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

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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)