Quote: "He may be a dead man."
This is really getting nasty. Over the last week enormous pressure has been brought to bear on Congressman Steve Driehaus (OH-1) a freshman Representative from the heavily Catholic west side of Cincinnati. Driehaus, a devout Catholic voted for the Stupack amendment and for the House bill, but has been among those saying he may vote no if asked to approve the Senate language. I for one hope he finds the way to a yes vote.
But for the last ten days at least, a group called the "Committee to Rethink Reform" has been running TV, radio, and newspaper ads in Cincinnati all designed to put pressure on Driehaus to vote no on Sunday.
His office has been inundated with phone calls and e-mails as a result. The Committee to Rethink Reform appears to be an operation of a paid Republican lobbyist Rick Berman who's clearly getting boatloads of money from someone to try and sink the bill. Who is paying? We can only speculate (thanks to the Supreme Court)!
On Wednesday , a full page add in the Cincinnati Enquirer (demanding a no vote) included the picture below showing Congressman Driehaus with his two young daughters. The photo was taken at last year's Labor Day picnic (where President Obama spoke) by someone who confronted him in public. It uses a very wide angle lens to distort his face and include the two girls who are clearly not happy with what’s going on. (The photo has been altered here to conceal his daughter's faces).
Steve Driehaus rightly objected loudly to the use of his daughter’s photo in this way, and on Thursday the paper published a full page retraction of the ad. But of course the damage was already done.
Today in a front page article the Enquirer carries a quote from John Boehner (taken from the National Review). Boehner, who represents the neighboring district to the north says if Driehaus votes for the bill ""the Catholics will run him out of town. He may be a dead man. He can’t go home to the West Side of Cincinnati."
Can this not been seen as an invitation (dog whistle) to the crazies to take matters into their own hands if Driehaus votes yes? Or to ratchet up the pressure yet one more level? Is this not a veiled threat of violence directed at Steve Driehaus designed to intimidate him into a no vote?
Driehaus is again running against the 14 year GOP member he beat in 2008 to claim the seat (Steve Chabot). The race by all accounts is one of the most targeted races in the nation. Chabot’s greatest claim to fame was that he was the GOP House floor leader in the effort to impeach Bill Clinton.
Today County Democratic Chair Tim Burke sent the following letter to the Enquirer calling Boehner on his tactics. But this should not remain just a local matter. The use of such tactics goes well beyond what is acceptable in political debate and Boehner should be forced to answer for this on the national stage. I call on the Sunday talk shows to raise this issue, take John Boehner to task for reprehensible tactics. And as for us, if we want our people to take a risk we have to have their back.
The letter is below:
My God, what have we come to.
Congressman Boehner, the Minority Leader, carries the debate over health care and Steve Driehaus’ vote to the most extreme and vicious. Today’s Enquirer (3/20/10) quotes Boehner saying that if Driehaus votes for the bill "the Catholics will run him out of town. He may be a dead man. He can’t go home to the West Side of Cincinnati."
Make no mistake I am a partisan Democrat. But I value the ability of those who can, through their respect for the other side and the give and take of good faith political discourse, accomplish things in a bipartisan manner. Whether used for rhetorical purposes or not, the suggestion that death is an appropriate response to a vote not liked goes beyond any acceptable partisan advocacy. Shame on you Congressman Boehner.
I don’t agree with Congressman Driehaus on every one of his positions. I sincerely hope that the final language of the health care bill will win his yes vote. But I know, if it does not, it will not be because of threats like this, or the misuse of his children in ads, but because of a long held and publicly stated position of conscience. One which I may not agree with but I have to respect.
And Mr. Boehner, I thought you were pro life.
Chair, Hamilton County Democratic Party
Update: I don't mean to say that I actually think John Boehner wants someone to commit murder. I don't think he's that foolish. But I do think John Boehner doesn't mind playing with fire a little and doesn't mind trying to create an atmosphere of fear and anger. He knows very well there's plausible deniability in what he said while at the same time he knows there some crazy tea baggers out there. Who knows what they might do? I do think he meant to try and intimidate.
Update #2 By the way John Boehner for the first time in many years has a real challenger, Justin Cossouele. A young West Point grad, an attorney who is taking a huge risk to take Boehner on. He deserves notice for daring to do it. His website is here. His ActBlue site is here. Boehner will be very tough to beat due to gerrymandering but wouldn't it be gratifying to make him sweat?
Press release from his campaign: Boehner's Two Week Toxic Streak Continues
For Immediate Release: March 20, 2010
Contact: David Little, 513-477-2651
In the same interview where Representative John Boehner vows to "repair the damage to the institution" of Congress, he callously treats the Catholic Church as his own politicized gang, threatening a fellow Member of Congress, saying they will "run him out of town," and suggesting neighboring 1st District Congressman Steve Driehaus is "a dead man." [Source: The National Review]
"Threatening and vicious comments like these have no place in our public discourse," said Justin Coussoule (pronounced kuh-SOO-lee), Democratic Congressional candidate in Ohio's 8th District.
"Regardless of where an individual stands on the health care debate – or the sensitive, volatile issue of abortion – these comments are corrosive to the civil discourse of our body politic and certainly should not be uttered by a Member of Congress, much less by the Minority Leader."
These remarks are just the latest in an ugly streak of verbal bombasts that reflect a profound lack of respect and accountability by Representative Boehner, whose behavior demonstrates a disregard for fellow Members of Congress and their staff, voters in his district, members of his own political party,
and even Tea Party activists.
Last week, Boehner offended fellow Republicans in Alabama by meddling in a local Republican primary election. One member of the local Republican Party in Huntsville said Mr. Boehner "would be better advised to bunker down within the confines of his Inside-the-Beltway-Fortress and stay there. He is persona non gratia." A local Tea Party leader similarly complained of Boehner's interference by
raising money for a candidate they are steadfastly opposing, saying, "[t]he Tea Party movement began and is continuing today because the people are being ignored," suggesting some "have forgotten who they work for." [Source: The Daily Bellweather]
Just this week before the American Bankers Association meeting in Washington, D.C., Mr. Boehner referred to the professional staff in Congress as "punk little staffers," while instructing Wall Street bankers to "stand up for themselves" and join him in fighting any reform of our financial institutions. The bankers are the same people who cost the citizens of the 8th District untold millions in lost
investments and who were helped with a no-strings-attached government bailout that Boehner supported. Boehner's inappropriate comments drew rapid fire for insulting the professionalism and public service of staff who use their talents on behalf of the nation [Source: The NY Times].
Coussoule is a West Pointer and former Army captain. Following his military service, Coussoule practiced law, fighting to ensure injured workers received just compensation, and opened a small business in Massachusetts before moving to Southwest Ohio. He currently works for a global consumer products company headquartered in Cincinnati. Coussoule lives in Liberty Township with
his wife, Amanda, and their two young children.