In the immediate aftermath of the assassination attempt against Gabrielle Giffords, there was an effort on the part of many to show restraint when it came to rhetoric about politics and violence. That grace period is now long gone.
Republican pollster Frank Luntz, for example, is comfortable joking about using his car to run down President Obama. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) thought it was funny to say, “In Arizona, sometimes to gain office you have to have shot someone.” Rep. Paul Broun (R) of Georgia held a town-hall meeting last year in which a constituent asked, “Who is going to shoot President Obama?” – a line which reportedly prompted a “big laugh” from the crowd.
Right-wing humor is just so droll.
Rep. John Sullivan (R) of Oklahoma became the latest to use this kind of political/violent rhetoric this week, sharing some thoughts on the federal budget at a town-hall meeting on Wednesday:
“I supported the Paul Ryan budget and sent it over to the Senate. Now I live with some Senators, I yell at them all the time, I grabbed one of them the other day and shook him and I’d love to get them to vote for it – boy I’d love that. You know but other than me going over there with a gun and holding it to their head and maybe killing a couple of them, I don’t think they’re going to listen unless they get beat.”
Sullivan’s office later acknowledged his “poor choice of words,” and extended an apology “to anyone he offended.”
KOKI-TV in Tulsa aired this video of Sullivan making the remarks. Note the gun gesture with his hand when he talks about murdering senators who oppose the Paul Ryan budget plan.
In my heart of hearts, I sincerely doubt the Republican congressman would commit acts of violence against other lawmakers, but in the larger context, and just days after Luntz’s “joke” about violence towards the president, I have to admit I liked the post-Giffords grace period better.