After the shooting of Steve Scalise, political leaders of both major parties urged an end to hateful political rhetoric. But as soon as senate Republicans introduced their draft healthcare bill, Democrats forgot all about the new “era of good feelings” and used inflammatory language to fight rail out against the bill.
Less than two weeks ago, a crazed Republican-hater entered a park where GOP members of Congress were practicing for an annual charity baseball game scheduled for the next day. The intruder opened fire, wounding five, one of whom was Scalise, who lingered near death for days before turning a corner.
Many suggested the shooter, James Hodgkinson, was motivated to kill Republicans by years of hateful rhetoric spewed by Democratic party politicians. For years the Democrats have portrayed Republicans either as rich, greedy, narcissistic, fat-cat, corporate chieftains or as hillbilly, gun-toting, misogynist, xenophobic religious fanatics who hate Jews, Blacks, and Hispanics, and want to reinstitute slavery. Pro-life Republicans aren’t characterized as anti-abortion, to take one concrete example. They are described as conducting a war on women. Republicans who want the U.S. to control its borders are decried as anti-Hispanic. Conservatives who refer to ISIS members as radical Islamist terrorist are dismissed as hating Muslims.
But in the wake of the attack on the baseball team, Congress members from both sides of the aisle promised to tone down the hate speech. They were still free to disagree but the manner in which disagreement would be expressed would not be permitted to rise to the level of ad hominem rancor.
But when the Senate GOP released its version of a healthcare bill to replace Obamacare on Thursday, Democrats reverted to form. Within minutes of the bill being posted online, the attacks began, many of them hyperbolic charges.
Sen. Bernie Sanders , who had claimed to be mortified a week earlier upon learning that Hodgkinson had served as volunteer for presidential campaign was one of the first to cast stones, tweeting out:
Let us be clear and this is not trying to be overly dramatic: Thousands of people will die if the Republican health care bill becomes law.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 23, 2017
Connecticut’s “stolen valor” senator, former Governor Richard Blumenthal , also took to Twitter to blast the party in power, writing:
And just like the House, Senate Republicans want to gut #Medicaid – throwing children and families who rely on it to the wolves.
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) June 22, 2017
Blumenthal’s death talk couldn’t have come from memories of his days in Vietnam, because, as you may remember, his claim of having served in that war with honor during his initial run for the Senate was revealed as fraudulent.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was another Dem who took to the warpath, claiming that Republicans were liars who were trying to fool women.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) June 21, 2017
She followed up by opining on the Senate floor that GOP lawmakers would pay for all the “juicy tax cuts for their rich buddies” by using “blood money.”
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) relied on the tried and true Democratic claim that their opposition “screws old people, middle class, and the infirm just so they can help the rich.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who still hasn’t learned that glasses aren’t as helpful when you keep them on the tip of your nose, opined:
The way this bill cuts health care is heartless. The president said the House bill was mean. The senate bill may be meaner. The senate Republican health care bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Only this wolf has even sharper teeth than the House bill.
Even two-time loser Hillary Clinton got in the act, tweeting out:
Forget death panels. If Republicans pass this bill, they're the death party. https://t.co/jCStfOaBjy
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 23, 2017
You probably remember when Barack Obama, after the shooting of then-Rep. Gabby Giffords, sermonized that the tone of America’s political discourse had to change, telling a shocked and grief-stricken audience in Tuscon:
It’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.
He must have forgotten about his 2011 speech when he shared his views of the GOP healthcare bill.
The senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family — this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.
Understand that as Americans these Democratic Party politicians have every right to disagree with the GOP healthcare bill. In fact there are Republicans in Congress who also disagree with the bill. However, as leaders of the federal government, they have an obligation to lead, not divide.
It’s legitimate to state one’s worry that enough people will be covered under the Republican plan. But claiming that the GOP bill “will literally cost American lives” as many Democrats have, is the kind of rhetoric that led to the Scalise shooting. And I would hope that no one in Congress, regardless of party, wants to see that happen again.
Cross-posted at The Lid