Tom MacArthur, a Republican congressman from New Jersey, was heckled at a town hall event on Wednesday night, and the right is trying to turn the heckling into a multi-day story. Here's a Breitbart report that ran yesterday:
Town Hall Protesters Mock Death of GOP Lawmaker’s Special Needs Daughter
Liberal activists involved in a nationwide effort to disrupt town hall meetings being held by lawmakers for their constituents reached a new low on Wednesday night when Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) was mocked when he told the unruly crowd about how the death of his special needs daughter informed his decision to amend and vote for the American Health Care Act that was passed by the House earlier this month.
When MacArthur started to tell the story about Gracie, who died two decades ago at age 11, someone yelled “Shame!,” accusing the lawmaker of “using” his daughter’s death to promote his political agenda.
“I will say shame on you right now actually,” MacArthur said. “I’m going to tell you because this affects my perspective on this issue of health care.”
The author of an earlier Daily Wire story also expressed disgust at the behavior of attendees ("the over two-hour long town hall event ... featur[ed] belligerent leftists and Democrats demanding government welfare for their stated health care needs"). But the Daily Wire story notes that MacArthur was heckled when he returned to his daughter's story, which he'd already told.
“I wanna go back to my daughter, just for a moment,” said MacArthur, as he was interrupted.
“Shame!” scolded a woman, unseen by the camera. She accused MacArthur or cynically exploiting the death of his daughter for political advantage.
“I will say shame on you, right now. Don’t tell me what I’m using.”
“Shame on you! We’ve heard this story,” replied a woman in the crowd.
If you watch the clip above, you'll see that MacArthur, although interrupted, gets to speak at great length about his daughter, while the vast majority of attendees listen politely. Some attendees even heckle the hecklers on MacArthur's behalf.
John Hawkins' Right Wing News says that "a mob of liberals mocked" MacArthur. Do you see a "mob" in that clip? What you see is a mostly polite crowd and a number of attendees who've heard the story already and who want their own stories heard and opinions acknowledged.
There's no question that MacArthur and his family had an agonizing ordeal when his daughter died in the 1990s. But it's not clear that MacArthur understands how similar events affect other Americans. Obamacare has reduced the number of medical bankruptcies. MacArthur, for all his personal and perhaps financial suffering, hasn't carried around a millstone of debt. His daughter died 1n 1996. Three years later, he was named chairman and CEO of York Risk Services Group, Inc., positions he held until 2010. He's now the richest member of New Jersey's congressional delegation, with a net worth of $30.8 million. He was first elected to the House in 2014 in a race in which he spent $5 million of his own money.
I don't think it's unreasonable for some of his constituents to say that they're enduring similar trials, and that many of them might experience a much greater financial hit than he did.
But to the right, MacArthur's hecklers aren't just impolite. They're barely distinguishable from terrorists.
At The Federalist yesterday, John Daniel Davidson included a discussion of the MacArthur town hall in an essay titled "The American Left Is Talking Itself Into Violence." After recounting a number of legitimately disturbing incidents -- threats against a GOP congressman for Virginia, racist hate mail and a threat of violence against the Korean-American chair of the Minnesota Republican Party, even after she'd condemned a racist attack by a fellow Republican -- Davidson condemned the MacArthur hecklers, as if there's no effective difference between policy-based exasperation and threats to do physical harm.
Leftist Intolerance Invites A Breakdown Of Civility
... Conservatives are also combatting a growing level of hostility in public life. Since Trump’s election, much of it has come from the Left. At another town hall this week, Rep. Tom MacArthur, a New Jersey Republican, tried to explain his thinking on the GOP health care bill to angry constituents.... His daughter died of health complications when she was 11....
When he tried to talk about this, the crowd shouted “Shame!” When he said, “I put my head to my daughter’s chest and listened to her die,” they erupted. One person yelled, “Other babies will die without care, too!” Another jeered, “Did you have money for her care?” Someone suggested MacArthur, “Write a book.”
... How has it come to this? No doubt, leftist ideology invites a kind of intolerance that leads to violence, as we’ve seen. But this tendency is exacerbated by a breakdown of civility fueled by social media. Would we see the kind of brutal, cutthroat behavior that’s marked the crowds at these town halls if those people had not inured themselves somewhat to it?
... Just as the violence on campus gradually seeps out into the streets and town halls, so too does our violent and intolerant rhetoric online eventually manifest in the real world. That so much of it is now coming from the political left is not an accident.
Go back and watch the clip. Do you see "brutal, cutthroat behavior"? Do you see "intolerance that leads to violence"?
In arguing that violent threats are limited to liberals, Davidson has, of course, flushed recent history down the memory hole. Here's a news story from 2010:
Democratic lawmakers have received death threats and been the victims of vandalism because of their votes in favor of the health care bill, lawmakers and law enforcement officials said Wednesday....
At least two Congressional district offices were vandalized and Representative Louise M. Slaughter, a senior Democrat from New York, received a phone message threatening sniper attacks against lawmakers and their families.
Ms. Slaughter also reported that a brick was thrown through a window of her office in Niagara Falls, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat of Arizona, said Monday that her Tucson office was vandalized after the vote.
The Associated Press reported that the authorities in Virginia were investigating a cut propane line to an outdoor grill at the home of a brother of Representative Tom Perriello of Virginia, after the address was mistakenly listed on a Tea Party Web site as the residence of the congressman. Representative Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan and a central figure in the measure’s abortion provisions, reported receiving threatening phone calls.
Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking black lawmaker in the House, said he received an anonymous fax showing the image of a noose.
But there's a lot of amnesia on the right. Here was Rush Limbaugh earlier this week:
When Obama was president, I didn’t know anybody on our side who had this idea of mounting the official resistance that featured rocks and riots and bombs and fires and protests and bought-and-paid-for rioters. What we did was attempt to reach as many Americans as we could and argued to them that they have made a mistake in voting Obama. That’s the way we do it. You accept the authority of the Constitution. This is my point. These people on the left do not accept any authority but theirs.
The Constitution is not an authority.
The election results are not an authority.
They only respect the authority of themselves — and in their world, Trump is illegitimate because he won. Nothing more than that! They hate him for more reasons than that, but he’s illegitimate because he won, not just because they expected Hillary. I mean, literally because Trump won! They refuse to accept it. He was not supposed to win. Nobody on our side’s ever supposed to win ever again. So they mount this “resistance.” It has a specific purpose, two things: to intimidate the winners into halting the advance of their agenda, the implementation of their agenda — and forcing them out of office.
The Tea Party, I guess, never existed. Militias? Groups like the Oath Keepers? Never existed. Everyone on their side meekly acknowledged Obama's legitimacy. C'mon -- you remember that, right?
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog