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Republicans Dance Close To Line In Regards To Planned Parenthood

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

Colorado Shooter Was Adulterous, Abusive Evangelical Obsessed With The Apocalypse, ‘N.Y. Times’ Reports

Robert Lewis Dear, the suspect in Friday’s Planned Parenthood shooting, was a rage-filled, sporadically employed philanderer and drifter who believed that the end of the world was nigh. And as long as he believed in God, he trusted he had a get-out-of-Hell-free card, no matter what violence he advocated or inflicted upon the people in his life, according to an exhaustive, harrowing report published in The New York Times Tuesday.

Among the kernels uncovered from Dear’s sparsely documented life is a sworn affidavit from his second of three wives, given during their 1993 divorce, in which she said of Dear: “As long as he believes he will be saved, he can do whatever he pleases. He is obsessed with the world coming to an end.”

The Times reports:

[I]n court documents and interviews with people who knew Mr. Dear well, a picture emerges of an angry and occasionally violent man who seemed deeply disturbed and deeply contradictory: He was a man of religious conviction who sinned openly, a man who craved both extreme solitude and near-constant female company, a man who successfully wooed women but, some of them say, also abused them. He frequented marijuana websites, then argued with other posters, often through heated religious screeds.

“Turn to JESUS or burn in hell,” he wrote on one site on Oct. 7, 2005. “WAKE UP SINNERS U CANT SAVE YOURSELF U WILL DIE AN WORMS SHALL EAT YOUR FLESH, NOW YOUR SOUL IS GOING SOMEWHERE.”

In explicating Dear’s extreme evangelical Christian views and impassioned anti-abortion comments (referring to violence against abortion providers as “God’s work”), the article confounds recent right-wing attempts to obfuscate his motives. Although Dear was reported to have said “No more baby parts,” echoing comments made by conservatives in Congress and on the campaign trail, Republicans were quick to put distance between their rhetoric and the shooter’s actions.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) even went so far as to suggest that Dear was a “transgendered [sic] leftist activist,” because, Cruz asserted, he had been registered to vote as a woman (a clerical error that Dear had sought to correct, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette).

Via The New York Times

Suspect In Colorado Clinic Shooting Told He Faces Murder Charge

By Keith Coffman

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Reuters) – The man accused of killing three people and wounding nine in a shooting rampage at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs was told he faces charges including first-degree murder during his first court appearance on Monday.

Robert Lewis Dear, 57, appearing by video link from jail, spoke only to confirm that he understood and to tell the judge he had no questions. There was no discussion of the motives during the brief hearing, and formal charges will be filed at a court appearance scheduled for Dec. 9.

Planned Parenthood has said reports that Dear told investigators “no more baby parts” after his arrest following Friday afternoon’s deadly siege showed he was acting on an anti-abortion agenda.

Chief Judge Gil Martinez told Dear, who was in handcuffs and leg irons and strapped into a padded vest, apparently for his own safety, that if convicted, he faces a minimum sentence of life without parole or a maximum of death.

District Attorney Dan May said prosecutors have 63 days after Dear’s arraignment to decide whether to bring a death penalty case. Documents in the investigation were ordered sealed by the court on Monday.

“I personally will be part of the prosecution team,” May told reporters outside after the hearing.

For his appearance by closed-circuit camera from the jail where he is being held without bond, Dear was flanked by Dan King of the state’s public defender’s office. King defended the Colorado movie massacre gunman, James Holmes.

A handful of victims sat in the front of the packed courtroom, watching Dear on a screen. They were ushered out of a different door than the journalists.

VIDEO CONTROVERSY

The rampage blamed on the South Carolina native is believed to have been the first deadly attack on a U.S. abortion provider in six years. The Colorado Springs center has been the target of protests by anti-abortion activists.

A police officer and two civilians died in the attack, which, according to newly emerging details, began just outside the building, adjacent to a shopping area on the northwest side of Colorado’s second-largest city.

Ke’Arre Stewart, 29, an Iraq war veteran, was shot in front of the clinic after walking out to talk on his cell phone. Wounded, he ran back inside to warn others to take cover, his brother told NBC News. Stewart died of his wound.

“I believe that’s his military instinct, you know,” NBC News quoted his brother, Leyonte Chandler, as saying. “Before his time ran out, I guess that was his main priority … to help and save other lives.”

Planned Parenthood already was on heightened alert against threats of violence nationwide. Some affiliates said they would review their security measures further.

Several U.S. media outlets, citing unnamed law enforcement sources, have said Dear used the phrase “no more baby parts” in statements he made to investigators after his surrender. Reuters could not independently confirm those reports.

The reported comment was widely seen as an apparent reference to secretly recorded videos released months ago that anti-abortion groups have said showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of aborted fetal tissue.

Planned Parenthood has said the videos were produced to distort the issue of fetal-tissue donations made by the group for scientific research. It says reimbursements the organization received to cover the costs of those donations were neither unlawful nor unethical.

Authorities have said they do not know what precipitated the attack and have declined to discuss publicly the suspect’s motives.

U.S. Justice Department officials have joined the investigation, raising the possibility the federal government could bring a terrorism or civil rights case against Dear.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Additional reporting by Daniel Wallis and Dan Whitcomb; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Bill Trott, Bill Rigby and Jonathan Oatis)

Robert L. Dear is seen in an undated picture released by the Colorado Springs (Colorado) Police Department November 28, 2015.  REUTERS/Colorado Springs Police Department/Handout via Reuters