Feature

Nancy Pelosi's warning

Was the House speaker right—or playing politics—by saying that angry rhetoric could spark political violence?

Nancy Pelosi is right, said Cynthia Tucker in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Threatening and hateful rhetoric can lead to violence." (watch Pelosi's warning) House Speaker Pelosi compared the angry language in Washington and on TV these days to anti-gay rhetoric in 1970s San Francisco that she said created the climate for the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and openly gay supervisor Harvey Milk—but she just as easily could have pointed to the "respectable fomenters" of violence against blacks in the 1960s.

Once again, said John Hinderaker in Power Line, Pelosi and her party are "trying to smear and demonize conservatives and others who have rebelled against the Democrats' radical agenda: government-run health care, bailouts, trillion-dollar deficits, and so on." Apparently they don't think they can "intimidate their political opponents—us—into shutting up," so now they're trying to get uncommitted voters to support them "because they are repulsed by the supposedly bad manners" of the Right.

When the first female speaker of the House starts crying in public, said Ann Althouse in her blog, you know the Democrats are getting desperate. Nancy Pelosi can't really be afraid of political violence— the talk that troubles her "hasn't even included threats of violence." This "phony" outburst just shows Pelosi's party has run out of arguments on the merits of the "atrocious, amorphous health-care reform" they're trying to shove down our throats.

Honestly, it's a bit silly to "conflate criticism of Obama's extremist foes with criticism of all his foes," said Joan Walsh in Salon. Pelosi wasn't talking about people who, say, oppose the public health-insurance option. "She's talking about the paranoid hysterics who question the president's legitimacy and his basic humanity." Those are the nuts being stirred up by "unhinged right-wing media stars like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck"—and there's nothing controversial about calling them scary.

"Pelosi's hardly crazy to worry," said Mickey Kaus in Slate. Glenn Beck's "apolyptic" rhetoric has the power to bring "nutters" out of the woodwork. When somebody like Beck is telling you that "Obama is staging some sort of coup—that might seem to justify violence (despite Beck's own disclaimers) if you happened to be a very disenchanted person with weapons lying around."

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