The Violence of The Right-Wing

By Stephen David Foster, Jr.

Last Saturday, a gunman walked into a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona and fired a single bullet into the back of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ head and proceeded to murder six people including a nine year old girl and a Federal judge. Giffords, a Democrat representing the 8th District, was holding a meet and greet as she had done many times before. Police identified the would be assassin as 22 year old Jared Lee Loughner and immediately took him into custody. Giffords survived the attempt on her life, and although she is still unconscious, the damage is unknown until her recovery begins. This assassination attempt is just the latest violent act by those associated with the extreme right wing of the Republican Party.

However, Republicans have been spinning this shooting, telling their lackeys to spread the new lie that Loughner is a liberal. They have been flatly denying that he has any connection to the right wing. Almost immediately after the shooting, thoughts turned to Sarah Palin’s target map and all the hate, fear, threats, and calls for gun play over the last two years. Republicans have been defiantly denying that they created the circumstances that pushed Loughner to act. To put it bluntly, Republicans are LYING.

Throughout the 2008 Presidential Election, the Republicans used fear tactics to sway voters to the ballot box for John McCain, accusing Barack Obama of being a foreigner, a terrorist, a Muslim, a communist, etc… The person who started all this fear and these false accusations was Sarah Palin. The rhetoric became heated and inflammatory, and caused many on the right wing to consider taking down Obama before he took the oath of office. About a month after the election, FBI teams investigating the murder of white supremacist James Cumming in Maine, found supplies for a crude radiological dispersal device and other explosives in his home. Cumming’s wife, who shot him to death after being abused by him repeatedly, explained that “His intentions were to construct a dirty bomb and take it to Washington to kill President Obama. He was planning to hide it in the under carriage of our motor home.”

To the right wing, the call to arms had been given. Gun sales skyrocketed, and the number of militias increased.
In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced that 2009 saw a dramatic increase in the number of new anti-government “Patriot” groups in the United States. Specifically, the number of Patriot groups jumped from 149 (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) in 2009—a 244% jump. After President Obama was sworn in, he immediately began work on one of his top priorities–health care.
Once the health care debate began, the rhetoric coming from the right wing became more threatening and fearful to an already frightened public. Added to the rhetoric were unsubstantiated claims that the new Democratic government would ban all guns and take them away from the public and claims that energy taxes would be increased along with the size of government. All of these claims came out of the mouths of Republican politicians and they urged their base to arm themselves. For example, in March 2009, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) stated that she wanted residents of her state to be “armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back… and the people—we the people—are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country.”

And armed and dangerous is exactly what right wing supporters became. Especially those on the extreme fringe. Some even began to act. Neo-Nazi Richard Poplawski shot and killed three police officers responding to a 911 call to his home in Pittsburgh. His friend Edward Perkovic told reporters that Poplawski feared “the Obama gun ban that’s on its way” and “didn’t like our rights being infringed upon.” Perkovic also commented that Poplawski carried out the shooting because “if anyone tried to take his firearms, he was gonna’ stand by what his forefathers told him to do.” In June 2009, James W. von Brunn, a convicted felon and a “hardcore Neo-Nazi,” walked into the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and shot and killed a security guard. Von Brunn believed that Western civilization was going to be replaced with a “ONE WORLD ILLUMINATI GOVERNMENT” that would “confiscate private weapons” in order to accomplish its goals.

Right wing supporters even began to lash out at abortion clinics. In May 2009, Scott P. Roeder shot and killed Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider, in the foyer of Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas. The FBI listed Roeder as a member of the Montana Freemen, a radical anti-government group. But the violence from the right didn’t end there. The threats of violence even came from politicians. In July 2009, Katherine Crabill, a Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates in the state’s 99th District made headlines by calling on Americans to resist the course President Obama has set for the country. Appearing at a “Tea Party” rally, Crabill quotes a 1775 speech by Patrick Henry and then states, “We have a chance to fight this battle at the ballot box before we have to resort to the bullet box.”

The political climate became even more unstable after Congress took its August break. Republicans went to town hall after town hall to drum up opposition to the health care bill. Sarah Palin led the charge, stating that “The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.” The dam had broke. All of a sudden every Republican across the country were using “death panels” as a battle cry to oppose health care even though the claim is completely false. Republicans encouraged the hate and the fear, and did nothing to denounce the threats of violence coming from their constituents and colleagues. Right wing media began pushing for violence. For example, in July 2009, on WWJB-AM in Hernando County, Florida, talk radio host Bob Haa took a call from a listener who mentions ammunition, target practice, and Barack Obama. Haa tells him not to waste his ammunition on targets, to save it for the administration. Others on right wing media such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh also pushed variations of this idea but expanded the rhetoric to include Democrats in general, accusing Democrats of turning the country toward communism and socialism. Incidents then increased.

