“Proud right wing terrorist,” on video

Watch for yourself. The man wasn’t calling for violence, but he was saying things likely to lead to violence. Not a “great American,” in my book.

Here’s the video of the town hall where Rep. Wally Herger called a constituent “a great American” after the constituent described himself as “a proud right-wing terrorist.”

On the one hand, it’s clear that the constituent wasn’t actually endorsing terrorism. He identifies himself as a teabagger, and seems to be suggesting that people have called the teabaggers “right-wing terrorists.”

Is that the case? I can’t find such a remark by googling, but that doesn’t mean it’s not out there.

The closest I can find is Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post, who wrote:

The recent attacks by Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers on the effort to reform the health-care system have been so misleading, so disingenuous, that they could only spring from a cynical effort to gain partisan political advantage. By poisoning the political well, they’ve given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They’ve become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.

The word “political” makes it clear that Pearlstein isn’t accusing Republicans of actual terrorism, any more than he was accusing them of poisoning actual, rather than metaphorical, wells, but it’s still pretty unfortunate phrasing. If the speaker merely wanted to turn that phrasing back on Pearlstein, that would have been fair rhetorical retaliation, I suppose, though the sort of outrageous lying Pearlstein was criticizing isn’t something a decent person would want to identify himself with.

Rep. Brian Baird referred to the teabaggers as using “close to Brown Shirt tactics,” which was certainly a bit of overheated rhetoric; if the actual Brownshirts (the SA) had restricted themselves to shouting people down, they wouldn’t have been nearly the menace to democracy they actually were. Baird subsequently retracted the remark, which would have been more defensible after some protesters started bringing guns to political meetings.

But the most famous recent discussion of right-wing terrorism was the DHS report. Contrary to the rants from the right wing, that report had nothing whatever to do with the teabaggers; it was about acdtual terrorist threats. The wingnut attacks on the DHS report left them looking just a little bit silly after the Holocaust Museum shootings. More recently, the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a chilling report on the resurgent militia movement, which mentioned the “tea parties” only in the context of the “Tea Party Anthem,” which the militias seem to have adopted as their fight song.

If the speaker intended to downplay the genuine threat from the militia movement, that’s his right, but it’s hardly the act of a “great American.”

The speaker also referred to Obama as a “king,” and talked about having left his speech notes at home because he was looking for his birth certificate. So although he wasn’t calling for violence, he was deliberately implying both that the President of the United States not lawfully in office and that the President has tyrannical ambitions. If people really believe that, then the step to “watering the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants” isn’t really a very big step.

Watch for yourself. Having done so, I don’t think I owe the Congressman any apologies. He’s happy to encourage the kind of extremist rhetoric that leads to violence, though of course he will be shocked – shocked! – when actual violence ensues.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com