On Friday afternoon, a gunman attacked a Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs, killing three people, including a police officer and an Iraq war veteran, and shooting nine others, during an hours-long assault. The accused was taken into custody and is being held without bond.
There is, of course, no shortage of relevant angles surrounding the latest mass shooting, which came less than a month after an unrelated shooting spree in the same area. The role of the far-right campaign against the health care organization, the degree to which this constituted domestic terrorism, and how this fits into the broader “war on women” all matter a great deal.
But as an electoral matter, I was eager over the holiday weekend to see how presidential candidates would respond – or in many instances, not respond – to the deadly violence in Colorado. After all, it seems likely that if the shooter were a Muslim radical responsible for politically motivated violence on American soil, White House aspirants would likely have quite a bit to say.
And yet, as the Washington Post noted over the weekend, some Republican candidates chose to remain silent following Friday’s slayings.
The Republican presidential field, which for much of the year has been full-throated in its denunciations of Planned Parenthood, has been nearly silent about the shooting in Colorado at one of its facilities that left a police officer and two others dead.In contrast, all three of the leading Democratic contenders quickly issued statements in support of Planned Parenthood.
Indeed, the partisan distinction was striking. Fairly quickly after Friday’s crisis was resolved, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley each issued statements condemning the attack and standing in support of the gunman’s targets. By Saturday morning, President Obama and the Democratic National Committee had issued statements of their own.
The sizable GOP field, meanwhile, chose a slower, quieter path:
* Donald Trump: The Republican frontrunner did not issue a statement, though two days after the shooting, Trump appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and called the attack “a terrible thing” and described the suspected murderer as a “maniac.” He added, however, “I see a lot of anxiety and I see a lot of dislike for Planned Parenthood.”
* Ben Carson: The retired doctor also chose not to issue a statement, though Carson appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and, in his best passive voice, said the attack “should be condemned very strongly.” Carson quickly added that “extremism” is a problem on “both sides.”
* Ted Cruz: Despite picking up support last week from some notable anti-abortion extremists, Cruz was actually the first Republican to comment on the Colorado Springs slayings, posting a brief message to social media the day after the attack, saying he was “praying for the loved ones of those killed, those injured & first responders who bravely got the situation under control in Colorado Springs.” A day later, however, Cruz was back to condemning “vicious rhetoric on the left” without a hint of irony.
* Marco Rubio: As of this morning, the Florida senator has said nothing about the deadly attack.
* Jeb Bush: On Sunday, Bush said in a brief statement, “There is no acceptable explanation for this violence, and I will continue to pray for those who have been impacted.”
* Carly Fiorina: Though she issued no statement on the murders, Fiorina told Fox News on Sunday that the shooting was a “tragedy” and the man was clearly “deranged.” In the same interview, however, Fiorina condemned those who’ve connected clinic violence to Planned Parenthood’s far-right critics, saying the’re relying on “typical, left-wing tactics.”
* Chris Christie: As of this morning, the New Jersey governor has said nothing about the attack.
* Rand Paul: As of this morning, the Kentucky senator has said nothing about the attack.
* John Kasich: The Ohio governor was one of only two Republicans to respond on Saturday, publishing a tweet criticizing the “senseless violence” in Colorado Springs. Kasich added, “I pray for the families in mourning and have hope our nation can heal.”
* Mike Huckabee: Two days after the shooting, Huckabee called the attack a “tragedy” and an example of “domestic terrorism.” Also on Sunday, the former governor appeared on CNN and equated the murders with violence “inside [Planned Parenthood] clinics, where many millions of babies die.”
One might be tempted to cut the campaigns some slack in light of the holiday weekend, but note that Democrats didn’t have any problems issuing statements following the violence, and each of the GOP candidates who passed on this story have posted other messages since Friday afternoon. Some might also argue that Republicans paused until the alleged gunman’s motive became clearer, but following the accused shooter’s reported reference to “baby parts,” there arguably isn’t much doubt about the rationale for the attack.
And this in turn makes it that much more difficult to defend the national candidates who took their sweet time in denouncing the mass shooting, and worse, the Republicans who couldn’t be bothered to even extend perfunctory well wishes to the affected families.
If candidates like Rubio and Christie – both fond of bluster and chest-thumping when it comes to security issues – aren’t going to condemn the attack on U.S. soil, perhaps they can offer some explanation for their reticence? If the answer is they’re afraid of antagonizing right-wing Planned Parenthood opponents in their party’s base, perhaps it’s time to rethink national leadership as a career path.
Disclosure: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this report, and her work is unrelated to the organization’s Colorado affiliate.