CBC Chair Cleaver: ‘I’m Right and You’re Evil’ is Damaging America

“We are in a dark place in this country right now, and the atmospheric condition is toxic.” — Rep. Cleaver

CLEAVER ON MEET THE PRESS. New Congressional Black Caucus Chair Emanuel Cleaver made his first Sunday talk show appearance on Meet the Press this morning.  Cleaver, unlike recent CBC Chairs is an assertive interview subject. During the health care debate in March 2010, Cleaver’s life was threatened by a man who called his residence in Washington DC and threatened to kill him. Cleaver was given special protection by local police in Missouri as he returned home days after the threat as the authorities in DC caught up to the phone caller.  Additionally, Cleaver was spat on by a Tea Party protester on the same day Reps. John Lewis and Andre Carson were called the N-word on their way to a vote on March 20, 2010.  With that, Cleaver has a bit of experience with what he called “a dark place in this country,” on Meet the Press this morning.

CBC Chair Emanuel Cleaver: All of us conduct those town hall meetings. I’ve done one every month since I’ve been elected–since I was elected, called–we call it Coffee with the Congressman.  And we must, in a democracy, have access to our constituents.  And I think what we are seeing, though, is, you know, the, the public is being riled up to the point where those kinds of, of, of events and, and opportunities for people to express their opinions to us are, are becoming a little volatile.  We have 435 members of Congress.  If you rank them in terms of volatility, Gabby is probably in the last one-half of 1 percent.

Cleaver this morning on Meet the Press

CBC Chair Emanuel Cleaver: We are in a dark place in this country right now, and the atmospheric condition is toxic.  And much of it originates here in Washington, D.C., and we export it around the country to the point that people come to Washington, they come to the gallery, and they feel comfortable in shouting out insults from the gallery.  We had someone removed last week shouting out some insult about President Obama’s birth.  I think members of Congress either need to turn down the volume, begin to try to exercise some high level of civility, or this darkness will never ever be overcome with light.  The, the hostility is here.  People may want to deny it.  It is real, and if we, and if we don’t stop it soon, I think this nation is going to be bitterly divided to a point where I fear for the, the future of our children.

CBC Chair Emanuel Cleaver: Well, first of all, let me thank Speaker Boehner.  I think this was the, the right move.  This was not the week for us to go into a seven-hour debate on something that is very divisive.

Cleaver on March 20, 2010

CBC Chair Emanuel Cleaver: I think that as soon as we can we need to come back to deal with the business of the, of the people.  But we, we ought to come back with a different attitude.  Congressman Frank mentioned earlier that, that we don’t know why this happened.  And I think and I agree with it.  It doesn’t matter, however.  This ought to be a wake-up call to, not only the members of Congress, but the people in this country, that we’re headed in the wrong direction.  Congress meets a lot, but it rarely comes together.  We are coming from, from two different points of view–which is a democracy and we ought to do that–but we, we come for the purpose of fighting.  And, and it’s, it’s entertainment, I guess, for the nation, for some.  But for some it, it gives them an excuse to exercise the bitterness that, that may be deep inside of them.  And we’ve, we’ve got to watch what we say, and we’re not doing it. It starts when–in campaigns.  You know, campaigns now are opportunities for people to say anything and do anything about one–to each other and about one another.  And I think it’s, it’s devastating, and it’ll probably get worse unless something dramatic happens.

CBC Chair Emanuel Cleaver: But–and I, I agree.  And, and, and Trent Frank and I are friends and we work together, you know, and I, I would be stunned if I, if, if I ever heard him shout out an insult.  That’s just not who he is.  But what has happened to the debate is one person or one side Republicans or, or Democrats, it doesn’t matter–they say, “I’m right and you’re evil.” And that is what’s damaging this country.