Commentary: Threats are not free speech

The Sacramento BeeMarch 26, 2010 

Sunday's passage of health care reform was preceded by many weeks of venomous attacks and wild exaggerations, yet it all seems so tame now in comparison.

Since the vote, at least 10 House members have reported death threats, harassment or vandalism at district offices. More than 100 House Democrats were alarmed enough to meet privately Wednesday with the FBI and Capitol Police. Some requested and received extra security.

Such violence and threats of violence are not free speech and political protest. It is intimidation, it is criminal, and it has no place in a democracy like ours.

Republicans, of course, have condemned the violence and acts of bigotry that followed the bill's passage. Yet their ongoing vitriol has given license to the threats. They own what's happening now.

Some of the scariest attacks have been directed at Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, the leader of anti-abortion Democrats in the House, whose support put the bill over the top. When Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer of Texas yelled "baby killer" while Stupak was speaking on the House floor, the GOP can't later feign shock that someone left a death threat on Stupak's phone.

It is Republicans' right to fight the health care overhaul. GOP senators offered amendment after failed amendment to the "fix-it" bill before its final passage Thursday night.

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