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Monday, March 29, 2010

Eric Cantor's Magic Bullet Revisted

Last Friday, I wrote that House minority whip Eric Cantor's bullet story sounded like BS. Part of my reasoning was that "Cantor claims to have received threats himself, but he won't release them, because somehow that would be wrong." I thought it was a little fishy that Cantor would bring this up, only to say he wouldn't share them. Sure, releasing them would undercut his argument, but that argument -- that Democrats talking about death threats "fans the flames" of anger -- was already undercut by the mere mention of his own threats. He'd already let the cat out of the bag, so what's the deal? I figured that Cantor's threat claims were BS and I said so. Turns out, they weren't.

Greg Sargent, The Plum Line:

[Cantor spokesman Brad] Dayspring adds that security officials responsible for Cantor consider every threat legit until proven otherwise. Cantor had received many threats on his life in recent days, Dayspring added, presenting me with a series of emails with graphic anti-Semitic slurs and threats to kill Cantor, on the understanding that I not print the details.

Guess I wasn't the only person to come to the same conclusion, otherwise we never would've had even this limited release. Unfortunately for Cantor, those threats were real. Just as unfortunately, they don't help his argument any. Cantor, by his own argument, is now engaged in whipping up hysteria.

The rest of his story spent the weekend falling apart. As we knew on Friday, the bullet that broke a conference room window in Cantor's Virginia office was fired in the air and came back to earth in a pretty much random place. This revelation has had Cantor's office in spin cycle.

Talking Points Memo:

The office of Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) is pushing back against criticism of the congressman's dramatic press conference Thursday in which he claimed that his Richmond campaign office was shot at -- only hours before police said that a bullet had penetrated the window, but not the blinds, of the office on a downward trajectory, after someone fired into the air.

Cantor's spokesman is now claiming in media interviews that Cantor didn't know that the bullet was randomly fired when he revealed the incident on national television Thursday.

"Eric Cantor's latest defense: I didn't know that the police had concluded the bullet in my (sometimes) office was randomly fired until after my press conference in which I said my office had been targeted," TPM's David Kurtz wrote Friday. "You know it's bad when your fallback defense is reckless disregard for the truth." Cantor was claiming that his office had been targeted -- without evidence.

What gets me about this is the hypocrisy of it all. If talking about threats and violence invites threats and violence, then Cantor should've kept his mouth shut. After all, by his own argument, this would've been the responsible thing to do. And claiming an attack before he knew it actually was an attack was foolish -- as events are now demonstrating. Apparently, Republicans learned nothing from the Invasion of Iraq and Bush's phantom WMD. When you're talking about threats, proof is a really good thing to have.

But the worst of it is that all of this is just some weird political dance to avoid condemning threats and crimes against Democrats in reaction to healthcare reform. As I wrote Friday, Cantor's speech (calling something where you take no questions a "press conference" is a joke) was just "Quick, look over there!" Republicans have no interest in addressing the issue at all.


The Republican National Committee has rejected a proposal from its Democratic counterpart to sign a joint civility statement, POLITICO has learned.

Various members of the DNC including Chairman Tim Kaine, Executive Director Jen O Malley Dillon and Communications Director Brad Woodhouse contacted their respective RNC counterparts this week in hopes of getting RNC Chairman Michael Steele to co-sign a document with Kaine that, in part, called for elected officials of both parties to set an example of the civility we want to see in our citizenry.

"We also call on all Americans to respect differences of opinion, to refrain from inappropriate forms of intimidation, to reject violence and vandalism, and to scale back rhetoric that might reasonably be misinterpreted by those prone to such behavior," the statement read.

Of course Republicans rejected it; agreeing would mean abandoning the political strategy of the last year. Attack, lie, attack, lie, lather, rinse, repeat. While Cantor claims that Democrats are whipping up hysteria, you only need to see the RNC and DNC sites side by side to understand the difference between the two parties.

RNC and DNC websites
[Click for full sized image]

The RNC's site features a photoshopped image of an angry Nancy Pelosi surrounded by the flames of hell. The DNC's site looks a lot like the White House's site and highlights the achievements of Democrats. I guess you could argue that Republicans don't have any achievements to highlight, but that's hardly a defense. "Incendiary" is a word that's thrown around a lot, but I think using it to describe a page showing someone in flames is pretty fair. It's about as close to literally incendiary as you can get -- that is, until someone creates a java applet that actually shoots lighter fluid and sparks out of your monitor.

When your entire political strategy hinges on being a bunch of asses, you're not going to sign on to some civility statement. And, as Cantor demonstrated, if you ever get even the slimmest reason to play the victim card, you dive on the chance. Are there consequences to all of this? Sure. But so what?

Did Republicans worry about consequence when they invaded Iraq?


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UPDATE, From the Washington Post:

A Philadelphia man has been charged with threatening to kill Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and his family.

A two-count complaint and warrant was filed today accusing Norman Leboon, 33, of threatening to kill Cantor and his family in a YouTube video posted online this month, according to U.S. Attorney Michael L. Levy and FBI Special Agent in Charge Jan Fedarcyk.

"The Department of Justice takes threats against government officials seriously, especially threats to kill or injure others," Levy said in statement. "Whether the reason for the threat is personal or political, threats are not protected by the First Amendment and are crimes."

Read the affidavit and the warrant.