Here's Stephen Colbert from last night, reacting to an article that had him and Memphis Rep. Steve Cohen going head to head in a race to spoil "the new civility." Hilarious, though surely Col. Klink from Hogan's Heroes merits at least a three-quarters Hitler. (Don't ask, just watch.)
My unasked-for two cents on the matter: Any time you invoke Nazis in an argument, you've pretty much ceded defeat. Cohen seems mostly guilty of proper attribution — he could have made his "big lie" point without the hat tip to Goebbels — but the principle behind Godwin's Law stands: Rhetorically, Nazi comparisons are a nuclear option that almost always drops on the user's foot.
That said, "civility" is becoming just as lame a debate-stopper. It's the harrumph you often hear after someone performs the needed public service of calling bullshit on something obnoxious, harmful and false. In Cohen's case, it was the Republicans' disinformation campaign about "government takeover of health care," and he was hardly the first to point out that it fits the if-you're-gonna-lie-lie-big playbook to a T.
No wonder the politicians he was criticizing accused him of disturbing their peace. Regrettably, Cohen's N-bomb (or rather, G-bomb) gave them an excuse to divert attention to bad manners. Even so, oftentimes the least "civil" thing a public figure can do is tell the truth.