Political discourse devolves into tantrums, intimidation

WASHINGTON

Progressive activist Wilfred Michael Stark was arrested Tuesday for suspicion of battery against Kristin Davison, the campaign manager for Nevada’s GOP gubernatorial candidate, Adam Laxalt.

Until he was fired after the incident, Stark worked for American Bridge, a self-described “progressive research and communications organization committed to holding Republicans accountable for their words and actions,” His arrest, an earlier arrest at another campaign event, and other recent incidents involving the left made it appear this was open season on Republicans.

Then, just when it seemed like the perfect time to write about Democrats’ embrace of intimidation tactics, President Donald Trump stepped into the muck.

At a Make America Great Again rally in Montana Thursday night, Trump joked about Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., who body-slammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs in 2017 because Jacobs asked the candidate a question about health care.

“Never wrestle him,” Trump deadpanned before the enthusiastic crowd.

Trump added, “Any guy who can do a body-slam, he’s my guy.”

To the Trump base, it was good, clean fun.

On Fox News’ “Outnumbered” Friday, son Eric Trump defended his father.

“Oh stop. He wasn’t the guy who body-slammed anybody. He can have fun,” said Eric Trump, who added that his father won in 2016 precisely because he is wonderfully “un-PC.”

It was an important distinction, the son added, because former Attorney General Eric Holder “wasn’t laughing” when Holder said that Democrats should kick Republicans. Trump, said his son, was smiling and jovial.

Maybe, but there was nothing jovial about Gianforte’s treatment of Jacobs on May 24, 2017.

Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna, producer Faith Mangan and photographer Keith Railey witnessed the incident, and Acuna wrote about what she saw on the Fox News website.

After Jacobs began asking the GOP candidate about health care, she wrote, “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, ‘I’m sick and tired of this!’”

In a statement, the campaign at first blamed “aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist.”

Authorities charged Gianforte with misdemeanor assault, and in June 2017, he pleaded guilty. A judge sentenced the now congressman to 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management and a $300 fine.

In the courtroom, Gianforte apologized to Jacobs, who accepted the apology. He also promised Jacobs an interview that never happened.

I’ve always thought Jacobs handled the incident with grace when so many others would have used another man’s worst moment as an invitation to shameless self-promotion, or worse. It’s an example that more should emulate.

Since the Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, alas, you can’t turn on cable news without seeing scenes of protesters yelling at GOP lawmakers in elevators, following them through parking lots or disrupting the free speech rights and space of those with whom they disagree.

The vein that runs through these protests is a sense of entitlement. Having failed to pressure or persuade Republicans to vote like Democrats, the left has turned to tantrums, intimidation and rampant claims of victimhood.

In a recent video that went viral, a woman angry about Kavanaugh’s confirmation demanded that Sen. Bill Cassidy, D-La., “apologize to my children for ruining their lives.”

Cassidy calmly told the youngsters he was sorry their parents were using them as tools and assured them that if someone wrongly accused them, they would be OK.

“Shame on you,” one mother shouted as Cassidy walked away. Shame on her for telling her children Cassidy was robbing them of a bright future.

Hysteria has driven activists to decide they don’t have to be civil anymore. When really, they’re just being thugs, like Gianforte.

Laxalt campaign manager Davison has a clearer view. American Bridge, she told the Review-Journal, paid Stark “to get in people’s faces.” And that’s what he did.

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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