The Rachel Maddow Show: "I Am The Mob"

Rachel Maddow addresses the use of the threat of assassination as a political tactic, and those who could care less about ginning up the anger which i
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Rachel Maddow addresses the use of the threat of assassination as a political tactic, and those who could care less about ginning up the anger which is driving the angry protesters to these town halls. Rachel stated this better than I ever could so I'll let her take it from here:

Maddow: What is not politics as usual is that opponents of health care reform have chosen to fight at this time with force and with threats of force. Not just fringe talk show hosts, but members of Congress telling their constituents that Barack Obama is like Hitler; members of the United States senate telling their constituents that they are right to be afraid, that health care reform really is a plot to kill the elderly. Corporate funded conservative P.R. operations promoting those lines of attack and then telling their activists to go put the fear of God into members of Congress.

Are we now operating in a political environment which is not just politics as usual, which is not just a rowdy debate? Has enough kerosene been poured on the flames that the possibility of violence-even assassination-is being posited as a real political tactic in the United States?

It's not a rhetorical question. It's not even a question about rhetoric. Because there are people in this country-people in the health care field, in fact-who have faced the actual threat of assassination as a political tactic.

Two and a half months ago, Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was assassinated and the man who's charged in the case purportedly believe that assassinations were justified because of his own beliefs about abortion. That belief in justified political violence was cultivated by the extreme anti-abortion movement that Scott Roeder is known to have extensive contact with before Dr. Tiller's death.

As the anti-health reform protestors flirt with the same exultation of violence, that same excuses and purported justifications of violence, that echo in the extreme anti-abortion movement in this country, it is worth remembering that the possibility of American politics turning to violence and terrorism-at the fringe-is not all theoretical.

Full transcript and her interview with Dr. Warren Hern to follow.

Maddow: On July 27th, two and a half weeks ago, Democratic Congressman Frank Kratovil was hanged in effigy outside his congressional office in Maryland. The staged lynching, the really well-tied noose and all was gleefully staged by an anti-health care reform protestor.

Later that week, on August 1st, Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas held a town hall event at a grocery store in Austin to talk about health care reform. An anti-health reform protestor there greeted him with a mock marble tombstone engraved with the congressman's name on it.

Two days after that, on August 3rd, Democratic Congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina reported to the Capitol Hill police that he had received death threats over his support for health care reform. One anti-health care reform protestor called his D.C. office and told a staffer, quote, "Miller could lose his life over this."

The very next day, on August 4th, the idea of a Democratic congressman being killed because he supported health care reform became a punch line for Republican Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TODD AKIN, MISSOURI: Different people from Washington, D.C have come back to their districts and had town hall meetings and they almost got lynched and so.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That same day, Democratic Senator Chris Dodd, who had just announced days earlier that he has prostate cancer, had this screamed at him by an anti-health care reform protestor outside one of his town hall events.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama clearly said, all you should do is take a painkiller. How come we don't just give Chris Dodd painkillers? Like a handful of them at a time? He can wash it down with Ted Kennedy's whiskey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Two days later, on August 6th, the FOX News anchor Glenn Beck, on national television, turns the threat of a political assassination into the acting out of a political assassination, when he and one of his staffers wearing a Nancy Pelosi mask role-played what it would be like for Glenn Beck to poison the speaker of the House of Representatives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST: I just wanted to-are you going to drink your wine? Are you blind? Do those eyes not work? There you go.

I want you to drink it now. Drink it. Drink it. Drink it.

I really just wanted to thank you for having me over to wine country. You know, to be invited I thought I had to be a major Democratic donor, long-time friend of yours, which I'm not. By the way, I put poison in your-no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The day after that, on August 7th, there were more death threats. Congressman Brian Baird of Washington reports that his office received this fax with an image of President Obama with a communist hammer and sickle symbol paint owned his forehead and the message, "Death to all Marxists, foreign and domestic" written underneath.

