Christie: Does Sanders, Bondi harassment mean our incivility has finally gone too far?

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi voices her support for then-candidate Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (Damon Winter/The New York Times)

Not unlike a lot of opinion journalists, for years I’ve been harping on the lack of civility that increasingly permeates our public discourse.

Immigration, NFL protests, gun rights, you name it, we are somehow unable to have a civil debate about it. From a South Carolina congressman yelling, “You lie!” at then-President Barack Obama during a State of the Union address to this past weekend’s heckling of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi at a movie theater.

We’ve got to find a way to get past this. For our own sanity. And Thanksgiving dinners. And kids’ soccer games. And movie openings.

On Friday night, a group of protesters accosted Bondi outside the screening of the new documentary about Mister Rogers at the Tampa Theatre, questioning her about her recent actions on health care policy and her stance on immigration.

RELATED: Pam Bondi confronted by protesters outside Mister Rogers movie

A video of the confrontation, taken by progressive activist Timothy Heberlein of Organize Florida, shows several people shouting down Bondi as she leaves the theater escorted by law enforcement after seeing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”

This followed news, of course, of the most infamous incident of the weekend: senior White House spokeswoman Sara Huckabee Sanders being tossed out of a Virginia restaurant by the owners.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary, speaks during a press conference on June 14 the White House briefing room in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Sanders, who has not engendered the most support from the liberal side of the political spectrum as a lightning rod for the ire of Trump haters, said over the weekend that she had been asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant because she worked in the Trump administration. She added that she “politely left” after the request.

The restaurant’s co-owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, later told The Washington Post that her staff had called her to report Sanders was at the restaurant on Saturday night. Wilkinson said several restaurant employees are gay and knew Sanders had defended Trump’s desire to bar transgender people from the military.

RELATED: The owner of the Red Hen explains why she asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave

Sanders’ tweet created a firestorm on Twitter, with many conservatives and Trump supporters, including her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, chiming in with criticism of the restaurant.

Where does it end? We seem to have reached the point of no return when it comes to incivility among our citizens. And now, many folks are asking folks to pump the brakes.

Again, growing incivility in our discourse has been an issue for years — much of it racially charged for political purposes by Obama’s election, police shootings, etc. But we’ve apparently gone beyond vocal disagreements over abortion rights to not even sitting next to one another in a restaurant or movie theater, filling prescriptions at the same pharmacy or buying a wedding cake from the same baker.

A primary reason for things reaching this new level, whether some of us want to admit it or not, lies at the feet of President Trump and his almost daily divisive Twitter rants in the name of not being politically correct.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) at a news conference where House Democrats called for an end to separating immigrant families, on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

The trouble is liberals or progressives are no longer content with turning the other cheek. Beyond the protests and calls to action on everything from Confederate monuments to women’s rights to gun rights, the left-wingers now seem as energized as their counterparts on the right under the Obama administration.

It’s now commonplace to hear Trump supporters and Republicans — who still approve of the job he’s doing — ask for folks to “just give him a chance.”

“Fat chance,” say an increasing number of liberals. “Like the chance you gave Barack Obama?” they reply.

If we’re not quite down the rabbit hole here, we’re getting uncomfortably close. And we don’t need folks pushing us even further.

Maxine Waters, the Democratic firebrand congresswoman from California, chided a crowd this weekend to “push back” against Trump supporters wherever you see them, “in a restaurant, in the department store, in a gas station.”

We don’t need that.

But Bondi wasn’t much better. She went on Fox News Sunday to boast of not backing down from protesters — with appropriate police backup of course — and suggested, “The next people are going to come with guns. That’s what’s going to happen.”

Yeah, real helpful.

RELATED: Trump attacks ‘filthy’ Red Hen, the Virginia restaurant that asked Sarah Sanders to leave

And then there’s the president himself, who once again took to Twitter to dis the restaurant that booted Sanders.

President Donald J. Trump (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

“The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders,” Trump tweeted Monday morning.

“I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!” he added.

It was unclear Monday whether Trump had ever visited the establishment — the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, which is 50 miles northeast of Roanoke near the Shenandoah Valley — or how he would have determined its level of cleanliness.

The Red Hen passed its latest state health inspection, in February, without any violations.

