Conservative Rep. Paul Broun, one of President Obama’s toughest critics, was holding a town hall meeting this week and received this question from an elderly supporter: “Who’s going to shoot Obama?”
The audience laughed (With embarrassment? With enjoyment at the thought?) and Broun chuckled. (Nervousness? Amusement?) Then he said:
“The thing is, I know there’s a lot of frustration with this president. We’re going to have an election next year. Hopefully, we’ll elect somebody that’s going to be a conservative, limited-government president that will take a smaller, who will sign a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
Broun had a duty to confront the man, and say, “Sir, however much we may disagree with the President, he is the elected leader of the United States of America, and deserves our respect and allegiance. We do not settle our disagreements by murder or riots in this country, but by reason, debate and elections. And for all of you who laughed: one of my colleagues, Rep. Giffords of Arizona, is recuperating today from an attack on her life, and your laughter is deeply offensive to me and disrespectful of her ordeal. Assassination isn’t funny, and we should not make light of it. I’ll accept your apologies on behalf of the United States of America. And I don’t want to hear anything like that again at one of my town meetings.”
Broun didn’t say any of that, however. Later, he lied, releasing a statement that denied the sequence of events reported by onlookers:
“…I was stunned by the question and chose not to dignify it with a response; therefore, at that moment I moved on to the next person with a question. After the event, my office took action with the appropriate authorities. I deeply regret that this incident happened at all. Furthermore, I condemn all statements–made in sincerity or jest–that threaten or suggest the use of violence against the President of the United States or any other public official. Such rhetoric cannot and will not be tolerated.”
But you did tolerate it, Congressman. You tolerated it by not addressing the statement and the sentiment it represented directly when it was made and when the man who asked the question was right in front of you. Condemning it now is self-serving and easy. You had a duty to confront and condemn it then. Anything less is a passive endorsement.
Rep. Paul Broun, by trying to curry favor with the worst of our citizenry and failing his duty to confront calls to violence that are antithetical to free political discourse and American values, has thoroughly disgraced himself.