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Reason Foundation

Masters of Distraction

Are Republicans "aiding and abetting terrorism" against Democrats over the health care bill?

David Harsanyi
March 29, 2010

The mob is furious. And while it hollers about "killing" bills, Republicans stoke the fury by calling on citizens to "target" races in "battleground" states.

Get it? "Target." The violent intentions are palpable.

Most Americans abhor violence, and no serious person has offered excuses or rationalized the actions of the smattering of loons who have threatened politicians who voted for health care reform.

But this campaign of distraction mounted by Democrats meaning to smear millions of Americans involved in legitimate political expression is as transparent as it is distasteful.

The narrative: Fearful underdog Democrats (true if you ignore their notable majorities in both houses of Congress and control of the presidency) are fending off hordes of ferocious, irrational detractors to do what's right.

Democrats insist Republicans must condemn—over and over—this imaginary rise of widespread radicalism. In doing so, they implicitly are accusing Republicans of controlling the aforementioned radicals. Other Democrats, such as House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, went so far as to claim that Republicans are "aiding and abetting terrorism" against Democrats.

For those grappling with history, here's what a "mob" looks like: furious citizens raiding the Bastille, stabbing and decapitating its governor, Marquis Bernard-Rene de Launay, and placing his head on a pike to parade around Paris streets to cheering crowds.

Or, to put it in more contemporary terms, think anti-capitalist, stone-throwing, Starbucks-hating, economic-justice thugs. Or perhaps radical environmentalists who burn down housing projects and research facilities for Mother Earth. For a domestic terrorist, you won't need to go farther than your local Chicago university to spot a Weatherman—sorry, Weatherperson.

And one would think that with all the threats politicians get every year, they would be more serious about whom they accuse.

Rep. Russ Carnahan, for instance, claims that a coffin was displayed near his home, which I will grant would be awfully intimidating—unless, of course, it turned out that the coffin was used in a peaceful political candlelight prayer vigil, as it was. (Go to Google for pictures.)

Maybe Carnahan confused prayer candles for torches.

We also heard terrible (third-hand and unsubstantiated) reports of folks spitting out N-words and F-words at representatives walking through Washington protests. Now, I wouldn't be surprised if it happened. It happens all the time.

"I've received threats since I assumed elected office, not only because of my position but also because I'm Jewish," said House Republican Whip Eric Cantor, who had a bullet shot through his office Monday. "I've never blamed anyone in this body for that, period."

Democrats claim that the "mischaracterizing" of the substance and motives of their health reform legislation generates angry and violent reaction. Well, I suppose that's subjective. There is a strong case to be made that the Republican characterization of Obamacare is far closer to reality than the one offered by Democrats.

The real problem is that tea partyers represent the means of obstruction. They must be discredited, first as robotic foot soldiers of the insurance companies and then as out-of-control and potentially violent mobs.

Neither is true. Or, as the president likes to say, it's just another distraction.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his Web site at www.DavidHarsanyi.com. This column first appeared at Reason.com.

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