Monday, May 11, 2009

Snarlin' Marlin Schneider

Rep. Marlin Schneider asked for it, and he got it.

From Dan Bice, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

When you've rightly earned the nickname "Snarlin' Marlin," it's probably not a good idea to start lecturing people about incivility.

But that's what state Rep. Marlin Schneider was planning to do.

In a recent e-mail to all of his legislative colleagues, the Wisconsin Rapids Democrat asked for help in putting together a piece on the subject.

"The uncivil state of political discourse in these times I alluded to earlier . . . has got me thinking that I'd like to write my monthly newspaper column on the topic," Schneider wrote last month. "Have any of you received recent correspondence that exemplifies this phenomenon?"

It's a legitimate topic.

The problem is Schneider himself provides examples of incivility in political discourse.

Within minutes, a staffer for state Sen. Alberta Darling fired back two nasty notes that his office had received in the past.

The first, written in 2005, was entitled "my final wishes":

"If I am ever found to be in a persistent vegetative state, void of all brain function, it is my profound wish that my loving wife, should I be fortunate (enough to) find another, with the support of my friends, prevent me from becoming a Republican leader in Congress."

The second, sent to all Wisconsin lawmakers just before Christmas 2003, was a lengthy rant about the supposedly contradictory things Republicans believe on such issues as Iraq, former President Bill Clinton and talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.

For instance, it said, Republicans think "being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers."

I suppose Schneider's tasteless e-mail about being in a persistent vegetative state relates to Terri Schiavo. It was in 2005 that there was national debate over Terri Schiavo's husband successfully fighting to have her dehydrated and starved to death even though she wasn't terminally ill.

Whether or not that case was the impetus for his Republican-bashing message, Schneider shows a remarkable lack of tact.

The message referring to Limbaugh, about Republicans thinking that "being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host," is also disturbing.

Schneider's history of nastiness certainly doesn't put him on the high ground. He's in no position to spearhead a movement to promote civility in political discourse.

What is Schneider setting out to do? Is he doing a sort of self-intervention? Is he trying to repent and reform himself?

Is this his "I have sinned" moment?

Is Snarlin' Marlin being a hypocrite, blind to his own offenses?

Schneider can't condemn others without being willing to admit to his own political incivility.

This is another illustration of how one's e-mail messages can come back to haunt an individual.

If you send it, it will resurface. An e-mail is forever.

..."I just never deleted them," said Jay Risch, the aide to Darling, a River Hills Republican. "Turns out it came in handy when a guy who routinely torches Republicans via e-mail then asks us to send him examples of uncivil e-mails."

But Schneider took the response in good humor.

"I guess what goes around comes around, huh?" he replied a day later to Risch.

I don't know if I'd call Schneider's response good-humored. When caught red-handed as an author of "nasty-grams," what else could he do but try to save face?

Moral of the story: Pot, beware of calling the kettle black.

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