Just in case you had started to feel like you were living in a post-Tuscon America, consider the following proof of how little things have changed.
Yesterday, Republican Rep. Paul Broun held a town hall for his constituency to hear their concerns on the state of the economy and ended up getting an earful more. According to the Athens Herald, Braun said he was opening up the floor for questions and wanted to start with the person who had drove the furthest to get to the meeting. And when that person got up to the mic their question was: “Who’s going to shoot President Obama?”
Though the hall was crowded, no one has yet offered up a description of the individual who stepped to the mic. Fortunately for them, Secret Service will probably be in touch shortly to help jog their memories. And though she apparently did not get a good enough look to I.D. who asked the question, Broun’s press secretary, Jessica Morris, later confirmed that indeed the question was asked by someone in the crowd.
While angry GOP town hall meetings is not new news, what should be making news is this: after the person at the mic asked his question, Congressman Braun responded only by saying,
“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.”
Did you catch the condemnation of violent speech in there? Because we didn’t.
Sadly, we’re not all that surprised that Broun, a member of the Tea Party caucus, did not hold his supporters to fostering a civil tone since he himself set the heated rhetoric bar. In 2008, the Congressman warned that Obama’s healthcare proposal was a move to impose marxist and nazi dictatorship on the country.
Braun, like many in the GOP’s leadership, deflect inflammatory rhetoric but was unwilling to take the next step and rebuke it all together. Since their take over of the House, the lesson Republicans seem to have gotten is keep the rage fest going, just try to avoid getting caught leading out.
The truth is whether they are touring the country with rallies and bullhorns or passively condoning hateful speech in their local town halls, political leaders fail the people they serve when they don’t set the example of the citizens we should aspire to be.
It’s sad to see that so soon after the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the tone in our political debate remains irresponsibly hostile. We’re getting tired of being sick and tired of right-wing extremists dragging the conversation on this country’s future to the level of a drunk bar brawl. While the reckless talk may rile up their base, in the end this divisiveness can only hurt us all.