Since the House passed health care reform on Sunday, Democratic lawmakers who voted for the bill have received death threats and been victims of vandalism. Vandals struck the Tuscon office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), the Monroe County Democratic Committee headquarters in upstate New York, Rep. Louise Slaughter’s (D-NY) Niagara Falls office, the Knox County Democratic headquarters in Ohio, and the Sedgwick County Democratic Party headquarters in Wichita, KS. Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), the highest-ranking black lawmaker in the House, has said “he received an anonymous fax showing the image of a noose” and authorities in Virginia are investigating “a cut propane line” at the home of a brother of Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA).
Republican leaders have condemned these incidents, but on Tuesday, Sarah Palin seemed to fan the flames of discontent by labeling a map of vulnerable lawmakers’ districts with crosshairs on her Facebook page and tweeting, “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!” This morning, NBC’s Ann Curry asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) if he believed his former running mate should use less “incendiary” language. McCain condemned any violence but bristled at the suggestion that her use of such violent imagery was inappropriate in light of the atmosphere of threats against lawmakers. “Those are fine. They’re used all the time,” he said:
MCCAIN: Ann, I have seen the rhetoric of targeted districts as long as I’ve been in politics. Please. This is — any threat of violence is terrible, but to say that there is a targeted district or that we “reload” or go back in to the fight again, please….Those are fine. They’re used all the time… Those words have been used throughout of my political career…That rhetoric and kind of language is just part of the political lexicon. [...]
CURRY: I think it is the “reload” and “crosshairs” that’s caused a lot of people to be concerned, Senator.
MCCAIN: Maybe it has and we condemn any violence, any threats of violence. But I’ve heard all of that language throughout my political career…that anger should be channeled into voter registration and go continue the struggle that we’re in to regain America and stop mortgaging our children’s futures.
The targeted lawmakers, feel differently, however. Asked if he thought Republicans were doing enough to condemn the violence, Perriello criticized the GOP for not drawing a stronger distinction between people who “commit violence” and simply oppose health care reform. “People who are doing these things that are clearly outside the law…these people need to be prosecuted, not simply brought into the campaign room.”
“I think people have to be conscious of the things that they say.” “We should all be able to agree, whether you are a political leader or TV personality or whatever, that simply saying, this is absolutely unacceptable to harm or threaten to harm a member of their family. This isn’t a partisan thing. This is just a basic American value. I hope we will get stronger and clearer statements up here of that to make sure that that signal is very clear,” he said.