We’re deeply saddened at the news that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was injured in an assassination attempt over the weekend. Even more tragic is the death of a 9-year old girl, a federal judge, and 4 other innocent victims, not to mention the 14 wounded. We are hoping and praying for Rep. Giffords’ recovery from her injuries, and our thoughts are with those who lost loved ones or who were wounded in this incident.
Aside from being, by all accounts, a wonderful and courageous public servant, Congresswoman Giffords has done superb work on solar and clean energy over the years. In two terms, Congresswoman Giffords has been a key supporter as the solar industry has pushed for an 8-year extension of the solar investment tax credit, as well as the recent one-year extension of the Treasury Grant Program. In addition, Giffords introduced the Solar Technology Roadmap Act, which dedicates over $2 billion to new research partnerships and demonstration projects for solar energy technologies. Giffords also championed public awareness for solar, in part by installing a 2 kW photovoltaic (PV) system on her Tucson home in 2010, and in part by launching the Solar Power 101 educational series to help inform her constituents on the benefits and opportunities to go solar.
In recognition of her contributions to clean energy, the League of Conservation Voters endorsed Giffords for reelection in 2010, writing that her “leadership in the House has been absolutely critical to passing the clean energy jobs legislation Americans really need,” and also that she “has promoted solar initiatives in an effort to make Southern Arizona the “Solar-con Valley" of the nation.”
Congresswoman Giffords has proved courageous. She pursued her issue commitments despite threats of violence and intimidation. It should go without saying that there isn’t a place for violence, or threats of violence, in our issue debates. Sadly, that does need saying, as some are working overtime to dismiss the effects of violent rhetoric potentially motivating the lunatic fringe to act.
Yes, it takes a crazy person to shoot innocent people. But it can take incitement for crazy people to shoot a Congresswoman in the head. Of course there isn’t a provable cause-and-effect relationship between the violent rhetoric from people opposed to Gabbie Giffords and Saturday’s shooting. It’s very hard to prove such a thing. But as Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik pointed out this past weekend, violent rhetoric is a problem:
- Giffords’ 2010 opponent Jesse Kelly holding a “Target for Victory” event, where people could “shoot a fully automatic M16” and “help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office.”
- Sarah Palin urging “commonsense conservatives and lovers of America” not to “retreat,” but instead to “reload.”
- Self-proclaimed “rodeo clown” Glenn Beck publicly discussing a coming “civil war” in America,” while contemplating “whether the U.S. military would follow the President's orders to subdue civil unrest or would instead join with ‘the people’ in defense of their Constitutional rights against the Government.”
- Rush Limbaugh “joking” about killing liberals.
- Michelle Bachmann saying, “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax, because we need to fight back….Thomas Jefferson told us, having a revolution every now and then is a good thing.”
There are some in the media dismissing all this an unconnected or inconsequential - The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz, NBC’s Pete William, John Steele Gordon, and the Washington Post’s “Right Turn” pundit, Jennifer Rubin, for example. Maybe they should ask themselves: “How would I feel if I were the target of a steady campaign of violent rhetoric toward me?” Not just hateful emails, which they all get, but public events and large audience shows where they are repeatedly targeted with violent rhetoric. I strongly suspect that they wouldn’t like it, that they’d feel threatened by it and wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the concerns about it.
The common sense view is that this sort of rhetoric got out of hand a long time ago. The whole thing needs to stop, not just from the politicians and pundits mouthing this garbage, but the people and lobbying interests that have funded events and shows with violent rhetoric. They need to be held accountable for what their money is supporting. That includes dirty energy figures such as the Don Blankenship and the Koch brothers. These people can’t wash their hands of what’s taken place, and they can’t have their hands washed by insulated, dismissive pundits.
Does anyone seriously think this sort of crazy rhetoric is acceptable?
P.S. It should go without saying that the 1st Amendment needs to be respected, absolutely, but also that with rights come responsibilities.