BY RICH GALEN
JUNE 15, 2017 | Reprinted from Mullings.com
One of my many self-invented theories is this: Reaction to a news event diminishes, like sound, as a square of the distance between you and the source.
If there is an earthquake on the West Coast, we on the East Coast will feel empathy, but it will not have the same emotional zetz as it does for those of you whose dishes vibrated off the breakfast table.
If there is a major fire in the East, the same level of emotion will be experienced by TV viewers in the West.
My house is less than two miles from the baseball field and YMCA where people were shot Wednesday morning.
That, to my ears, was a very sharp, loud sound.
As I write this, House Republican Whip, Steve Scalise of Louisiana is in the hospital in critical condition. I know that hospital well. I (and Blue Cross) paid for most of the cardiac wing of that facility.
I was also the press secretary for a former House Republican Whip, Newt Gingrich.
Those are a lot of emotional touch points.
I am not trying to push myself into this story. I am not. But, I am trying to help you understand why you might not have the same emotional reaction to this as those of us who work (or have worked) on or near Capitol Hill.
Donald J. Trump didn’t do this. The guy with the rifle – the dead guy with the rifle – James Hodgkinson wasn’t a Trump supporter. He was a volunteer in the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Bernie Sanders didn’t do this, either.
Trump may have coarsened political discourse to depths not previously imagined, but the aforementioned Newt Gingrich engineered the takeover of the U.S. House in the election of 1994 by demonizing House Democrats.
Newt never, to my memory, implied violence was part of the Contract with America.
The fault, dear Brutus …
There is no such thing as political discourse in the United States anymore. It is Twitter attacks and email assaults. It is shouting at one another at town hall meetings using language that earned Ralphie a soap sandwich in “A Christmas Story.”
I have (among others) five high school friends who have known each other since they were peeing in the kiddy pool in West Orange, New Jersey. Three are conservatives, two liberals. The email traffic among them dealing with Donald Trump has been shocking in its cruelty – on both sides.
Here, in Our Nation’s Capital, conservatives will demand that the TVs in a bar be tuned to Fox. Liberals to MSNBC. So that the patrons can have their bar talk reinforced by what they are seeing on television.
Moderates will sigh and ask if they can watch Bones reruns.
A few weeks ago, the President’s refused to include adherence to Article 5 of the NATO agreement, “Collective defense means that an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies,” in his speech in Brussels.
The Administration has since backed-and-filled, but we need to adopt a national Article 5.
A guy living out of his van for two months with a rifle and a handgun for company is not part of our national alliance. He must not be allowed in.
This will not be a Kumbaya moment. There has never been a Kumbaya moment in American politics. It has always been a contact sport.
There was a time, when I first arrived in Washington in the 1970s, that Republicans and Democrats got together and had a drink or two.
I have often told the story of watching The Lad play baseball at the Little League field in McLean, Virginia. I was leaning on the outfield fence with the US Trade Representative (a Republican) on my left; a US Senator (a Democrat) on my right, talking about the great events of the day:
“Shouldn’t the shortstop be a step or two toward 2nd base with a left-handed batter up?”
I am not sure that scene would be repeated thirty years on, if only because Members’ families live in their home states and because Members go home to their Districts almost every weekend.
There is a line in the Paul Simon song, “The Boxer” that goes:
“All lies and jests;
still a man hears what he wants to hear;
and disregards the rest.”
That is what has led us to where we are today, not Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.
It is on each of us to invoke a national Article 5: An attack on one, is an attack on all.
Editor’s Note: Rich Galen is former communications director for House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senator Dan Quayle. In 2003-2004, he did a six-month tour of duty in Iraq at the request of the White House engaging in public affairs with the Department of Defense. He also served as executive director of GOPAC and served in the private sector with Electronic Data Systems. Rich is a frequent lecturer and appears often as a political expert on ABC, CNN, Fox and other news outlets.