Obama's Praiseworthy Notre Dame Address

On that we can agree. He wants to change the tone, and he calls for mutual respect. He wants civility!

The president -- let's call him that, even though a scornfully uttered surname was the most respectful appellation certain parties accorded his predecessor -- the president is praying for a "presumption of good faith" about his political opponents.

If his followers are listening and taking this seriously, Republicans are in for even more serious trouble.

Imagine a Left where MoveOn and Kos and Keith and all their spinners and yakkers suddenly turned rhetorically even-tempered. Imagine Carville as gentlemanly as Calvin Borel, or Howard Dean speaking with the calm, measured assurance of an NPR anchor.

Meanwhile, the Right would still be represented by (let's be honest now) shrill, antagonistic, accusatory, and sometimes downright snarling Savages and grating Great Ones. Double digit electoral votes for life my friends, that would be our fate.

When it comes to political rhetoric, we've got to go to school on this guy, this eloquent Mr. President. He's taking about style, saying he will argue with "passion and conviction," while still extending a "presumption of good faith" through "fair-minded words." We need to do that. We need to sound like that.

Note that on the abortion issue he tells the Notre Dame graduating class "at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable." Even though he will likely appoint three young Supreme Court justices who favor abortion rights, President Obama makes no false promise of utopian compromise, nor does he taunt opponents with anything like a triumphal "case closed." He makes a rough sketch of some common ground, but this was neither the time nor place for the untidy specifics of this particular issue.

President Obama correctly perceived that the only way he could honor his hosts and their graduating class was to speak with class. Generations of "Fighting Irish" have used Notre Dame to elevate themselves from street brawlers to the middle class. With this speech, the president is telling them to offer a handshake, not a fist, to opponents, and to speak with the fair-minded language of the educated class.

At a time when our politics have devolved into media-driven imbroglios, and where conflict equals ratings, this part of President Obama's Notre Dame speech resonates as a welcome call to civility. Let's hope and pray that many will heed his call, in the words of the Notre Dame Victory March, "what though the odds be great or small."