In this time of great partisan fighting, of a seemingly intractable national divide, there is one arena in which we are seeing a great breakthrough in national unity and respect for our fellow man: Leaders inside and outside government, on both the right and the left, are publicly saying they refuse to work with "assholes." Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland explained in a refreshingly frank manner to Roll Call that House Speaker John Boehner purged several conservative lawmakers from their committee assignments not because they were conservative, but because of the "asshole factor." Westmoreland, fighting the good fight on behalf of anyone who's ever worked with a jerk, told them as much, and to their faces (emphasis added):
"What I tried to explain to them was, it didn’t have anything to do with your voting record, a scorecard, your work across the street or anything else. It had to do with your ability to work within the system and to try to work. And to be, I guess, constructive in things. And I said, 'I guess you could say it was an asshole factor.' ...
"Now I wasn’t calling any member in particular an asshole, I was just trying to describe an environment where some people that you’re trying to work with, they just don’t want to work within the system."
A Republican lawmaker — this time anonymous — told Politico's Jonathan Allen that the committee purge merely removed "the most egregious a—holes." Ladies and gentlemen, in Washington, D.C., of all places, there are now consequences for being a jerk.
And the jerk crackdown extends to another unlikely place: a television network in New York City. Only a few days ago, Jon Stewart revealed that he almost quit The Daily Show in 1999. Stewart had plans to move the comedy news show in a more satirical direction, only to be met with unexpected resistance from a staff that carried over from previous host Craig Kilborn. Stewart explained at a New Jersey charity event Friday:
"What I did not realize is, a lot of the people who worked there were assholes...
I had, before taking [the job], some conversations with the powers that be there about the direction I thought we could move the show…
I walk in the door, into a room with the writers and producers, and the first thing they say is 'this isn't some MTV bullshit'... And then I was told not to change the jokes or improvise."
It took two and a half years, but the "assholes" were eventually purged from The Daily Show team. If at least two conservative congressmen and the liberal comedian who routinely mocks him can agree on something — no more jerks — we must be close to a national movement. Right?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.