Making excuses for violent rhetoric

Updated
 
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)
Associated Press

At a Tea Party Express rally in Missouri last week, a conservative activist named Scott Boston told an assembled crowd, “[W]e have to get Claire McCaskill out….. We have to kill the Claire Bear, ladies and gentlemen. She walks around like she’s some sort of Rainbow Brite Care Bear or something but really she’s an evil monster.” According to local reports, the “kill the Claire Bear” line was met with “mild applause.”

The rhetoric prompted the U.S. Capitol Police to seek extra protection for the Democratic senator, and local police are stepping up patrols around her Missouri home.

Let’s not overlook one related element of this story. Reader A.S. emails to note that Sarah Steelman, who’s running against McCaskill, attended the Tea Party Express event, and offered a rather remarkable response to Boston’s comments.

On Tuesday, Steelman came to Boston’s defense, blaming the “liberal media” that, she says, employs a double-standard when it comes to covering political rhetoric that contain a hint of violence.

“I may disagree with the words Mr. Boston chose in his statement,” Steelman said in her own statement, “but I understand his frustration and I emphatically support his right to express his views.”

This really ought to be simple for any decent person, especially someone seeking a major public office. When a supporter talks about killing an elected official, you denounce it. Full stop. Steelman, in a written statement in which she could take her time and express her precise thoughts, said she disagrees with Boston, which is good, “but I understand his frustration,” which is not good.

Here’s a tip for politicians: when you’re trying to denounce violent rhetoric, don’t say “but” and don’t express sympathies for the attitudes of talk about killing elected officials.

John Brunner, who also hopes to take on McCaskill and is running against Steelman in a GOP primary, said of Boston’s comments, “This type of rhetoric is unconscionable and I reject this kind of politics. Comments like these have no place in this U.S. Senate campaign, or any other campaign in this country, because they don’t represent American values.”

See? Was that so hard?

Claire McCaskill and Missouri

Making excuses for violent rhetoric

Updated