Commentary: GOP must condemn calls for violence over health care bill

Hi, boys and girls! As a public service, I've prepared the following statement for Republican leaders to use when some disgruntled opponent of health care reform injures somebody — or worse. Given recent reports of threats against Democratic lawmakers in the wake of last week's historic vote, that moment has come to feel inevitable.

When it happens, don't you want your favorite GOP lawmaker to be ready? You can ensure that he or she is simply by clipping this statement and mailing it to them. That way, when the time comes, all your lawmaker will have to do is circle the appropriate choices and fill in the blank!


"We condemn, in the strongest terms, the recent bombing/stabbing/beating/shooting that wounded/killed Senator/Representative/President __________________. There is no place in our democracy for that kind of thing and our party stands foursquare against those who would bring violence into political debate. We extend our best wishes/heartfelt condolences and join with other Americans in hoping the perpetrators of this heinous act will be swiftly caught and punished.

"At the same time, we must also reject the suggestion, made by some, that our behavior over the course of this long debate on health care somehow set the scene for this tragic incident which, as we have already said, we condemn.

"Some have contended that -- through incidents like Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst where he called the president a liar during a joint session of Congress, and the one where members of our party cheered hecklers in the public gallery during last week's debate and that thing where Rep. Randy Neugebauer yelled 'baby killer!' and that comment by Rep. John Boehner that Rep. Steve Driehaus 'may be a dead man' because of his vote -- we have contributed to a coarsening of political discourse that made this tragedy entirely predictable. This tragedy that we, of course, strongly, strongly condemn.

"Some have gone so far as to suggest that the tea party patriots who have led the charge against the socialistic/communistic/tyrannical/satanichealthcare bill are themselves a graver threat to the nation than the legislation they oppose. The tea partiers have been characterized as dangerous and intolerant extremists by people who have read their signs and listened to their rhetoric.

"We object to this slander of these concerned Americans. Just because at least ten representatives have reported death threats since the bill was passed and Rep. Dennis Cardoza says he's been physically threatened, and vandals broke the door of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's office, and bricks have been thrown through the windows of other representatives' offices and just because a tea party leader posted what he thought was Rep. Thomas Perriello's home phone number and address with an invitation for tea party members to 'drop by,' and just because the information was actually for Perriello's brother, Bo, who has four children at home, none older than eight, and just because somebody cut a gas line at that house, and just because police and the FBI are taking all these threats seriously and now there's this latest bombing/stabbing/beating/shooting (that we strongly condemn), is no reason to cast aspersions upon the entire tea party movement.

"By attempting to focus the nation's attention on all these isolated incidents, leftwing Democrats and their allies in the media seek to divert us from what should be the real story here. Namely, the fact that we in the Republican Party are working nonstop to repeal this monstrous/disgusting/demonic/diabolical bill. To that end, we are pursuing all available legal challenges and procedural options.

"We are also inventing a time machine.

"As this important work goes on, we are proud to have the able assistance of the patriotic Americans in the tea party movement. Some have suggested that the Republican party, the party of Reagan and Lincoln, should be ashamed of its close affiliation with these patriots.

"We reject that idea. Indeed, if our critics know nothing else about us after this long and rancorous debate, they should know this:

"We have no shame."


Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132. Readers may write to him via e-mail at He chats with readers every Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT at Ask Leonard.

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