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Mo Elleithee: “We should have had this discussion long before the Tucson tragedy”


From famed Virginia/DC/National Democratic political consultant Mo Elleithee’s Facebook page this morning, here are a few thoughts about the Arizona shooting and the debate over political rhetoric which I thought were worth sharing.  First, here’s Mo on the odious Bill O’Reilly and his commentary last night (bolding added by me for emphasis).

Wow. I just watched Bill O’Reilly’s rant from tonight. I’m appalled. He is a disgrace to all well-meaning conservatives, and to all level-headed Americans. To be clear, I don’t want his voice silenced. I just hope people stop listening to it.

I couldn’t agree more. I’d also urge Democrats not – repeat, not – to legitimize O’Reilly and his ilk by appearing on their shows.

Next, here’s Mo on the debate over political rhetoric and the Arizona shootings:

I DON’T think the right had anything to do with the Tucson tragedy. But I AM discouraged & disgusted by those on the right who refuse to acknowledge their role in our toxic political environment. Why can’t we all agree to drop hateful or violent rhetoric or imagery? Do you REALLY feel the need to defend it? If Keith Olbermann can apologize for his past hateful words, why can’t offenders on the right do the same?

There’s nothing complex about it. You’re right about one thing — we should have had this discussion long before the Tucson tragedy. I’m not saying that political rhetoric resulted in this heinous crime. I’m saying this crime has the ability to serve as a catalyst. If Tucson can direct our attention to the venom in our political discourse, shouldn’t we seize the opportunity to recalibrate as a society? It seems to me that the ONLY people who are resisting, are those who stand to benefit either politically or financially from the staus quo in our political discourse.

Well said by Mo. The question is, regardless of what motivated the Arizona shooter (as far as I can tell, he was completely insane, without any coherent political ideology, and who knows what influenced him other than the weird voices in his head?) why would anyone of good will resist having a discussion about the role of violent, inflammatory rhetoric by our elected officials and leading media voices? Does anyone seriously think that inflammatory rhetoric, taken to the level of “death panels” and urging people to “reload” and publicly discussing the coming “civil war” in America and “joking” about killing liberals, is ok? If so, all I can say is “wow.”

Just to be fair, since I am (broadly speaking) on the “left” (I actually consider myself a “Teddy Roosevelt Progressive,” which is not the same as “left,” but that’s a longer discussion for another time), I should point out once again, as I’ve done many times, that I believe the rhetoric (e.g., Bush=Hitler, images of Bush with a severed head, signs that said things like “hang Bush for war crimes” and “death to the dictator” — you name it) of the “International ANSWER Coalition” types on the extreme left of the political spectrum to be utterly despicable.

Having said that, what I don’t see these days are any mainstream Democrats (note that “International ANSWER” is the fringe of the fringe, not even close to being a serious or significant part of the Democratic Party), certainly not elected officials, routinely using the rhetoric of violence against conservatives, as we’ve heard from the “right” (Republicans, Tea Party, etc.) in recent years. Does that mean Democrats, liberals and progressives would never do such a thing, because they are so pure and wonderful? Obviously not, that’s just ridiculous – we’re all human beings, after all, and we all can fall into that type of thing. For now, though, it’s mostly those on the right who have some soul searching they should be doing, and that would have been the case even if the tragedy in Tucson had never taken place at all. With that, everyone can go back to screaming at each other. Enjoy! (snark)

  • Not Barney Frank

    Congressman Moran was one of the first to follow Sheriff’s Dupnik’s lead and talking points about the Tuscon shooting. However, Cong.Moran has a long,public history in making vitriolic comments,in particular,about people of the Jewish faith. The Dems need to stop throwing stones from their glass houses.

    US Congressman says Jews

    are behind war against Iraq


    Ernesto Cienfuegos

    La Voz de Aztlan

    Los Angeles, Alta California – March 11, 2003 – (ACN) Congressman James P. Moran Jr. of Virginia said that “American Jews are responsible for pushing the country to war with Iraq” and that powerful and influential Zionist leaders are manipulating Bush. Congressman Moran made the remarks at an anti-war forum in Reston, Virginia that was held at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church on March 3. “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this,” Congressman Moran said. Congressman James P. Moran is a seven-term Democratic incumbent.

    A growing number of Americans seem to be waking up to the realization that US Middle East policies are being driven by both the Jewish and the Oil Lobbies as well as by ultra-right wing Zionist-Christian fanatics who are fervently awaiting the “rapture” and the “end times”. It is the Jews, however, that are orchestrating the varied interests involved in pushing the war.  

  • kindler

    …is that so many conservatives can’t even conceive of the concept of defending their beliefs without inflammatory, over-the-top, violent rhetoric.

    If they want to dislike Obama, fine.  But do they have to caricature him as a Kenyan-born, America-hating, terrorist-loving pinko?

    They have every right to oppose health care reform, if they wish.  But do they have to call it communism, socialism, tyranny?

    If they want to promote balanced budgets, more power to them.  But do they have to portray all government as an out of control monster and every government worker as a useless bureaucrat?

    If they want to oppose Democratic climate change policy, then okay.  But do they have to spread conspiracy theories about how thousands of scientists worldwide are supposedly falsifying data and committing fraud in order to scam the whole world of its money?

    They can even defend Second Amendment rights if they want.  But do they have to endorse all this dark, paranoid rhetoric about leaving open the need for armed rebellion in case the government goes too far?

    All of this rabble-rousing may succeed in, well, rousing the rabble.  But does it really, in the end, help their case to be so massively over the top?  Might a cogent argument based on a fact or two be worth considering too?

    I know, it’s a crazy thought — never mind!