The title of this post comes from an incident over 16 years ago. During a rather intense discussion over an issue, one of the mailing list members sent a huge file in response to something, crashing almost everyone’s mailbox. Yes, that was back in the days when no one had “unlimited space,” and you paid for your Internet time by the minute. My reply to her was … scathing … to put it mildly. I wasn’t the only one, but mine apparently hit hard. Her response to me was “You used to be such a nice young man!” My reply to that was “No, I was polite. There’s a difference.” In person I’m rather quiet and soft-spoken. I’m polite to people. I’m able to have a reasoned argument without yelling or getting angry, and I’ll let things slide, or just go along, if it isn’t that important to me. All of which tends to cause people to think I’m “nice.” More correctly, to take it to mean that I’m a pushover, and easy to take advantage of. Which is why it comes as a surprise to them to find out that no, I’m not nice, particularly if they’ve pissed me off. Then it’s a different ball game.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to blow up and go into a screaming rant. I can – and have – done that, but it’s not my usual method. Instead, what sends chills up the spine of the people who know me is when I get quiet, and … reasonable. It’s not a nice reasonable. I have one of those memories which squirrels away stray facts and incidents. Even worse, I’ve been a researcher for decades, which means I know how to look for information and organize it. When I’m really irritated, I combine those two. I start getting busy looking into things, and “connecting the dots.” Then I will publicly smile, and calmly, reasonably proceed to smack the living crap out of whomever has pissed me off. To make it even worse for them, I’ll have warned them in advance that I’m going to do it. It’s my way of giving them a “last chance to back off.”
So, this post is trying to explain myself? No, it’s for another reason. Last night I got to watch a master do the same thing. The President went before the American people and explained the debt ceiling issue, and its consequences. He calmly, reasonably, devastated the Republicans:
Understand –- raising the debt ceiling does not allow Congress to spend more money. It simply gives our country the ability to pay the bills that Congress has already racked up. In the past, raising the debt ceiling was routine. Since the 1950s, Congress has always passed it, and every President has signed it. President Reagan did it 18 times. George W. Bush did it seven times. And we have to do it by next Tuesday, August 2nd, or else we won’t be able to pay all of our bills.
Unfortunately, for the past several weeks, Republican House members have essentially said that the only way they’ll vote to prevent America’s first-ever default is if the rest of us agree to their deep, spending cuts-only approach.
If that happens, and we default, we would not have enough money to pay all of our bills -– bills that include monthly Social Security checks, veterans’ benefits, and the government contracts we’ve signed with thousands of businesses.
He warned them he was going to do it, too. Last night, right after the speech, the Congressional web sites, e-mail system, and phone lines had serious issues with the volume of e-mail and phone calls that appeared. John Boehner was heard to complain that “I didn’t sign up for going mano-a-mano with the President of the United States.” The media is starting to swing onto them as well. You see, they made a mistake. The President is not nice. He’s polite. They took that for being “weak,” a “pushover.” They just found out the difference between “polite” and “nice,” and they can’t even say they weren’t warned.