Posted by | January 10, 2011 21:40 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

Let me start by saying that the new Speaker’s comments after the Arizona shooting were absolutely perfect.  However in the wake of Matt Taibbi’s portrait of Speaker Boehner in Rolling Stone, Boehner should be scrutinizing his own recent actions.  Most revealing are comments Boehner made about former Rep. Steve Dreihaus.

After Boehner suggested that by voting for Obamacare, Driehaus “may be a dead man” and “can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati” because “the Catholics will run him out of town,” Driehaus began receiving death threats, and a right-wing website published directions to his house. Driehaus says he approached Boehner on the floor and confronted him.

“I didn’t think it was funny at all,” Driehaus says. “I’ve got three little kids and a wife. I said to him, ‘John, this is bullshit, and way out of bounds. For you to say something like that is wildly irresponsible.'”

Driehaus is quick to point out that he doesn’t think Boehner meant to urge anyone to violence. “But it’s not about what he intended — it’s about how the least rational person in my district takes it. We run into some crazy people in this line of work.”

I don’t think that Boehner (or Sarah Palin for that matter) intended for violence.  But their rhetoric is irresponsible and Driehaus has it exactly right; what is important is how that language affects the least rational member of the audience.  Words matter.  Let’s hope the horror of this past weekend leads to a change in the language we hear from political figures.

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.