey Dahmer. It doesn’t matter what anyone on the left says about me, it is wrong for me to say what I said about someone on the left.

      Because if he doesn’t say this, that would inevitably be the reaction of many conservative partisans.

  4. Michael says

    I think he is just hoping to get one of those “Crossfire” type shows with Rachel. Hope it doesn’t happen – he is not in her league.

  5. says

    An old dog raising its leg to piss on the pansies one more time and hoping to set the wasps a-buzzing…

    If it seems to happen more today than ten years hence, I suggest we turn to David Frum (When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?) for an explanation:

    Extremism and conflict make for bad politics but great TV. Over the past two decades, conservatism has evolved from a political philosophy into a market segment. An industry has grown up to serve that segment—and its stars have become the true thought leaders of the conservative world. The business model of the conservative media is built on two elements: provoking the audience into a fever of indignation (to keep them watching) and fomenting mistrust of all other information sources (so that they never change the channel). As a commercial proposition, this model has worked brilliantly in the Obama era. As journalism, not so much. As a tool of political mobilization, it backfires, by inciting followers to the point at which they force leaders into confrontations where everybody loses, like the summertime showdown over the debt ceiling. But the thought leaders on talk radio and Fox do more than shape opinion. Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics. Outside this alternative reality, the United States is a country dominated by a strong Christian religiosity. Within it, Christians are a persecuted minority. Outside the system, President Obama—whatever his policy ­errors—is a figure of imposing intellect and dignity. Within the system, he’s a pitiful nothing, unable to speak without a teleprompter, an affirmative-action ­phony doomed to inevitable defeat. Outside the system, social scientists worry that the U.S. is hardening into one of the most rigid class societies in the Western world, in which the children of the poor have less chance of escape than in France, Germany, or even England. Inside the system, the U.S. remains (to borrow the words of Senator Marco Rubio) “the only place in the world where it doesn’t matter who your parents were or where you came from.”

    • Ed Whitney says

      Frum nailed it.

      Bumper sticker version: Yesterday’s conservatism was made for governing; today’s conservatism is made for television.

  6. Newsouthzach says

    I just love the casual way in which he mentioned that he might have been possessed by a demon when he made the offending comment.

  7. CDW says

    Thomas seemed to be more concerned about his own image than he did about any hurt he might have caused. Maddow was gracious to accept his apology, regardless.

    • says

      Being concerned with your own image is not inconsistent with being contrite.

      If you say something you shouldn’t say in a public form, (1) you SHOULD be concerned about your image, especially if you are a public figure, and (2) you should be contrite.

      Compare Thomas to someone like Ann Coulter, who never seems to be either.