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He later also went to Twitter to take some sophomoric jabs at Waters.

As I said earlier, the president can shut a lot of this down or at least put us on a path back to civility with his own words and actions.

The question will he, or maybe we’ve already gone to far down that rabbit hole.

Goodman: Oil-drilling ban decision for Florida lathered in politics

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke with Gov. Rick Scott at Tallahassee’s airport yesterday.

About the only thing oilier than rigs off the coast is the way the Trump administration withdrew its plans for offshore drilling along Florida’s shores.

In a move that smacks of greasing the future political prospects of Gov. Rick Scott, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke flew to Tallahassee yesterday to make a surprise announcement: That threat to allow offshore drilling we made last week? Never mind.

What prompted the reversal, a reporter asked? “The governor,” Zinke said.

“You have a tremendous governor that is straightforward, easy to work for, says exactly what he means. And I can tell you Florida is well-served,” Zinke said.

Eat your heart out, Gov. Jerry Brown in California. It now appears that the White House’s environmental decisions are unlawfully based on whether your state voted for President Donald Trump or is a swing state that might elect a Republican senator in 2018.

Trump has been wooing Scott for more than a year to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson, according to Politico, and Scott is widely expected to oppose the Democrat who has held the seat since 2000.

Let’s be clear. It’s terrific that the White House is discarding its cockamamie plans, announced last week, to extend offshore drilling for oil and gas to Florida’s coast. In fact, we denounced the administration’s designs in an editorial published this morning:

“No, no, a thousand times no.

“In no way should offshore oil and gas drilling be allowed off the coast of Florida.

“Or off the coast of the Carolinas, California, New Jersey — or any other coastal state, for that matter.”

No sooner had the editorial gone to press, however, than, in a surprise, Zinke swooped into Tallahassee to stand beside Scott and announce that Florida was being spared from the administration plans to expand offshore drilling nationwide.

Now, instead of a policy that’s bad for the whole nation, we have a policy that’s bad for the whole nation except, it appears, states dear to Trump. Already, three other states with Republican governors have asked for similar exemptions — Maryland, Massachusetts and South Carolina.

Democratic-led states, furious, are noting that this exemption thing is illegal. Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat and attorney, told Politico:

“Under the Administrative Procedure Act, an agency can’t act in an arbitrary and capricious manner. In this case, exempting Florida but not California (which has an even larger coastal economy) is arbitrary and capricious.

“So the agency would either have to not exempt Florida, or in the alternative, exempt Florida, California and any other state that can show the coasts are important to the state’s tourism and economy.”

In this nationwide drama of oil drilling, there may not be gushers. But there will be certainly be lawsuits.

Maybe the most furious man in Florida this morning is Nelson, who smelled a rat at once. Last night he tweeted:

Opposing drilling off Florida’s 1,300 miles of coastline has been the bipartisan position of Florida politicians, and a popular stance with the state’s voters, for years. But Scott used to waffle on the issue.

When running for governor for the first time, in 2010 — not long after the disastrous Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill — the millionaire business-turned-politician said he supported offshore oil drilling “with the right precautions,” a meaningless caveat, because what politician would ever want unsafe drilling?

But lately, the governor famous for allegedly scrubbing the words “climate change” from official communications, has positioned himself as a nature-lover.  Scott has urged lawmakers to spend more on the environment in 2018. And when the Interior Department announced its proposal to vastly expand offshore drilling, he quickly criticized it and said he would talk to Zinke personally to try to straighten things out.

Scott’s spokesman, Jonathan Tupps, expressed wonderment that oil-drilling opponents wouldn’t be thrilled to see the oil-drilling plans scuttled. As Politico reported:

“Senator Nelson and anyone else who opposes oil drilling off of Florida’s coast should be happy that the governor was able to secure this commitment,” he said. “This isn’t about politics. This is good policy for Florida.”

And yet the Sierra Club of Florida said the decision was “a purely political move to aid the ambitions of Rick Scott.” The League of Conservation Voters called it a “publicity stunt.”

Perhaps they suspect, as I do, that the Trump administration wasn’t very serious about drilling off Florida’s coast in the first place. They announce a policy one week — and rescind it four days later? How committed to this policy could they have been?

But they sure gave our governor the chance to play the hero.

