Washington Times columnists are rarely shy about using strong language to attack their opponents, from Democrats to the LGBT community to the Obama administration.
So it was somewhat surprising to read columnist Jeffrey Kuhner's August 4 op-ed, in which he attacked Democratic politicians and pundits for some of the inflammatory rhetoric they've been using to describe the tea party:
Vice President Joseph R. Biden believes Tea Party Republicans are right-wing jihadists. Following the debt-ceiling deal, in a private Democratic Caucus meeting, Mr. Biden joined several Democrats in accusing conservative House Republicans of behaving like "terrorists."
"We have negotiated with terrorists," said Rep. Michael F. Doyle of Pennsylvania, according to a report in Politico citing several sources in the room. "This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money."
According to Politico, Mr. Biden responded by saying: "They have acted like terrorists." The White House has tried to walk back those statements. Mr. Biden claims he never said them. President Obama's press spokesman eventually called such inflammatory rhetoric "inappropriate." For the record: I don't believe Mr. Biden. This is a man with a long, well-documented history of mendacity, plagiarism and making irresponsible statements. He said it, and he knows he said it. Multiple sources confirmed it.
Moreover, it is part of a larger liberal pattern of smearing the Tea Party movement during the debate about raising the debt limit. It was not just Mr. Biden and Mr. Doyle who declared small-government Republicans to be the American equivalent of the Taliban or Hezbollah. MSNBC host Chris Matthews likened Tea Partyers to "terrorists" and "hostage-takers." Newsweek's Tina Brown called them "suicide bombers." In short, for the Democratic left, the Tea Party is evil incarnate.
There's certainly a debate to be had about whether or not such name-calling crosses the line. However, Kuhner goes a step further and suggests not only are liberals being hypocritical, but that they also might be inciting violence with their strong words. Kuhner writes that such "degrading comments" are "slander[ing]" and "dehumaniz[ing]" tea party members and that "liberals ... are paving the way for potential political violence":
Contrast this to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Democrat, which triggered a huge -- and largely manufactured -- debate about the devastating effects of incendiary rhetoric. In particular, the media and political class blamed Sarah Palin, conservative talk radio and the American right for the tragedy -- especially their alleged over-the-top use of metaphors in excoriating opponents. Never mind that the act was perpetrated by a lone madman who hardly ever listened to Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh or Mrs. Palin. He was driven by pathological malice, not politics. The liberals' narrative was clear: The Tea Party was somehow to blame. Mr. Obama even urged a new "national discourse" based on "civility." That was then; this is now.
Leftist expediency now requires that the most heinous, reckless and degrading comments be used. Tea Partyers are not simply being slandered, they are being dehumanized. Ironically, it is liberals who are paving the way for potential political violence. Terrorists, hostage-takers, suicide bombers, neo-Nazis, the Christian Taliban -- all of the epithets regularly thrown at Tea Party members by rabid progressives -- eventually foster one overriding emotion: hatred. It is not much of a leap for some deranged Democratic activist to conclude that the only way to defeat the phantom specter of marching right-wing jihadists is to slaughter them. The Black Panthers, the Weathermen, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the Unabomber -- the U.S. radical left has been littered with violent movements marked by the irrational loathing of a menacing Middle America.
Weird -- Kuhner is mocking the "largely manufactured" debate about "incendiary rhetoric" that followed the Tucson shootings, yet he's also claiming that such rhetoric can bring about dire consequences.
By his own logic, politicians and pundits of all stripes should stay away from such extreme verbal attacks, lest "deranged" activists decide the "only way to defeat" their opponents is "to slaughter them."
OK. Let's review some of the things Kuhner has written about those he labels his opponents.
Kuhner minces no words when talking about prominent Democrats: He's called Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi an "anti-American leftist" while wondering if she's "mentally stable." Last October, he wrote that liberal billionaire George Soros is an "enemy of democracy and America" who "undermines American values."
His attacks on the LGBT community have been especially vicious: He called the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy an "act of national suicide" and responded to the Obama administration's decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act by claiming that it showed the "homosexual rights movement is on the verge of destroying marriage."
It's President Obama, however, who has been subject to some of Kuhner's harshest name-calling: He's called the president "an anti-American political thug," a "Machiavellian socialist," and a "radical leftist who seeks to dismantle capitalism." He called on Republicans to "wage an all-out assault on Mr. Obama's presidency." On a nationally syndicated radio show, he even claimed that Obama secretly wants "the Jews to be wiped off the face of the Earth."
Perhaps most ironically, Kuhner actually attacked Obama's memorial address following the Tuscon massacre, in which Obama urged caution over "sharply polarized" discourse, as a "surreal spectacle in narcissistic self-congratulation." Yes -- he politicized the president's performance at a memorial service for shooting victims.
I'm not sure Jeffrey Kuhner is in any place to be giving lectures about the possible consequences of "heinous, reckless and degrading comments."