I'm really dating myself here, but years before Fox News and all of the other political shoutfests even existed, I used to watch a TV program called Crossfire. Airing nightly on CNN back in the 1980s and 1990s, Crossfire was perhaps the primodial political shouting match. And it featured two hosts, one each "from the left" and "from the right," as the opening announcer intoned.
The regulars were liberal Mike Kinsley and conservative Pat Buchanan. Kinsley, then as now, was very smart but invariably mild-mannered. He seemed perpetually overmatched by the louder and more pugnacious Buchanan. I must confess that I loved Crossfire the most when Kinsley was away. Those nights, CNN usually had Democratic strategist Bob Beckel fill in. And mild-mannered, Beckel assuredly was not. He could easily go toe-to-toe with Buchanan.
I remember one night most vividly when Buchanan had clearly incensed Beckel. Beckel simply exploded, and unloaded on Buchanan with such intensity that Buchanan, yes Pat Buchanan, physically recoiled and shrunk into his seat in fear. At that moment, with Pat Buchanan throughly shut up, this liberal felt as if he had died and gone to heaven. Beckel's performance that night convinced me that we on the left needed our share of angry loudmouths, too.
That night, now probably at least two decades old, came back to the fore recently watching the controversy unfold around Teamsters chief James Hoffa. In introducing President Obama in Detroit on Labor Day, Hoffa fired up the crowd. Referring to the tea party movement, he declared, "Everybody here's got to vote. If we go back and we keep the eye on the prize, let's take these sons-of-a-bitches out and give America back to America where we belong!" Conservatives were immediately in an uproar.
Anger, in politics as in life, is a funny thing. Expressed in the wrong way, it can make you look like a hothead and certainly get you into a lot of trouble. But sometimes you need a little anger, expressed in the right ways, just to stand up for yourself and avoid becoming a doormat. After all, even the Dalai Lama is capable of defending himself and his countrymen when sufficiently provoked. When the Chinese invaded Tibet, His Holiness didn't just sit there and let the Red Army sack his homeland. He sent an army of Tibetans out to the frontier to fight back in what became a bloody battle. Thousands lost their lives.