When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?We all knew this would happen. We've been asking Republicans to moderate their rhetoric and their behavior, but they've done precisely the opposite. Republicans have seen extremism and violent rhetoric as the path back to power and they have used that rhetoric freely. John Boehner has been wringing his hand and shedding crocodile tears over this tragedy, but this is what he had to say to another Democratic representative facing violent rhetoric in his district:
Put me in the latter category. I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.
Another Ohio Democrat, Steve Driehaus, clashed repeatedly with Boehner before losing his seat in the midterm elections. After Boehner suggested that by voting for Obamacare, Driehaus "may be a dead man" and "can't go home to the west side of Cincinnati" because "the Catholics will run him out of town," Driehaus began receiving death threats, and a right-wing website published directions to his house. Driehaus says he approached Boehner on the floor and confronted him.Read Taibbi's profile of John Boehner here.
"I didn't think it was funny at all," Driehaus says. "I've got three little kids and a wife. I said to him, 'John, this is bullshit, and way out of bounds. For you to say something like that is wildly irresponsible.'"
Driehaus is quick to point out that he doesn't think Boehner meant to urge anyone to violence. "But it's not about what he intended — it's about how the least rational person in my district takes it. We run into some crazy people in this line of work."
Driehaus says Boehner was "taken aback" when confronted on the floor, but never actually said he was sorry: "He said something along the lines of, 'You know that's not what I meant.' But he didn't apologize."
Republicans are going to continue to run from what they've done and said in the past. They will never accept the responsibility they bear for the rising tide of right wing violence in this country. I really don't care if they do. All I hope is that they will reconsider their past behavior and chart a new path forward for their party that does not depend on violent rhetoric and gun toting crazies.