The day after that, on August 8th, anti-health reform protesters started turning up to Democratic town hall events while armed. In Arizona, a gun is dropped during a meet and greet with Democratic Congressman Gabrielle Giffords. The same day, a man with a concealed gun is escorted out of an event held by Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee.

Yesterday, the staff of Democratic Congressman David Scott arrived at their Georgia office to find a four-foot swastika painted across the sign for their office. Congressman Scott says he was also sent an Obama death threat fax similar to the one sent to Brian Baird's office, only this one also addresses Congressman Scott himself and it uses the "N" word.

Also yesterday, Democratic Congressman Dennis Moore of Kansas reports that he's received two death threats over the last 10 days. One he describes as a phone call into one of his congressional offices. The other is a threat he says he does not feel comfortable discussing with the media.

Yesterday also brought us a health care town hall event featuring President Obama himself in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Among the anti-health reform protesters outside the event was a man named William Kostric, who stood outside with a loaded handgun strapped to his leg. He was holding a sign at the time that read, quote, "It's a time to water-it is time-excuse me-to water the tree of liberty." A reference to Thomas Jefferson's famous words, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

As we noted last night, just for context, when Timothy McVeigh was arrested after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, he was wearing a t-shirt that had on the front of it a picture of assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, along with the words "Sic Semper Tyrannis." Those are the words shouted by Lincoln's assassin right after he shot him.

On the back of McVeigh's t-shirt was the same slogan that William Kostric paired with his loaded gun at the Obama event yesterday. There you can see both the sign and what Tim McVeigh picked out special to be wearing when he got his mug shot taken for having blown up a federal building and killed 168 Americans.

At the same event for President Obama in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, yesterday, a 62-year-old man named Richard Terry Young was arrested after sneaking past security officials and into Portsmouth high school just a few hours before President Obama was due to arrive. Mr. Young was allegedly carrying a knife when security officers found him. And when they got a warrant and searched his pickup truck, they found a .38 caliber KelTec semi-automatic pistol hidden inside a bag in his truck with a round in the chamber.

Today, at a town hall event for Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, "The Hill" newspaper reports that one anti-health reform protester stood outside the town hall, quote, "with a small, handwritten sign-cardboard sign that read, quote, 'Death to Obama.'"

The forces against health care reform are the same forces that have always been against health care reform-corporate interests that profit from the way things are now and the politicians who support those corporate interests. Health care is a multi-trillion dollar industry and special interests want to protect what they've got. That is common knowledge. That is politics as usual.

What is not politics as usual is that opponents of health care reform have chosen to fight at this time with force and with threats of force. Not just fringe talk show hosts, but members of Congress telling their constituents that Barack Obama is like Hitler; members of the United States senate telling their constituents that they are right to be afraid, that health care reform really is a plot to kill the elderly. Corporate funded conservative P.R. operations promoting those lines of attack and then telling their activists to go put the fear of God into members of Congress.

Are we now operating in a political environment which is not just politics as usual, which is not just a rowdy debate? Has enough kerosene been poured on the flames that the possibility of violence-even assassination-is being posited as a real political tactic in the United States?

It's not a rhetorical question. It's not even a question about rhetoric. Because there are people in this country-people in the health care field, in fact-who have faced the actual threat of assassination as a political tactic.

Two and a half months ago, Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was assassinated and the man who's charged in the case purportedly believe that assassinations were justified because of his own beliefs about abortion. That belief in justified political violence was cultivated by the extreme anti-abortion movement that Scott Roeder is known to have extensive contact with before Dr. Tiller's death.

As the anti-health reform protesters flirt with the same exultation of violence, that same excuses anpurported justifications of violence, that echo in the extreme anti-abortion movement in this country, it is worth remembering that the possibility of American politics turning to violence and terrorism-at the fringe-is not all theoretical.

Rachel brought in Dr. Warren Hern to talk about the similarities between the tactics being used now with the health care debate, and those used with the by the right to stop abortion from being safe and legal in the United States.

