Freddoso: Suddenly, dissent is violence, not patriotism 

“Sarah Palin targeted Democrats who voted for the bill with an image of gun-sight crosshairs. Rush Limbaugh pledged to ‘defeat these bastards.’ One Republican shouted ‘baby killer!’ on the House floor. I defend dissent with every fiber of my being, but these rants have gone way over the top. They’re dangerous.”

This message, part of a fundraising pitch, is the Democrats’ new attempt to paint political dissenters as violent yahoos. But this message is special: It comes from an apparently changed Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

Having belonged to an anti-Vietnam War group whose members once discussed assassinating U.S. senators (for the record, he was against that), Kerry must have heard the words “baby killer” tossed about liberally to describe our soldiers. Today, he can no longer bear to hear it.

The grizzled war vet is now such a gentle soul that any episode of “South Park” where they kill Kenny (“You bastards!”) will apparently reduce him to tears. So does the violent idea of “targeted” House races.

In 2006, before he became such a sissy, Kerry was asked whether he couldn’t have “killed two birds with one stone” by visiting New Hampshire. He responded with a mild joke about assassinating the president: “I could have gone to 1600 Pennsylvania and killed the real bird with one stone.”

During his 2004 campaign, Kerry said: “What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States.”

The old Kerry’s tough words didn’t bother me, even if they did compare assassination and the violent overthrow of foreign governments with his vain hopes of defeating President George W. Bush. But what would liberals be saying now if Republicans spoke thus about “regime change” and “killing one bird” with respect to the Obama administration?

Would these not become new examples for Keith Olbermann to highlight, of why conservative dissent is not valid political speech, but rather an inherent incitement to violence and hatred?

Kerry’s overheated political rhetoric should offend no one. Our political lexicon consists almost entirely of references to war.

We talk about “battleground states” and “attacks,” “trenches,” “blitzes,” “war rooms,” “showdowns,” “target-rich environments” and “firestorms.” Even the word “campaign” is a term of warfare.

We watch political television shows with names like “Crossfire,” “Frontline,” “Hardfire” and “The Firing Line.” “The Situation Room” mildly implies warfare, whereas more direct references come in politics with candidates who “blast” one another, commit “political suicide” and engage in the sort of “murder-suicide attacks” that make Kerry’s 2004 nomination possible.

Every stump speech threatens violence in some subtle way, as when President Barack Obama promised to “fight” 19 times in one speech, and as his remark from the 2008 campaign should suggest: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”

That’s not a big deal for me. Nor was Obama’s incitement to followers to confront their McCain-supporting neighbors — “I want you to argue with them and get in their face.”

But congressional Democrats, as they cast standard political rhetoric as if it were violent in order to raise money, are not just practicing hypocrisy. They are also counting on you not to understand the difference between the rightful anger that accompanies political dissent, and the nut jobs who actually threaten their congressmen or commit violence against public officials.

Their attempt to conflate the two, and to connect the two, is really an attack on the idea of political dissent and the first amendment to the Constitution. John Kerry believes dissent is patriotic, but only when he’s the one dissenting.

Columnist David Freddoso is The Washington Examiner’s online opinion editor.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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