Tu Quoque

Demonstrators line the sidewalk outside the Fargo office of U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Wednesday, June 28, at 1802 32nd Ave. S. as they protest the Senate health care reform bill. Dave Wallis / The Forum

My Sunday print column – headline, “Agree with me or people will die” –  was about the sign up above from a protest at Senator John Hoeven’s offices in Fargo last week.

It was also about the left’s propensity for this sort of rhetoric of late. The sentiment on that sign is hardly an isolated bit of hyperbole from an overwrought activist. Senator Elizabeth Warren made similar comments during a speech on the Senate floor recently.

“These cuts are blood money,” she said, alluding to the Republican health care bill. “People will die.”

These sort of comments are deeply unhelpful, at best, in terms of solving real policy problems. At worst they are irresponsible given that we are not very far removed from an attempted political assassination aimed at a group of Republican members of Congress working out on a baseball field in Virginia.

What’s been interesting, though, is the response to the column. Most of it, coming by way of email and social media, has been variations on the theme of this letter to the editor of the Fargo Forum today.

“I didn’t hear a lot of calls for conservatives to moderate their rhetoric after the shooting of Gabby Giffords,” writes Mr. Richard Peterson.

One problem with this comment is that the shooting of Gabby Giffords wasn’t really political. The perpetrator of that crime, Jared Loughner, was an insane person with no rational ideology.

The other problem is that this is the tu quoque fallacy. What Peterson and others using this line of argument are doing is justifying the vicious, ugly, irresponsible rhetoric of the left by pointing out that people on the right are, at times, guilty of the same thing.

Which is nonsense.

Two wrongs do not make a right.

Whatever activists on the right were guilty of under President Obama, or any other time for that matter, doesn’t excuse how the left is behaving today under President Donald Trump.

It just doesn’t.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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