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Albuquerque Journal 

Neither side blameless for political fire


June 21, 2017

The partisan rancor and toxic incivility that have gripped the nation since last year’s presidential campaign spilled over into bloodshed last Wednesday.

James T. Hodgkinson, 66, opened fire on a group of Republican congressmen practicing for a fundraising baseball game against their Democrat colleagues.

Although Tim Slater, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, stopped short of calling the shootings an assassination attempt, that’s exactly what it was. Hodgkinson, an avowed progressive and Donald Trump hater, was out to inflict heavy damage on the nation’s Republican leadership.

Luckily fate stepped in. House majority whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who has a security detail, happened to be at the practice. It was the two members of his detail who engaged Hodgkinson in a shootout, while congressmen and spectators scrambled for cover.

Without those two armed guards, the carnage would almost certainly have been far worse.

And Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, told the Texas Tribune on Thursday, “On any other given day, our pitchers would have been throwing in the bullpen right where the shooter appeared. They would have been trapped.” Instead, they were all resting up for Thursday’s game.

Still, before Hodgkinson was killed at the conclusion of a harrowing 10-minute gun battle with Capitol Police officers Crystal Griner and David Bailey, he managed to wound five people — as well as the nation’s shaky sense of well-being.

Investigators say Hodgkinson was an unemployed home inspector from Belleville, Illinois, a suburb of St. Louis. He had reportedly been living in a van in Alexandria for the past few months.

He was an active supporter of unsuccessful presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and his Facebook page contained many anti-Trump messages.

Just prior to the shootings, Hodgkinson reportedly asked Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, who had just left the practice, whether those still on the field were Democrats or Republicans. After Duncan said they were Republicans, Hodgkinson thanked him and walked away — apparently to get his semi-automatic rifle.

Based on what’s known so far, it appears Hodgkinson is an extreme example of the deep divisions affecting our nation today. The vicious rhetoric fostered by Republicans who hated all things Obama and Democrats who view Trump as nothing short of the Antichrist — echoed, amplified and dispersed worldwide by social media — breeds the type of hatred Hodgkinson delivered via bullets across a baseball field on a beautiful summer morning.

Neither side is blameless here. Trump’s bizarre Tweet storms and undisciplined speech — reported 24/7 by the media — fuels the fire that consumes people like Hodgkinson. Democrats, seemingly hell bent on bringing down the most irksome president in recent history, fan the flames.

How much more of this can America take?

Last Wednesday, we were lucky more were not felled by one angry man’s bullets. Is this the event that will finally bring us to our senses?

Immediately after the shooting, some Congressmen and women reached across the aisle, seeking at least temporary unity. That’s a good sign.

It’s time to tamp down the rhetoric. On all sides.

— Albuquerque Journal


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