Where Does Rep. Broun Draw The Line?

February 25, 2011 1:33 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

When an American citizen tells a U.S. congressman that somebody needs to shoot the president — and the congressman fails to denounce the statement swiftly — it should generally qualify as news. But given Rep. Paul Broun's (R-GA) own extreme rhetoric, his failure to immediately condemn such a comment isn't surprising. Today, Broun finally responded to a disturbing incident at his town hall meeting on Tuesday:

Tuesday night at a town hall meeting in Oglethorpe County, Georgia an elderly man asked the abhorrent question, "Who's going to shoot Obama?"  I was stunned by the question and chose not to dignify it with a response; therefore, at that moment I moved on to the next person with a question.  After the event, my office took action with the appropriate authorities.  I deeply regret that this incident happened at all.  Furthermore, I condemn all statements—made in sincerity or jest—that threaten or suggest the use of violence against the President of the United States or any other public official.  Such rhetoric cannot and will not be tolerated.

It's generous of Broun to recognize that suggesting assassination is a bridge too far, but it's not entirely clear where he draws the line. In the past few years, Broun has warned that members of the "socialistic elite" are plotting to declare martial law and repeatedly called for vigilance against his political opponents, whom he deems "domestic enemies":

BROUN: [Obama] has the three things necessary to establish an authoritarian government, and so we need to be ever vigilant because freedom is precious.

BROUN: Americans will be watching for Congress to fiercely defend this country against enemies, both foreign and domestic. Our foreign enemies may be easily identified and grab national headlines, but we must remain vigilant of our domestic enemies who ignore the original intent of the Constitution.

Moreover, Broun has warned that "people are gonna die" because of clean energy reforms, claimed the public health insurance option would "kill people," and compared the Affordable Care Act to the "Great War of Yankee Aggression."

In other words, there's no reason for Broun to be "stunned" by his constituent's venom. If anybody takes Broun's histrionics seriously — and he was reelected, after all — why wouldn't they think violence was necessary to maintain their liberty?

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