At a secessionist rally on the state capitol steps in Austin, Texas, in August 2009, gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina stated that, “We are aware that stepping off into secession may in fact be a bloody war. We are aware. We understand that the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots.”
In the same month, during a GOP barbecue in Twin Falls, Idaho, an audience member asked Rex Rammell, a candidate in the 2010 Idaho Republican Primary, a question about “Obama tags” during a discussion about state-issued tags for wolf hunting. Rammell responds, “The Obama tags? We’d buy some of those.” In a subsequent press release, he adds, “Anyone who understands the law knows I was just joking, because Idaho has no jurisdiction to issue hunting tags in Washington, D.C.”

Earlier that month, Chris Broughton openly carried a handgun and AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle to a health care rally in Phoenix, Arizona. Simultaneously, President Obama addressed a VFW Convention across the street. In a video recorded that day, Broughton stated, “What do you think we did in the revolution, in the American Revolution? The British weren’t stealing money from us for health care. They weren’t taxing us the way they are now back then. And what did we do? We forcefully kicked them out of our country, and we will forcefully resist people imposing their will on us through the strength of the majority with a vote.” In addition, William Kostric is filmed openly carrying a handgun outside of President Obama’s health care reform town hall meeting in New Hampshire. Kostric holds a sign that read, “IT IS TIME TO WATER THE TREE OF LIBERTY!”

In September 2009, even more attempts were made to destroy Democrats. With President Barack Obama at the U.S. Capitol to address a joint session of Congress on the subject of health care reform, Joshua Bowman, 28, of Falls Church, Virginia, attempted to drive his Honda Civic into a secure area near the building. U.S. Capitol Police stopped him and, searching his vehicle, found a rifle, a shotgun, and 500 rounds of ammunition. Later that same month, Kitty Werthmann, a speaker at the “How to Take Back America” Conference in St. Louis, tells her audience, “If we had our guns [during the time of the Nazis’ reign in Germany], we would have fought a bloody battle. So, keep your guns, and buy more guns, and buy ammunition. Take back America.” And if that weren’t enough, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), the Chairman of the Second Amendment Task Force in the U.S. House of Representatives, called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “domestic enemy of the Constitution” at a health care reform town hall meeting. Then, an editorial at the Newsmax website called for a military coup to oust President Obama.  To illustrate the threat even further, the Michelangelo Signorile Show, a talk radio program on Sirius, took a call from “Jim” from Oklahoma, who claimed that he and 200 others are meeting weekly to stage a coup against President Obama. Jim said they want to restore their “right to bear arms” and bring the country back to where it was 400 years ago, before slavery was abolished.

In October, reports emerged that the Secret Service had received an unprecedented number of death threats against President Obama. Ronald Kessler’s account of presidential security, In the President’s Secret Service, states that there had been a 400% increase in such threats in comparison with Obama’s predecessor. Another source of these reports is an August 5, 2009 study by the Congressional Research Service which finds: “The [Secret] Service’s protection mission has increased and become more ‘urgent’ due to the increase in terrorist threats and the expanded arsenal of weapons that terrorists could use in an assassination attempt or attacks on facilities.” One of these threats came a few days after this report, from John Brek, a 55 year-old Newark Airport security guard, who was arrested for making terroristic threats against President Obama. Authorities find 43 firearms while searching his home, including a stolen rifle. Brek, a National Rifle Association member, is also found to be in possession of illegal hollow point bullets.

As 2010 arrived and the final rounds of health care debate were underway, the threats and violent acts increased from the right wing. In February, an unidentified speaker at an event organized by the Lewis and Clark Tea Party Patriots in Asotin County, Washington, told the audience, “How many of you have watched the movie “Lonesome Dove”? What happened to Jake when he ran with the wrong crowd? He got hung. And that’s what I want to do with [Democratic U.S. Senator] Patty Murray.” Later that month, Joseph Stack of Austin, Texas, flew a single-engine plane into an office building containing nearly 200 IRS employees, killing one and wounding 13. In a suicide note, Stack lays out his grievances with the federal tax agency, stating, “The law ‘requires’ a signature on the bottom of a tax filing; yet no one can say truthfully that they understand what they are signing; if that’s not ‘duress’ than what is. If this is not the measure of a totalitarian regime, nothing is … Violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.” Stack was directly influenced by the anti-tax rallies which have been a right wing staple for years.

The right wing had even spread hatred to the Armed Forces. Private 1st Class Lee Pary, an active duty soldier at Fort Drum and member of Oath Keepers, told a reporter that he and five fellow service members at the Army base were preparing to take on the U.S. government when it declares martial law, and will turn their guns on their fellow soldiers should it become necessary. “I know their tactics,” says Pary. “I know how they…work their convoys—if we attack this vehicle, what the others will do … If the government continues to ignore us, and forces us to engage, I’m willing to fight to the death.”

In March, as passage of health care reform became more certain, even more threats against the lives of Democratic politicians occurred. During consideration of health care reform legislation by the U.S. House of Representatives, vandals attacked Democratic offices in Pleasant Ridge, Ohio; Wichita, Kansas; Tuscon, Arizona; Niagra Falls, New York; and Rochester, New York. Mike Vanderboegh, the former leader of the Alabama Constitutional Militia, takes credit for the violence after posting a blog on March 19 that stated, “If we break the windows of hundreds, thousands, of Democratic party headquarters across this country, we might just make up enough of them to make defending ourselves at the muzzle of a rifle unnecessary.”

Later, as the U.S. House of Representatives enters a final round of debate over the health care reform bill, Conservative blogger Solomon Forrell calls for the assassination of President Barack Obama on his Twitter account. In two separate postings, Forrel writes, “ASSASSINATION! America, we survived the #Assassinations of #Lincoln & #Kennedy. We’ll surely get over a bullet 2 #BarackObama’s head! … The next #American with a #Clear #Shot should drop #Obama like a bad habit.”

Right wing extremists even targeted the families of Democratic congressmen. After Mike Troxel of the Lynchburg Tea Party and Nigel Coleman of the Danville Tea Party posted the home address of the brother of Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) and urged supporters to “drop by,” someone deliberately cut a propane gas line at the house. Rep. Perriello was targeted by the Tea Party activists because of his vote in favor of health care reform. Perriello’s brother and his wife have four children under the age of eight.
And many death threats were directed at Congressmen themselves. After voting for health care reform legislation, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) received faxes with drawings of nooses. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), who voted for the health care reform legislation, received a package that contained white powder and an angry letter telling him to “drop dead .” Rep. Vic Snyder (D-AR) also voted for health care reform legislation, and he received a letter stating, “It is apparent that it will take a few assassinations to stop Obamacare. Militia central has selected you for assassination. If we cannot stalk and find you in Washington, D.C., we will get you in Little Rock.” Even the Speaker of the House received threats. Gregory Lee Giusti, 48, of San Francisco, California, was arrested for making threatening phone calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Giusti allegedly called Pelosi dozens of times, recited her home address, and told her that if she wanted to see it again, she should drop her support for health care reform legislation. Giusti had a “history of mental health problems” and his mother indicated he was influenced by “Fox News and all of those that are really radical.”

In the end, despite the lies about health care reform and the threats and the violence, the Affordable Care Act passed Congress and was signed into law by President Obama. As the 2010 midterm election loomed, the right wing became even angrier and politicians fanned the flames of hatred and stepped up the call to arms. Sarah Palin, for example, said this:  “The crossfire is intense, so penetrate through enemy territory by bombing through the press, and use your strong weapons — your Big Guns — to drive to the hole. Shoot with accuracy; aim high and remember it takes blood, sweat and tears to win.” She then released her “Take Back the 20” campaign along with a map that depicted cross hairs over the districts of incumbent Democrats she wanted the right wing to target in November, including Gabrielle Giffords. Palin then quipped, “Don’t retreat, reload!”

Then the right wing media ramped up the rhetoric. Addressing the Obama administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress, FOX commentator Glenn Beck says, “Shoot me in the head if you try to change our government—I will stand against you. And so will millions of others.” Beck also compared American Progressives to Osama bin Laden and claimed “they want to overthrow our entire system of government.” Then there’s Joyce Kaufman, a conservative radio host on WFTL in Florida, who told a crowd of supporters at a Fort Lauderdale Tea Party event, “I am convinced that the most important thing the Founding Fathers did to ensure me my First Amendments rights was they gave me a Second Amendment. And if ballots don’t work, bullets will. This is the standoff.” Later on, some callers on her show, inspired by her statement, threatened to take out some public schools.

Threats were even issued in campaign commercials. Rick Barber, a Tea Party candidate seeking the Republican nomination in Alabama’s Second Congressional District, ran a campaign ad in which he discusses contemporary political issues with America’s Founding Fathers. After Barber states “I would impeach him” and rails about the “progressive income tax,” the Internal Revenue Service, and health care reform, a Founding Father replies, “Gather your armies.” Several Founding Fathers are depicted as being armed with pistols.

Then in July, supporters of Tea Party candidate Joe Miller openly carry assault rifles and handguns during a community parade in Eagle River and Chugiak, Alaska, while young children march alongside them. Miller, who is running against Senator Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary, was endorsed by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who described him as a “true Common sense Constitutional Conservative.” Joe Miller’s staff would later illegally detain a member of the press simply for asking questions. In Nevada, Sharon Angle said “I hope that’s not where we’re going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying, my goodness, what can we do to turn this country around?”, and Rob Collins of the American Action Network, when talking about the election stated that “We carpet bombed for two months in 82 races, now its sniper time.”

In the final run up to the midterm election on November 2nd, A Constitutionalist pastor named Stephan Broden stated that a violent coup to overthrow the government was “on the table” if Republicans didn’t win the election. The pairing of political power and violence didn’t end even after Republicans won the election. U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), circulated a PowerPoint presentation to his colleagues in which he compared the Obama administration to the Nazi regime in Germany and likened himself to Gen. George Patton, bragging, “Put anything in my scope and I will shoot it.”

And that brings us to January 8, 2011 when Jared Lee Loughner, 22, shot U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and 19 others at a “Congress in Your Corner” event at a supermarket in Tuscon, Arizona. He killed six, including Federal judge John Roll, and wounds 14, including Giffords, who is shot in the head. Loughner has an extensive history of mental illness and substance abuse, yet is able to purchase two handguns and a high-capacity ammunition magazine legally at Sportsman’s Warehouse on November 30, 2010. Loughner also believed in going back to the gold standard, and believed in anti-government causes. He also feared gun bans. All of which are attributes of the right wing. He had also read Mein Kamph and books by Ayn Rand. Much of his thinking came from many right wing groups.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Sarah Palin immediately removed the map of cross hairs that was on her SarahPac website. Giffords had been one of those targeted. Even Giffords had expressed concern that posting something like that could have serious consequences. The Palin camp and Republicans in general are now making excuses and denying that they had anything to do with the assassination attempt. I disagree. Republicans knowingly and purposefully created an atmosphere of hate, fear, and threats of violence. They are directly responsible for the current political and social climate that has pushed many on the right wing over the edge. And instead of denouncing and rejecting the mixture of guns and politics, Republicans encouraged it and embraced it. The question is, who will be next? Because Republicans are far from abandoning the kind of rhetoric that won them an election and it will only get worse. Republicans may be showing sympathy on the outside for the next few weeks, but they are absolutely cheering on the inside. The only thing Republicans are truly sorry for is that the bullet didn’t kill Giffords or that it wasn’t the President. In the hours following the assassination attempt, Fox News had the audacity to compliment the shooter, calling him “politically savvy”. Democrats everywhere are in danger. Their lives are threatened by right wingers that believe all the lies that Republicans have spread about Democrats and Barack Obama over the last two years. Republicans have their base right where they want them: living in fear, hating Democrats, and arming themselves to do whatever it takes to keep Republicans in power. The number one target of Republicans is Barack Obama, and what Republicans are doing is creating the next John Wilkes Booth or the next Lee Harvey Oswald to take him out. Because at the moment, its their only chance to take total power before 2016. One right wing believer has even imagined the day and event.

Johnny Logan, Jr. of Louisville, Kentucky, was arrested and charged with making threats against the president after his poem titled “The Sniper” was found on the website NaziSpace/ by the U.S. Secret Service. The poem reads, in part: “As the tyrant enters his cross hairs the breath he takes is deep. His focus is square on the target as he begins to release. A patriot for his people he knows this shot will cost his life. But for his race and their existence it is a small sacrifice. The bullet that he has chambered is one of the purest pride. And the inspiration on the casing reads DIE negro DIE. He breathes out as he pulls the trigger releasing all his hate. And a smile appears upon his face as he seals that monkey’s fate. The bullet screams toward its mark bringing with it death. And where there was once a face there is nothing left. Two blood covered agents stare in horror and dismay. Looking down toward the ground where their president now lay.”

Its time Republicans are charged as accomplices in the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords, and its time they were driven out of office entirely for the next decade. To paraphrase Jefferson, its time to “water the tree of liberty”. But liberals will not do it with the blood of patriots and tyrants. We will merely levy charges against them, censure them, impeach them and vote them out of office and then pass a law that makes it illegal to incite violence against a political opponent. Because the goal of Republicans is much more sinister than killing Democrats. They won’t stop the rhetoric and calls for violence until President Obama is shot down. What will be their excuse then?