By GARY BAUMGARTEN
Paltalk News Network
Threats of violence against members of Congress are not just being directed at Democrats for their support for the health reform bill. Now some Republican members who voted against it are being targeted as well.
Meanwhile, the atmosphere in Washington that led to the threats to begin with - the excessive partisan bickering over the bill - hasn't changed one bit. In fact, partisan accusations of blame for the threats abound.
Democrats are accusing Republicans of fanning the flames with their rhetoric about how the bill is destroying the nation. Republicans are accusing Democrats of making things worse by complaining publicly about the threats.
This dangerous shift in political debate actually began before the health reform bill was introduced. It started - really - when Barack Obama became the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.
Death threats against presidents and presidential candidates aren't new. But they rose to alarming levels when Obama was nominated. Some of it was racially motivated. Some of it because there are those who mistakenly believe Obama is a Muslim.
The Obama campaign chose to not comment on the threats - deciding that to do so would only bring them undue attention and produce even more. Apparently the Democratic leadership struggled with the proper response to the threats that are being tossed toward members of Congress now and came up with a different strategy. They felt it was important for the public to know exactly what was going on.
Perhaps the most distressing partisan comments came from Sarah Palin, who ran for vice president on the Republican ticket and who - today - is in Arizona campaigning for her former running mate - Sen. John McCain - who is seeking re-election. Using terms like "reload" and putting cross-hair targets on a map of congressional districts where Democrats need - in her opinion - to be voted out of office - is protected speech. But not particularly responsible.
In an atmosphere where there are so many people who are terribly distressed by the health reform vote - such rhetoric could be misinterpreted by some unstable individuals as a green light to carry things further.
So far there have been threats, gunshots at property, other acts of vandalism and a suspicious package delivered to a congressman's office. I wonder if things get worse, will those who have been resorting to hyperbole feel any tinge of responsibility? With luck, this won't be a question they will ever have to face.
Talk to Gary at 5 PM New York time weekdays on the Paltalk News Network. Go to www.joinchatnow.com. There is no charge.