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Joining us now is Dr. Warren Hern. He is director of the Boulder Abortion Clinic in Colorado. He is one of the few remaining doctors in this country who perform late abortions and he has lived for decades now under the threat of assassination.

Dr. Hern, thanks very much for joining us tonight.

DR. WARREN HERN, BOULDER ABORTION CLINIC: Thank you for inviting me, Rachel.

MADDOW: Doctors who perform abortions have faced the real threat of violence and assassination for many years now. Do you see any parallels between the sort of rhetoric and threat that we're seeing now against health care reform and the character of the threats that you have faced for years now?

HERN: Yes, I do. I think that this is very frightening development. I'm alarmed by the kind of treatment that these mobs are giving to members of Congress and the encouragement they're getting from important political leaders like Sarah Palin and others.

The-we began seeing aggressive rhetoric and very violent rhetoric coming from the anti-abortion people even in the '60s and the early '70s that had to do with even things like birth control and family planning. I received some of these threats in 1970-1971 when I was working with the family planning program in Washington, D.C. The-in 1973, when I helped start the first nonprofit abortion clinic in Colorado, I started getting obscene death threats in the middle of the night.

The anti-abortion violence began in the '70s and picked up a lot of steam. There was a time when people could debate this subject, which is obviously very controversial, and people have different opinions, and the debates were usually rather civil. But the anti-abortion people began to be more aggressive, more harsh in their rhetoric, and more aggressive in their tactics, and began using violence against property, against doctors' offices and clinics. And it was obviously a trend in the wrong direction.

And in the '80s, we saw the increasing threats on people, among women who were seeking services and upon doctors. All of my colleagues who provide abortion services have received countless death threats over the decades.

And the assassination of Dr. Gunn in 1993, the attempted assassination of Dr. Tiller in 1993, and the other doctors, illustrate that the antiabortion movement is the shock troops for the radical right, on the radical political right, of radical religious right in this country, and I think that we can look at what the anti-abortion movement has done and turned to and see that this is the trend that we are in.

They have-the anti-abortion movement decided, more than 15 years ago, to use political assassination as a tactic, as a method of not only political expression but a way of organizing their followers and getting support and that's what they've been doing. They've been assassinating doctors. And the question I have pointed out when they get through assassinating abortion doctors: who's next?

MADDOW: Dr. Hern, in both the anti-health reform movement that we see now and in the extreme anti-abortion movement or in the anti-abortion movement even more broadly, of course, the large majority of protesters and even people who feel strongly about the issue are peaceful. But there is a very important part of the anti-abortion movement that is not peaceful and I wonder if you see violent rhetoric especially the use of Nazi imagery-the allegation that people are Nazis or like Hitler-is that an important bridge from protest into actual danger, into actual violence?

HERN: Well, it even starts before that. The use of the term "abortionist" for example to stigmatize doctors, the use of the term "pro-life" by people who are killing doctors, the-all the other rhetoric associated with the anti-abortion movement is prelude to the violent actions people feel justified in taking and feel empowered by this rhetoric.

And the-it's very clear that there's been a progression of violence increasingly toward individuals. And this is one of the frightening trends. And so, we have to be very concerned because the violent and the aggressive rhetoric and action or statements lead to more violent action and to assassination.

The anti-abortion movement and the rest of the radical political and religious right is fundamentally opposed to the basic premises of American society. They don't accept the rule of law. They don't want debate. They don't want discussion. They don't want reason. They don't want moderate discussion.

They want totalitarian, theocratic society and they are willing to use violence to get it. And that's one of the things we're seeing. The mob rule that's going on in some of the Congress-members of Congress town meetings is a-is a prelude to that kind of violence and disruption and it's the antithesis of the democratic process.

MADDOW: We don't have to imagine that we have-we have seen how it worked out in the anti-abortion movement.

Dr. Warren Hern, director of the Boulder Abortion Clinic, a man appearing on television with us with-in a way that takes considerable bravery given the threats to you. Thank you very much for your time tonight, sir. Good luck to you.

HERN: Thank you, Rachel.

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