Pawlenty: We Don't Want to Deter Free Speech

Was the suspect's violent behavior stoked by today's political climate? Most Americans say no. A CBS News poll out Tuesday shows 57 percent say that had nothing to do with the Arizona shootings.

Just the same, nearly half say the discourse has become less civil than it was 10 years ago.

CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric spoke with former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, a potential Republican contender for the presidency, about the role political figures play.

Tim Pawlenty: "There's a term for that in politics. They say, "Go out and give them the red meat." And so, it's…think of that imagery of dangling raw meat in front of, you know, the predator. But all of us, in the case of the politicians, I don't think we want to get to a point where we're deterring or chilling free speech or passion or enthusiasm or the kinds of things that fuel grassroots politics…

Katie Couric: "Or principles."

Pawlenty: "…activities or principles. So that's not what I'm saying. I want to be clear about that. I'm just saying you can express yourself firmly and passionately and with conviction. But you don't need to do it in a way that demeans others."

Washington Post political columnist E.J. Dionne agrees it's time to lower the volume.

E.J. Dionne: "I don't think we need to draw any straight line between the discourse and what happened in Arizona to have second thoughts about the discourse. We've had a lot of violent talk in our politics and if nothing else this event should tell us that it's not so much that those words have consequences, although perhaps they do. Violence is not part of democracy. Violence is antithetical to democracy. And so whether or not the discourse had anything to do with causing [the shooting in Tucson], this ought to make us want to change our way of talking anyway."

Couric: "Will it, though? Is this really going to change anything?"

Dionne: "It may change us. I hope it changes us. It's 50 years ago next week that President Kennedy gave that great Inaugural Address in which he said, 'Civility is not a sign of weakness.' And I always loved that line, because 'civility' sounds like such a weak virtue. But it doesn't mean you don't have strong opinions. It doesn't mean you don't argue. It doesn't mean you compromise on everything. What it means is you don't hate the person you disagree with. You don't think the person you disagree with is stupid. You certainly don't threaten violence against the person you disagree with. That's what we need to rediscover. Civility defined like that."
  • Katie Couric

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