Political Hay

Some Vitriolic Rhetoric About Repeal

The GOP still needs to kill ObamaCare.

By 1.14.11

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It should by now be obvious to the meanest intelligence that the Democrats and their accomplices in the "news" media are deliberately exploiting the murders of six innocent people, and the wounding of a dozen others, for political purposes. Unlike the Tucson shooting itself, the grotesquely opportunistic response of the left was utterly predictable. No one should have been surprised by the spectacle of Democrat officials braying on television about "people in the radio business" or wondering in print if the crime was inspired by "a conservative politician publishing a map with a bullseye." Moreover, the goal of this cynical behavior is all too obvious. Having lost much of the legitimate power they wielded before November 2, the Democrats hope to use this tragedy as a means of gaining psychological sway over the GOP and using that ascendancy to cow the new House majority into compromising on its agenda.

This is not a matter of idle speculation. The campaign began before the bloodstains were washed off the parking lot of the Tucson Safeway. Barely 24 hours after Jared Loughner's bloody rampage, Democrat Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) used the shooting as a pretext for demanding that House Republicans change the title of their ObamaCare repeal bill. Invoking the name of wounded congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in an article for the Huffington Post, Pingree allowed that she has no idea what motivated Loughner: "We don't know if was politics -- aimed at Gabby's courageous stands on health care and immigration." Yet somehow she knows what will prevent such atrocities in the future: "What really matters is that we do everything we can to prevent it from happening again. And the first thing we can do is to crank down the rhetoric a few notches."

This suggestion by Pingree begs the following question: Is there any actual evidence that "right-wing," or any other brand of political rhetoric led to this violent act? The answer is a resounding "no." So far, despite the increasingly irresponsible claims of Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, no such evidence has materialized. In fact, Jared Loughner's good friend Zach Osler emphatically claims, "He did not watch TV. He disliked the news. He didn't listen to political radio. He didn't take sides. He wasn't on the left. He wasn't on the right." Loughner's only known interest in media of any kind involved Zeitgeist, "a feature-length online documentary that is one-third arguments that Jesus never existed and religion is an evil fraud, one-third 9/11 trutherism, and one-third conspiracy theories about bankers." This stuff brings a number of adjectives to mind, but "conservative" isn't among them.

Nonetheless, Rep. Pingree says we need to dial the rhetoric down. And when she writes "we," she means Republicans: "A good place to start a more civil dialog would be for my Republican colleagues in the House to change the name of the bill they have introduced to repeal health care reform." The bill, you see, is styled the "Repeal the Job Killing Health Care Law Act." Is Pingree insinuating that the repeal effort sent Loughner over the edge? Heaven forfend! Like the Player Queen in Hamlet, the lady protests, "I'm not suggesting that the name of that one piece of legislation somehow led to the horror of this weekend -- but is it really necessary to put the word 'killing' in the title of a major piece of legislation? I don't think that word is in there by accident…" And it is no accident that Pingree's call has been taken up by all the usual suspects.

None of this is really about the name of the repeal bill or the dangers of "vitriolic rhetoric," of course. It's all about finding some way -- any way -- to take some steam out of the repeal effort. The Democrats desperately want to preserve ObamaCare, and they hope a "more civil dialogue" will slow down Republican momentum on the health care issue. For confirmation of that reality, consider the words of the New Republic's Jonathan Cohn: "I genuinely hope Republicans do alter their rhetoric … if they do change, I suspect they'll find their cause loses at least a little bit of its urgency and maybe quite a lot." Will the GOP fall for it? Their history is not encouraging, and John Boehner's office has been making some disturbingly gullible noises: "House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman said yesterday the Ohio Republican's priority is to keep the discourse steady and civil."

The voters who put Boehner in the Speaker's chair have a different "priority": the repeal of ObamaCare and a wide variety of other Democrat boondoggles. One hopes that his office is merely trying to be sensitive to the feelings of the families affected by the shooting, and that is appropriate for this moment. But that impulse should not morph into a naïve assumption that the Democrats care a wit about such things. The repeal effort will presumably begin moving forward again next week, and the debate will no doubt be more restrained than might have been the case before Tucson. The Republicans will certainly be less aggressive in their rhetoric. The Democrats will, in turn, see this as weakness and attempt to exploit the gesture, just as they have exploited Tucson. They will brand as "vitriolic" every floor speech in favor of repeal and repeatedly demand that the GOP water down its agenda.

House Republicans would do well to ignore these tricks. They know that Tucson had nothing to do with the health care debate or any other political exchange. And the Democrats know it as well. In fact, according to a CBS poll taken early in the week, even the public gets it. The survey showed that "57 percent of poll participants said the country's harsh political tone was unrelated to the shooting." So, there really is no excuse for the GOP to wave the white flag on repeal. The Republicans can either make nice or make progress. If they want to retain their House majority, they should expeditiously choose the latter. They need to kill the job-killing health care law.

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About the Author

David Catron is a health care consultant. He has an MBA from the University of Georgia and blogs at Health Care BS.