Age Of Rage: Tribe Calls McConnell “McTurtle” And A “Flagrant Di**head!”

President Donald Trump’s penchant for personal and derogatory remarks about his critics and opponents is well known. Many of us have objected to how Trump’s tweets and attacks have tarnished the Office of Presidency. He has already given insulting labels to various candidates in the Democratic primary. However, such attacks are not just confined to Trump. Yet, as academics, such incivility runs against our tradition of civility in discourse. It often can take no small amount of restraint, but name calling and ad hominem attacks achieve little beyond joining a race to the bottom. That level of restraint was lost this week by Laurence Tribe, a renowned academic and the Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard University. While name calling is now routine, this instance is notable, and alarming, from one of the nation’s leading academics.

Tribe went after Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) this week after McConnell promised to fill any Supreme Court vacancy in 2020. McConnell had led the blocking of the confirmation of Merrick Garland in 2016 by citing that fact that it was an election year. When asked what would happen if Republicans faced a vacancy in 2020, McConnell was adamant: “Oh, we’d fill it.” That was too much for Tribe who attacked McConnell in what many would view Trump-like postings.

Prof. Tribe ridiculed McConnell as “McTurtle” and said that his “middle, first and last names are “hypocrisy.” He then added “What a flagrant dickhead!” for good measure.

Other professors have engaged in the same low-grade name calling.

I certainly understand Tribe’s frustration but people of good faith, and particularly professors, need to try to restore civil discourse in our public debates. Otherwise reasoned debate will be replaced by mere ridicule. Democratic candidates have already started to return personal insults from Trump. That may be a way to appeal to the extremes of our politics but it will do little to convince people on the merits of these issues. Moreover, for those of us who do not want this to become the “new normal,” the participation of professors undermines our efforts. If we are going to avoid a race to the bottom, we need to show a degree to restraint in listening to what Lincoln called our “better angels.” That also means that we must at times call out those people who, despite our respect, yield to the temptation to engage in name calling and petty attacks.

57 thoughts on “Age Of Rage: Tribe Calls McConnell “McTurtle” And A “Flagrant Di**head!””

  1. I’m not familiar with Prof.Tribe’s earlier career, before he evidently lost his marbles.
    In fairness, maybe he ( at one point in his career) actually deserved recognition as a legal scholars.
    I can’t see that he’s helped his reputation in recent years with his antics.

  2. Let’s face it, nastiness and aggressiveness sell. “In your face” is the way to go today. Would Simon Cowell, Alex Jones, Janine Pirro, Tucker Carlson, Gavin McGinniss. Roger Stone (who threatened to harm someone’s dog), etc. be successful with a “calm and collective” demeanor?
    Try finding an article on Facebook or Twitter opposing Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, etc. without the poster using the “B” word or the “C” word.

    Keep in mind those aforementioned people are fueled up by a president who stated he would pay all legal bills for anyone who committed violence in his favor. Did Obama or Bill Clinton ever make bold, sweeping calls to promote violence in their behalves?

    This “trend” was started in the late 1980’s by a barely-known actor named Morton Downey, Jr. He (or his brain trust) would invite liberal “guests” on his show to be put in front of handpicked audiences of rabid, right-wingers looking for red meat. Also, keep in mind that Breitbart was started by a failed standup comedian

    You don’t win debates by presenting facts. You intimidate your opponents by attacking their gender, gender-preference, size, appearance, religion (or lack of it), mental or physical disability status, place of birth or income level This strategy worked perfectly for Trump. Do Democratic POTUS candidate needed more practice if they desire the same level of success?

      1. Try finding an article on Facebook or Twitter opposing Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, etc. without a poster using the “B” word or the “C” word.

  3. Laurence Tribe never fails to make me wonder what carnal acts he engaged in to be employed to teach law when he holds forth on politics. He absolved Obama of wrongdoing when Obama usurped the role of Congress to make law and violated Federal law, while producing reasons to impeach Republican presidents out of a dark, smelly place. If anyone can be safely ignored on questions of law where they intersect political controversies, it’s Laurence Tribe.

  4. I’ve called him “Turtle Head” for as long as I can remember, because he looks like a Turtle. A far Tribe is concerned, he’s just another angry, leftist, indoctrinated ….. who acts like a child.
    Teaching young minds, to live childish adulthood’s.

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