Democratic reaction to Scalise shooting is model for GOP today


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May 28, 2023

Democratic reaction to Scalise shooting is model for GOP today


DEMOCRATIC REACTION TO SCALISE SHOOTING IS MODEL FOR GOP TODAY. Many Democrats and their allies in the media are blaming Republicans for a deranged man's attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). There's no question suspect David DePape is deranged, or what the British would call barking mad. Consider this, from the Washington Post: "In [a] blog post on October 24, four days before the attack on Pelosi, DePape shared images of a wooden birdhouse he said he had purchased for an invisible fairy he communicated with that had begun interfering with his life. 'He appears in a form that makes sense in my reality because I can't see fairies. He'll do things to let me know it's him and he often appears as a bird,' DePape wrote."

Or consider this headline, from the San Francisco Chronicle: "Ex-girlfriend of suspect in Paul Pelosi attack says he struggled with mental illness, believed he was 'Jesus for a year.'" The obvious conclusion: DePape is mentally ill. He has been mentally ill for a long time. He has the kind of mental illness that lawyers often use as a defense if a person is accused of a crime.

In recent days, apparently, DePape fixated on Nancy Pelosi. "DePape stated that he was going to hold Nancy hostage and talk to her," reads an FBI affidavit accompanying federal charges against DePape. "If Nancy were to tell DePape the 'truth,' he would let her go, and if she 'lied,' he was going to break 'her kneecaps.' DePape was certain that Nancy would not have told the 'truth.' In the course of the interview, DePape articulated he viewed Nancy as the 'leader of the pack' of lies told by the Democratic Party."

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Maybe the invisible fairy told him that. It seems clear that DePape processed standard Republican vs. Democrat political debate through his deeply ill way of viewing the world. He picked up on boilerplate Republican GOP rhetorical attacks on the speaker. On the other hand, he might have picked up other rhetoric that we do not know about because authorities and social media companies have taken down his writings. (We do know that DePape posted a picture of a jackhammer at a construction site "with the number 33 on it, an apparent reference to a conspiracy theory about Freemasons and world control," according to the Washington Post.)

So now Democrats and media allies are blaming Republicans, suggesting the Paul Pelosi attack was essentially a continuation of Jan. 6 by other means. Yes, DePape was crazy, they concede, but that just meant he was particularly susceptible to violent GOP rhetoric. The Washington Post headline was, "Attack on Nancy Pelosi's husband follows years of GOP demonizing her." The New York Times headline was, "Years of efforts to vilify Pelosi preceded brutal attack in home."

Former senator, secretary of state, and failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted: "The Republican Party and its mouthpieces now regularly spread hate and deranged conspiracy theories. It is shocking, but not surprising, that violence is the result. As citizens, we must hold them accountable for their words and the actions that follow."

What should Republicans do? House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has made remarks condemning the violence. But they were a bit disorganized and defensive, bringing up attacks by Democratic-supporting assailants on House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), as well as the man arrested with the apparent intent to kill Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Other GOP leaders have complained about the unfairness of Democratic criticism.

Perhaps Republicans should look back to how Democrats responded to the June 14, 2017, assault weapon attack on Republican representatives practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game. Democratic leaders knew the shooter, James Hodgkinson, was an angry, Trump-hating progressive — not crazy in the sense that David DePape is crazy, just angry, from a progressive Democratic perspective. He was a supporter of and volunteer for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). A watcher of Rachel Maddow and MSNBC. An absorber of Democratic talking points. A man angry enough to attack Republicans with a semi-automatic rifle and a 9 mm handgun, gravely wounding Scalise and four others.

Here is what Democrats did after the Scalise attack: They condemned the violence. They wished Scalise well. They praised law enforcement. And they moved on. They did not concede that their rhetoric might have contributed to Hodgkinson's actions. They did not even acknowledge the accusation. They quickly issued statements. Here is what then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement, in its entirety:

This morning, the U.S. Congress suffered a despicable and cowardly attack. My thoughts and prayers are with Whip Steve Scalise and the others wounded, Capitol Police and staff, and their families. We are profoundly grateful for the heroism of the Capitol Police, whose bravery under fire undoubtedly saved countless lives. On days like today, there are no Democrats or Republicans, only Americans united in our hopes and prayers for the wounded.

That was it. Pelosi said several good and necessary things and did not come anywhere near acknowledging any sort of Democratic collective guilt for the shootings. And here is what Sanders, the specific object of Hodgkinson's admiration, said in a statement:

I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign. I am sickened by this despicable act. Let me be as clear as I can be: Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs against our most deeply held American values.

Can you find any recognition of collective guilt there? Any apology? Any vow to change in the future? No. Now, obviously, Pelosi and Sanders did not have much of the press corps targeting them, suggesting that they bore responsibility for the shootings, so they were not under the pressure that McCarthy and other Republicans are under today. But their response to the baseball shooting is a model of how Republicans can respond to the Paul Pelosi attack today. Say the right things. Condemn the violence. Wish Pelosi well. Praise law enforcement. Then move on.

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