Depending on who reads this, the headline may have a sort of "Dog Bites Man" familiarity or obviousness about it, but it seems particularly appropriate today as the news reports that Republican congressional leaders are denouncing Democrats for exploiting alleged threats against their lives or property for political gain. Absurd as it sounds, it's an understandable necessity for the GOP. Every reported threat or act of vandalism will only reflect poorly on them, since everyone understands that paranoid anger has been fanned to still-building heat by Republicans and their radio auxiliaries. Today the Republicans are concerned that Democrats will attempt to smear all opposition to health care reform by association with the hotheads leaving menacing messages. As the GOP sees it, this is the second round of a counteroffensive that began over the weekend with reports of bigoted epithets shouted by reactionary protesters at Democratic politicians in Washington. Since Republicans tend to see most of the "mainstream media" as auxiliaries of the Democratic party, they're probably inclined to see any reporting of threats or bigoted language as part of a liberal plot to portray all opponents of health care reform as violent bigots.
Objectively speaking, the Republicans are right to insist that the violent ones don't represent the entire opposition to health care reform. Not every dissident on this particular issue is motivated by hatred, however much I may believe that they show insufficient concern for the well being of their fellow citizens. At the same time, I sense a retreat from the precious principle of personal responsibility when Republicans properly protest that they don't condone the recent outbursts, yet deny any causal relationship between their hysterical rhetoric, which was only amplified on the radio and online, and the emergence of people possibly determined to defend their supposedly-threatened liberty by any means necessary. Republicans must know that they played with fire by identifying the Democratic legislation with "Socialism" for an audience many of whom might still rather be dead than Red, but would really rather kill Reds. They may not have expected to be burned by that fire, but if the fire spreads and burns longer and hotter, they'll certainly and rightly stand exposed in its light.