Democratic leader Howard Dean just said this on TV:
"We are going to be civil ... Unlike the Republicans."
The fact that this claiming of civility is immediately followed by a jab at his enemies makes me interpret both the statement and the smirk on Dean's face as an instance of a politician projecting his methods onto his opponents.
We are not going to be able to return to civil discourse until we get people who realize that the incivility is coming from the foundations of the modern system of reasoning. It is not just a matter of those Republicans lacking civility.
In my modern liberal schooling, I had learned to attack my enemies by creating an undercurrent of subtle barbs in their direction. The constant assault of subtle jabs, however, eventually closes off discourse.
Everything I have seen of Bush 1 and Bush 2 is that the Bushes are primarily civil. The main fault I see in George Bush is that he instinctively deflects the constant bombardment of subtle jabs with Bushisms. That is not incivility. It might be insecurity. More likely, it is a studied method that the Bush's have developed to thrive in an era when the foundations of discourse have been eroded. Unfortunately, the method shuts off one's ability to engage in discourse.
The years of Bush rule has been so frustrating for most of the Conservatives and Classical Liberals that I know because Bush has failed to engage the world in the good ideas that the Conservatives and Classical Liberals have.
I doubt we will see a new age of civility in Washington. I think it will be a question of whether the Democrats decide to continue the barrage of subtle barbs, or if they blossom into two years of loud criticism in the style of Keith Olbermann.