The Right And The Tinderbox


Unemployment is over 10 percent; economic insecurity is profound; we have been occupying two deeply Muslim countries for eight years with no end in sight; we are grappling with massive debt and an attempt to provide some basic health insurance for the working poor. There are perfectly reasonable and important debates to have about all this - whether this is the time to expand health insurance, whether we should have done it years ago, whether a public option is a good thing, whether Medicare can be cut enough to save enough to make this affordable. But the Republican right has not engaged such a debate in a meaningful way. And yesterday, the House GOP leadership gave their blessing to a raggedy bunch of extreme anti-government fanatics whose rally contained the following elements:

The angry folks at the protest -- which attracted several thousand conservatives -- held up signs with messages of hate: "Get the Red Out of the White House," "Waterboard Congress," "Ken-ya Trust Obama?" One called the president a "Traitor to the U.S. Constitution." Another sign showed pictures of dead bodies at the Dachau concentration camp and compared health care reform to the Holocaust. A different placard depicted Obama as Sambo. Yes, Sambo. Another read, "Obama takes his orders from the Rothchilds" -- a reference to the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory holding that one evil Jewish family has manipulated events around the globe for decades.

This kind of rhetoric - on the same day that the Fort Hood massacre took place - is gasoline on a fire of atavistic hate. Someone in the GOP leadership needs to call it out - before its logic propels us toward more violence and social division.

This kind of rhetoric is simply unacceptable for a major political party to institutionally embrace in a civil democracy:

Boehner, for one, declared that the health care bill is the "greatest threat to freedom that I have seen." That's some statement ... And at one point during the rally -- call it a Bachmannalia -- when John Ratzenberger, a.k.a Cliff Clavin from "Cheers," claimed that the Democrats were turning the United States into a land of European socialism, the audience shouted, "Nazis, Nazis." No Republican legislator left the stage in protest. Boehner and his fellow GOP leaders should be asked how they feel about mounting a rally that attracted intense hate-mongering.

(Photo: People from across the country protest the health care bill at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol November 5, 2009 in Washington, DC. By Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.)