So much for not just the talk about civility but talk about how America’s increasingly violence-embracing political rhetoric has been recognized for what it is: at the very LEAST inappropriate and possibly the catalyst in providing a trigger for deranged minds as it plants the seeds for actions that will require future sad news stories.
We’ve run several examples in recent days from both parties, and now here is a blatant suggestion about shooting Barack Obama. Oh. Yes. We’ll get comments here on TMV and among others about how it was all a joke, all said in jest, just verbiage.
But it is beyond out of line in the United States these days. And in the account below you’ll note that the problem is not just with the “joke”: the problem is that unlike Arizona Senator John McCain who took a member of his audience to task during his unsucessful campaign for going over the line, in this case the elected official seemingly skates right by it. Did he not hear the comment? Or did he not want to offend? Or did he feel it’s acceptable rhetoric in today’s talk radio political culture where it’s no longer throwing red meat that matters but throwing out barbecued red meat? You decide:
Here’s the latest evidence that nothing has changed in post-Tucson America: A person at a Tuesday town hall with Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., got up and asked, “Who is going to shoot President Obama?”
The exact wording of the question is not clear because, the Athens Banner-Herald reports, there was a lot of noise at the event. Perhaps more significant than the question was the response of the crowd and Broun, who is a member of the Tea Party Caucus and one of the most right-wing members of Congress.
The question prompted a “big laugh” from the crowd, in Oglethorpe County, Ga., according to the Banner-Herald. Broun, for his part, did not object to the question. He said in response:
“The thing is, I know there’s a lot of frustration with this president. We’re going to have an election next year. Hopefully, we’ll elect somebody that’s going to be a conservative, limited-government president that will take a smaller, who will sign a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
Whoever asked that question will probably be hearing from the Secret Service shortly.
Indeed, hopefully. And it is hoped here that:
Schools do not allow bullying now and even face legal problems if they don’t prevent it in light of the human toll and possible consequences that were shockingly seen in the Columbine massacres and other violent school incidents.
You’d think that with the United States’ history of assassinations and the recent Giffords shooting that nearly killed her and killed a half dozen others including a little girl that there would be absolute, unquestionable, nondebatable agreement among politicians of all parties, liberals, conservatives and independents that this kind of rhetoric is not merely unacceptable but nutcase rhetoric and those who mouth it need to get help or spend some time in the slammer.
Or, at the least, be taken to task by an elected official. Unless the elected officials didn’t hear the question. Or just didn’t care.
Or should we wait until there’s another incident like the Gabby Giffords shooting or another JFK type assassination where mainstream media pundits and people writing on sites such as this, cable talking heads, etc. are all then either bemoaning what happened and wondering how it happened or one political side points the finger at the other?
UPDATE: Steve Benen:
Broun’s office later confirmed that the question was about when someone was going to shoot the president.
In the immediate aftermath of the assassination attempt in Tucson last month, there seemed to be an effort to show restraint when it comes to language like this. Apparently, the grace period is over, and the viciousness is back.
Now, I don’t know who asked that question in Georgia, nor do I know what that person is capable of. Maybe the constituent intends to commit acts of political violence, maybe not.
I do know that the threat of political violence is real, and that the question — and the audience’s reaction to it — help create an even more toxic and dangerous political climate.
For his part, Broun had a chance to demonstrate some character and decency, making clear that talk about assassinating the president isn’t acceptable. A simple, obvious condemnation would have sent a loud signal about boundaries of propriety in our society. Broun instead chose to let that opportunity go by.
May I say “ditto”?
UPDATE: Broun has issued a statement:
Tuesday night at a town hall meeting in Oglethorpe County, Georgia an elderly man asked the abhorrent question, “Who’s going to shoot Obama?” I was stunned by the question and chose not to dignify it with a response; therefore, at that moment I moved on to the next person with a question. After the event, my office took action with the appropriate authorities.
I deeply regret that this incident happened at all. Furthermore, I condemn all statements — made in sincerity or jest — that threaten or suggest the use of violence against the President of the United States or any other public official. Such rhetoric cannot and will not be tolerated.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.