It's Republicans' always fault, no matter what. When a Democrat is attacked, conservative rhetoric is to blame, even if it isn't. And when a field full of Republican Congressman are assaulted by a left-wing gunman, it's high time for a national conversation about...the Republican president, of course. I spent a great deal of time and energy yesterday trying to maintain my intellectual integrity and apply my standards evenly -- but hot damn, the Left makes it really tough to treat them fairly sometimes. As a repulsive orgy of political blame plays out in the aftermath of Wednesday morning's shooting spree, a mind-bending talking point is starting to congeal in some lefty quarters: Donald Trump's coarsening of our dialogue is an important factor in all of this. As you absorb these quotes, bear in mind that we're talking about an embittered, hardcore leftist shooting up a bunch of Republicans, one of whom remains in critical condition as he undergoes multiple operations. That's the lay of them land. But Trump! Let's start with Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, who is up for re-election next year in a state that went red by nine points last fall:
Sen. Sherrod Brown accused a reporter on Wednesday of practicing "fake journalism" for asking whether Democrats have played any role in using violent, partisan rhetoric in the wake of President Trump's election victory last year. Brown, D-Ohio, told reporters in a hallway interview that President Trump has chosen to "divide and name call" rather than serve as "the healer in chief." When asked by the Washington Examiner if Democrats have also played a role in dividing the nation with their heated opposition to Trump and the GOP, Brown called that "a false equivalency" used by editors of newspapers, including the Washington Examiner and the Wall Street Journal. He said that tactic from those news outlets "would be called, in another era, fake journalism."
One wonders what Rep. Steve Scalise thinks of that "false equivalency." Next, here's MSNBC's Mike Brzezinski graciously allowing that perhaps the blame shouldn't be placed "squarely" on Trump, but opining that he's certainly adding to the nation's "dangerous climate:"
As Legal Insurrection notes, co-host Joe Scarborough pushed back: "It is a long time coming. It is 20, 30 years coming, and yes, we’ve spoken about Donald Trump. But if Donald Trump were to leave Washington tomorrow, we would have the same problems that we had the 30 years before Donald Trump was here. This is a systemic problem, and it’s been with us for a long time." Ding, ding, ding. Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has a theory on when things started to go sideways. I'll give you one guess who the villains are:
Pelosi on political discourse: it didn’t use to be this way, somewhere in the 90s republicans decided on politics of personal destruction
— Alex Moe (@AlexNBCNews) June 15, 2017
Oh. I wonder what Clarence Thomas, or Robert Bork, or Barry Goldwater might have to say about this analysis. Or Alexander Hamilton for that matter. How cartoonishly obtuse. Last but not least (for now) is New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush -- who referred to himself as a pro-Clinton "hack" before getting hired by the supposed "paper of record" -- declaring where every conversation about civility must begin:
Any debate about civility in politics begins with Trump. No one has degraded discourse more, while embracing the fringe. Fact, not opinion.
— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) June 15, 2017
"Fact, not opinion" is a nice touch. But if Thrush's Democratic allies are to be believed, the Giffords shooting was about right-wing incivility; that incident happened -- and correct me if I'm wrong here -- years before Donald Trump was even a candidate. Also, the man who was president at the time called his predecessor "unpatriotic," urged his supporters to 'bring a gun to a knife fight,' claimed that Republicans want to contaminate the air and water consumed by America's children, accused his opposition (without a shred of irony) of being hellbent on taking healthcare away from people, said that critics of his terrible Iranian nuclear deal were allying themselves with 'death to America'-chanting zealots, and whose White House compared the opposing party to "hostage takers," "arsonists" and even "terrorists." But by all means, any debate about civility in politics must begin with Trump. Fact, not opinion. Perhaps what Thrush et al don't realize is that Trump's (admittedly terrible) comportment and (gross and reckless) ends-justify-the-means methods were seen as features, not bugs, by millions of primary voters who were attracted to a nasty brawler who would punch back against what they've seen as the Left's relentless gutter tactics and moral bullying. You bully us with impunity, so we'll hire our own bully, and see how you like it.
Both "sides" have made innumerable contributions to our current dysfunctional and ugly national conversation, with more than enough examples to allow spiraling 'whataboutism' to go on endlessly. Post-tragedy Twitter is a depressingly reliable reminder of that reality. But to pretend that Trump is the root of all of this is absurd. He's a symptom of a long-metastasizing disease. (Opinion, not fact, because I'm self-aware). If you're fixating on Trump while a member of Trump's party is fighting for his life because a left-wing assailant's bullet pierced his internal organs, you're doing it wrong. Badly, badly wrong. If the Right is always going to be widely and loudly blamed for violence against liberals -- even if they're not remotely responsible -- and also partially blamed for left-wing violence against their own, is it any wonder that many conservatives turned to a figure like Trump? If the media stacks the deck in such an enragingly unfair way, the incentive to act in good faith dissipates. That's that's truly tragic for the country.