Republican Party elected officials, former elected officials, and other leaders, from James Inhofe to Tom Tancredo to Newt Gingrich to Rush Limbaugh, have accused Judge Sonia Sotomayor, be it implicitly or quite explicitly, of being a "racist." When CNN's John King asked Senate Republican "Leader" Mitch McConnell, now the most powerful elected Republican in America, whether he thought aggressive rhetoric like Gingrich's and Limbaugh's went too far, he responded:
I've got better things to do than to be the speech police over people who are going to have their views about a very important appointment.
Speech police, huh? Well, I'll come back to that in a moment.
In July 2008, a psychopath went on a shooting rampage at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. Following the tragedy, the shooter wrote a four-page note explaining why, according to his demented thought process, he did what he did:
Know this if nothing else: This was a hate crime. I hate the damn left-wing liberals. There is a vast left-wing conspiracy in this country & these liberals are working together to attack every decent & honorable institution in the nation, trying to turn this country into a communist state. Shame on them....
This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book. I'd like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I know those people were inaccessible to me. I couldn't get to the generals & high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickenshit liberals that vote in these traitorous people. Someone had to get the ball rolling. I volunteered. I hope others do the same. It's the only way we can rid America of this cancerous pestilence.
Conservative blowhard Bernard Golberg's book, "100 People Who Are Screwing Up America," was part of this madman's perverted inspiration. This person hated liberals and Democrats and "volunteered" to do what was necessary to "rid America of this cancerous pestilence," using Goldberg's book as a motivating force.
At rallies for the 2008 Republican ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin, supporters used increasingly violent rhetoric aimed at then-Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama. McCain and Palin were criticized for not doing more to rebuke such troublingly violent language from their supporters.
Throughout 2009 so far, Fox News' Sean Hannity has used rhetoric which has included imagery of varying degrees of violence, from hangings to armed rebellion, to provoke response in his right-wing viewership.
By now, you most likely have already read about Dr. George Tiller's assassination yesterday. Dr. Tiller was the subject of assassination attempts, violence, and, by definition, terrorism in the past. Even in the wake of his assassination, some on the far right wing gleefully extolled the murder. In the years leading up to Dr. Tiller's assassination, Bill O'Reilly's rhetoric likening Dr. Tiller to Adolf Hitler was not subtle.
Those on the far right wing fringe use dangerously violent rhetoric to get a point across -- a point that sometimes tragically comes with violent action. This fringe is a key element of the listenership, viewership and readership of right wing media personalities like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and Bernard Goldberg. To increase their ratings and their book sales, they look to provoke their followers in a variety of ways. Occasionally and, again, tragically, this leads to violence, even to domestic terrorism. Certainly, this rhetoric condones and even encourages utter hatred, something disturbingly and violently on display at those Fox News-hyped Tea Parties.
So, back to our nation's most powerful elected Republican, Mitch McConnell, and the "speech police" sentiment in response to increasingly aggressive rhetoric against Judge and Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, the latest example of the far right rhetorically igniting a situation as far as it will go, good sense and intelligent discourse be damned. Mitch, you don't need to wear a badge and call out every conservative who says something not nice about a liberal. But we have seen a marked increase on the far right of hatefully aggressive and even violent rhetoric. This very rhetoric is employed by leading right wing media personalities and Republican Party leaders. And this very rhetoric has directly led to acts of violence and domestic terrorism.
So, Mitch, do you have anything better to do than to serve as a role model and a standard bearer for your Party, calling out the seeds of violence when you see and hear it in the rhetoric of your Party's most visible spokespeople, protecting America and preventing acts of terrorism? No, Mitch, I would suggest that you most definitely do not have anything better to do than that. I'd further suggest that the more aggressive and more violent the rhetoric of the far right wing becomes, the greater the responsibility of elected Republican leaders becomes to publicly and forcefully rebuke such language, rather than passively condone it. Mitch, I think you can make the time. And if you and your fellow elected Republicans don't make the time to rebuke such violent rhetoric, you will get lumped together with those espousing the rhetoric, and you will be voted out of office.
UPDATE: Greg Sargent reminds us of how Republicans and right wingers kicked up controversy when a Department of Homeland Security report made reference to the potential threat of "right wing extremists." Too bad that Republicans tried to distract America with a bogus political argument instead of addressing the substance of the matter.