Seems here they’re trying to play us all for suckers.

Christie: Should West Palm’s lone Confederate monument be removed?

Confederate flag on large stone monument at Woodlawn Cemetery in West Palm Beach. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)

The issue of whether to take down monuments to the Confederacy is a hot, divisive topic.

From Louisiana to Virginia to yes, Florida, debates are raging in cities and counties over strong, deep-seeded feelings for or against the statues, plaques and graveyards set aside by Confederate supporters decades ago.

Speaking of graveyards, for instance, West Palm Beach in May began wrestling with one of its own when it came to a monument to Confederate soldiers that’s been at Woodlawn Cemetery since 1941.

As pieces of history honoring the Confederacy fell from city to city, the issue caught fire here, West Palm Beach. Why? Because standing directly behind the American flag, a 10-foot tall marble monument is unmistakable when visitors drive through the front gate of Woodlawn. A Confederate flag is carved into the side with words honoring that army’s soldiers who are buried there. Early in her term, Mayor Jeri Muoio worked to remove all Confederate flags and symbols on city property, but the monument is owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

A Confederate statue is seen in a small park in Tampa. The Hillsborough County Commission on July 19 is revisiting its vote not to remove the 106-year-old monument. (AP Photo/Tamara Lush)

Florida was pro-South in the Civil War and the third state to secede. After the war, the bankrupt state started to attract migration through tourism, which is why it’s common to find Union and Confederate veterans buried at places like Woodlawn.

But the issue of Woodlawn is especially sensitive for blacks in West Palm Beach because they weren’t allowed to be buried in the cemetery until 1966 when, under pressure, the City Commission approved it. Under the old rule, 69 white victims of the 1928 hurricane were buried at Woodlawn while 674 black victims were dumped into a mass grave at 25th Street and Tamarind Avenue.

So in May, William McCray, a black resident and well-known commission gadfly, demanded the removal of the monument.

But again, while the cemetery is public property, the monument is privately owned by the United Daughters of The Confederacy. And a local spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1599 said the city should back off.

“This honors the men who were buried there,” Jimmy Shirley told the Post’s Tony Doris. “It’s where it’s supposed to be.”

He said the Confederate’s history deserves to be told along with the Union’s side. Children should know fully about the U.S. Civil War to understand the foundations of the country, so to take down the monument would be misguided and wrong, he said.

The statue of Confederate general J.E.B. Stewart on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Shirley’s not alone in that thinking. And the issue from finding its way onto the Post Opinion pages. As with the following Letter to the Editor published on July 21:

Erasing Confederacy is form of prejudice

It’s easy to look back and say slavery is bad, because under no circumstances would we in this day condone someone enslaving another person. However, it was the way of the South and it is part of our history.

It is absurd to put Southern slave owners in the same category as Nazis and Japanese soldiers. The Confederates were trying to preserve their lifestyle. It doesn’t compare to the intentional atrocities committed by the Japanese and Germans during World War II.

Erasing traces of the Confederacy is committing a form of prejudice exhibiting the very behavior people are protesting.

LANA COMPTON, WEST PALM BEACH

We also had letters with the opposite view:

Confederates’ ‘duty’ was not honorable

Regarding the letter titled, “Statues honor men who did their duty” (June 28), the writer seeks to create an equivalence between a Confederate soldier to whom she is related, yet possibly never met, to conscripted soldiers like my grandfather who fought the Japanese in World War II, while also condemning General Sherman who, also, did his duty.

This equivalency is absurd and insulting. The writer’s great-grandfather committed treason and then, like most Confederates, cut a deal when the Union forced them to disavow the Confederacy or die.

What did Confederates fight for? The right to use people as chattel. She fails to acknowledge how fighting for the Confederacy was acting in approval of slavery despite her great-grandfather not owning slaves.

Doing your duty means putting your life on hold to fight for a cause greater than yourself that is on the side of humanity. Union soldiers can claim that moral high ground, as can Allied soldiers from World War II.

Confederates and conscripted Nazi soldiers who “did their duty” during WWII do not get these same honors.

DANIEL TRIA, LAKE WORTH

In the case of West Palm, the city’s law department has also been investigating if the city can tell the group to move the monument.

Take our poll, and tell us where do you stand on this issue: