When President Barack Obama set out to provide healthcare for all Americans–-and not simply the wealthiest 1%–-Republicans tried to frighten voters with lies.
The most infamous of these was that healthcare reform would lead to wholesale murder by government “death panels,” as Sarah Palin put it.
Despite being the party of the extreme Right, Republicans delight in portraying Obama as the ultimate Fascist: Adolf Hitler.
At their rallies they brandish doctored photos of Obama sporting a Hitler forelock and toothbrush mustache.
And they claim he plans to set up concentration camps for those who disagree with him.
They also claim he intends to “take away our guns–just like Hitler.”
- Rather than disarming Germans, Adolf Hitler armed his fellow citizens and created the mightiest war machine Western Europe had ever seen; and
- Rather than confiscating Americans’ firearms, Barack Obama has signed legislation allowing guns to be brought onto Amtrack and into national parks.
Even more ominously, heavily-armed Right-wingers have showed up at places where Obama was scheduled to speak.
In August, 2009, about a dozen people carrying guns, including one with a military-style rifle, milled among protesters outside a Phoenix convention center where President Obama was giving a speech.
A week earlier, during Obama’s healthcare town hall in New Hampshire, a man carrying a sign reading “It is time to water the tree of liberty” stood outside with a pistol strapped to his leg.
On August 28, 2010, an armed Obama protester was arrested by police at the Alaska State Fair, where the President was scheduled to speak.
According to the Secret Service, Obama is the target of more than 30 death threats a day and is the most threatened President in history. The heightened danger he faces is stretching the Secret Service to its limits.
Secret Service agents guarding President Obama
Since Obama took office in 2009, the rate of threats against him has increased 400%.
Fred Solop, a Northern Arizona University political scientist, said the incidents in New Hampshire and Arizona could signal the beginning of a disturbing trend.
“When you start to bring guns to political rallies, it does layer on another level of concern and significance,” Solop said. “It actually becomes quite scary for many people. It creates a chilling effect in the ability of our society to carry on honest communication.”
The way to prevent such tragedies in the future is to hold fully accountable not just the shooters but those who deliberately point them toward their targets and repeatedly scream: “Kill the traitors!”
Americans must shed their naive belief that “America is exempt from the political corruption of other countries.” And they must see the Republicans’ lust for absolute power at any price as the danger it presents to the future of the Republic.
Among the steps that need to be taken:
First, the families and friends of the Tucson massacre victims should file civil lawsuits against Sarah Palin and every other Republican who created the firestorm of hate that consumed 19 victims.
And survivors of the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church should do likewise against those Right-wing groups that influenced Dylann Roof to snuff out nine innocent lives because they were black.
A legal precedent for such lawsuits emerged 20 years ago, and still remains viable.
On November 13, 1988 in Portland, Oregon, three white supremacist members of East Side White Pride and White Aryan Resistance (WAR) beat to death Mulugeta Seraw, an Ethiopian man who came to the United States to attend college.
Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a civil suit (Berhanu v. Metzger) against Tom Metzger, founder of WAR. They argued that WAR influenced Seraw’s killers by encouraging their group, East Side White Pride, to commit violence.
Tom and John Metzger were found civilly liable under the doctrine of vicarious liability, in which one can be liable for a tort committed by a subordinate or by another person who is taking instructions.
In October 1990, the jury returned the largest civil verdict in Oregon history at the time—$12.5 million—against Metzger and WAR. The Metzgers’ house was seized, and most of WAR’s profits went to paying off the judgment.
Second, the FBI and Justice Department should launch an all-out investigation into not simply right-wing hate groups but those political leaders who openly or secretly encourage and support their activities.
Those who are found doing so should be indicted and prosecuted under the Patriot Act and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.
Third, the Secret Service should immediately adopt the policy that no one but sworn law enforcement officers will be allowed to carry firearms within the immediate vicinity of the President. And it should enforce that policy through its elite countersniper teams.
Finally, President Obama should do what President Clinton failed to do at the time of the 1995 Right-wing truck-bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building: He should publicly condemn those Republicans who give “aid and comfort” to the right-wing extremists whose support they openly court.
Unless such steps are taken, outrages such as the Tucson slaughter will continue to remain a needless “mystery.” And those outrages will continue until a Republican version of the swastika permanently flies over the capitol dome and the White House.