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Republicans Dance Close To Line In Regards To Planned Parenthood

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Republicans Dance Close To Line In Regards To Planned Parenthood

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Our question of the day: Who — or what — should take the blame?

The reference is to last week’s act of domestic terrorism at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs. Authorities say three people were killed and nine wounded by Robert Dear, an eccentric, 57-year-old recluse.

After his arrest, he is reported to have muttered something about “No more baby parts,” an apparent reference to a controversial hidden-camera video purporting to prove Planned Parenthood harvests and sells the organs of aborted fetuses for a profit, a charge the organization has strenuously denied.

So who is responsible for this atrocity?

It’s a question asked with numbing frequency in a country where you can pretty much set your watch by the random shootings. Nor are answers ever in short supply. We frequently hear that someone’s rhetoric is at fault.

This happened four years ago when a mentally ill man killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in Tucson. Jane Fonda blamed Sarah Palin.

It happened last year, when a deranged man ambushed and executed two police officers in Brooklyn. Erick Erickson, a Fox “News” contributor, blamed President Obama.

So one is hardly surprised, in the wake of this latest shooting, that Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president, blamed the “toxic environment” created by Republican presidential candidates.

Truth is, if you want to blame someone for this shooting, start with the man who pulled the trigger. You might also investigate what roles were played by the mental health system and the legal system that allowed him access to a weapon of mass destruction.

Point being, in the rush to draw the larger moral lesson, one should be wary of absolving the guilty of their crimes, even if only by inference. That said, let us note that Laguens’ criticism is qualitatively different from that leveled by Fonda against Palin or Erickson against Obama. Meaning that it’s not absurd on its face.

After all, while one has a constitutionally guaranteed right to express one’s opinion, one has no such right to threaten or incite violence. There is, in other words, a fundamental difference between saying “Joe is a terrible person” and saying “Somebody should teach Joe a lesson” or “Joe needs to get what’s coming to him.”

Have Republicans crossed that line with regard to Planned Parenthood?

Probably not. But they have danced uncomfortably and undeniably close to it. When you habitually refer to abortion providers as criminals, butchers, Nazis, barbarians, and baby killers, you cannot be surprised if someone sees them as less than human — and acts accordingly. Carry lit matches through dry tinder and every now and again, you will start a fire.

One is reminded of how, years ago, before he himself became a TV cop, rapper and heavy metal singer Ice-T was asked if he thought his songs expressing hatred of police might cause acts of violence against them.

He said no. If somebody aspired to kill cops, he said, “All I did was make him a theme song.” He was right, except that he seemed to think himself morally exonerated by that reasoning.

But if you create an environment where violence against some person or group seems righteous — even if you don’t explicitly call for that violence — are your hands wholly clean when the violence comes? If you give hatred a theme song, what is your responsibility when a disaffected soul starts singing along?

You’ll find no pat answers here — only a question worth pondering for people of conscience in general and the Republican contenders in particular. No, they did not cause this shooting. They are not guilty.

Problem is, they’re not innocent, either.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.) (c) 2015 THE MIAMI HERALD DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

A police vehicle is seen parked outside the Planned Parenthood clinic a day after a gunman opened fire in Colorado Springs, Colorado November 28, 2015. REUTERS/Isaiah J. Downing

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Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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14 Comments

  1. Dominick Vila December 2, 2015

    Ultimately, the person responsible for crimes such as the one that just took place in Colorado Springs is the man that pulled the trigger, but that’s just part of it. A culture that adores and supports gun ownership, to the point that they feel compelled to oppose any efforts to reduce the incidence of gun violence, cannot get a free pass. The same goes for the irresponsible rhetoric we hear from people who aspire to be President. While we cannot say that Fiorina’s rhetoric after dismemberment of babies and sale of body parts was directly responsible for what just happened, rhetoric like that can, and often do, influence the decisions of mentally unstable people, and ideological zealots. The same goes for Palin’s map with cross hairs and her call to “reload”. Yes, it was a political metaphor, but not everyone is capable to distinguish between immature political garbage and a call to arms.
    We have a serious problem that is unlikely to be solved by passing legislation, and that is being aggravated by political opportunism, greed, and a culture that must change because something truly terrible happens.

    Reply
    1. bcarreiro December 2, 2015

      Appointing the people to vote on all levels of legislation and making it illegal to suppress freedom. Constitutional convention should come automatically. I received an indirect threat politely 2day. Intel over influence.

  2. Paul Bass December 2, 2015

    “Just ’cause I say ‘those people’ are evil doesn’t mean I want you to KILL them…”

    Reply
  3. Eleanore Whitaker December 2, 2015

    There are men like Hitler, Stalin and others whose charisma seems to magnetize the least educated and most easily influenced. Public figures must watch what they say. They cannot spout their religious beliefs without appearing to be attempting conversions and Baptisms in their so-called Christian faith.

    The fact that they live by their guns, means they always will die by their guns or those of their family members or their neighbors.

    Reply
    1. FireBaron December 2, 2015

      You mean like when the “Black Lives Matter” protester got beat up at a Trump rally, and he dismissed it by saying he probably deserved it?

      1. Eleanore Whitaker December 2, 2015

        No…I mean Men and women like you who have the balls to try and ram YOUR BS opinions down women’s throats. How about mind your own dirty little businesses?

        Sorry racist boy…But Tea Party thugs did the very same thing to former Congressman Rush Holt here in NJ…yanked a microphone out of the Congrssman’s hand and then shoved him…two big fat shaven headed pigs of the Tea Party.

  4. 1standlastword December 2, 2015

    The republican candidates as a group have demonstrated an assortment of character types (if the elections in America remain fair) that canNOT represent a multi-racial, technological and mainly urban America in the position of highest job in the land.

    They shown they are too clannish, too partisan, too racist, too homophobic, too greedy, too incompetent and absolutely uncompromising and reckless as demonstrated during these debates and in office over the last eight years!!

    Their addiction to toxic rhetoric and high-flying circus acts to skirt responsibility for the ‘effect’ of what they say in the media withstanding, I predict Donald Trump’s candidacy will be the primary and most potent reason why they will be setback at least 20 years in their effort to gain the WH.

    Trump will continue to gain momentum. He will prove at least two things have happened to our democracy since money gained free-speech rights on par with human rights; it will make us the mockery of the world with a resemblance to a banana republic:

    1. If you have enough money your can buy a nomination for POTUS
    2. Of the two major parties, the GOP is the most corrupt

    Reply
    1. Otto Greif December 2, 2015

      Trump isn’t buying the nomination, he’s spent less than the other Republican candidates. The Clinton campaign, for comparison, has aired more TV ads than Bush, Trump, Carson, Rubio, Cruz, and Paul combined.

  5. Wedge Shot December 2, 2015

    I blame Carly Fiorina. She is a whore who went to great lengths to explain, show and blame Planned Parenthood for things they did not do. She is responsible as much as the guy the pulled the trigger.
    I hope knows that the three deaths are on her soul.

    Reply
    1. Bill December 2, 2015

      Do U think she cares?

    2. 1standlastword December 2, 2015

      You make a very astute observation referring to her as a ‘whore’.

      As the only woman on the stage she asserted her gender to qualify her sham rage and manipulate pro-lifers– all for the purpose to sway voters to her platform.

      Nice touch Wedge!

  6. yabbed December 2, 2015

    Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz have blood on their hands. They lied repeatedly about Planned Parenthood cutting up alive full term babies to harvest organs for sale for profit. It is quite despicable what lies they have fed to people, including the killer who opened fire in a Planned Parenthood clinic. She should be charged with incitement to murder and sued in a civil action by the wounded and the families of those murdered. She bears a huge blame in what happened.

    Reply
  7. plynth December 2, 2015

    Sick of killings by conservatives and these religious fundamentalists be they anti-abortionists or Islamist terrorists, racists, Taliban, Iran’s religious leadership. Conservatives are the scourge of this earth.

    Reply
    1. wjca December 6, 2015

      The sad part is, Iran’s leaders, bad as they are, are probably the least damaging of that group.

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