If there were anything remotely conservative about people calling themselves “conservative Republicans,” they’d be horrified by the near-fatal attack upon House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, and calling for strict law enforcement.
Instead, they’re making stupid jokes and endorsing conspiracy theories to minimize the terrible reality of what happened — seemingly secure in the knowledge that the bully-boys and would-be assassins are pretty much all on their side. Yes, there are crackpots on each end of the political spectrum, but actual assaults come largely from the MAGA right.
Famous big-game hunter Donald Trump Jr. — mighty slayer of captive elephants at a game farm in Zimbabwe — posted a photo of a pair of undershorts and a hammer on Instagram. “Got my Paul Pelosi Halloween costume ready,” the caption read. Devastating wit, right?Trump Sr. once suggested “Second Amendment people” deal with Hillary Clinton.
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Both men have been surrounded by bodyguards all their lives.
Preppy Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin chuckled at his own vow to send Nancy Pelosi home to California to care for her husband — this witticism apparently delivered while the 82-year-old victim was still in surgery for a fractured skull.
Although not technically a Republican, self-proclaimed “free speech fundamentalist” Elon Musk posted and later retracted a tweet suggesting the attack on Paul Pelosi stemmed from a gay lovers’ quarrel, a malicious invention evidently inspired by the fact that the victim was asleep in his underwear when the assailant burst into his bedroom at 2 a.m.
I guess this tells us where the tycoon means to take Twitter, his latest expensive toy: straight into the Stygian depths of internet hell.
Meanwhile, several Michigan men were convicted of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — like Nancy Pelosi, a woman with serious political power, something that pushes a certain kind of blowhard over the edge. In Arizona, right-wing “activists” carrying assault rifles are showing up at early voting sites, writing down license plate numbers and following people home to prevent (imaginary) electoral fraud.
Voter intimidation is a federal crime.
Elsewhere, scores of election workers and school board members are resigning nationwide due to death threats — some delivered openly at public meetings. High school librarians are being told that their home addresses and the names of their children are known to their antagonists.
Terroristic threatening is likewise a serious felony. Not that it’s ever enforced until it’s much too late.
So where is law enforcement? My own experience in this realm may be instructive. Some years back, I used to get regular threats of death and dismemberment on my home telephone. Mostly, they came on weekends, around midnight. Always the same guy. Countrified accent, grammatically challenged. My wife, perennially worried about our young sons’ safety, could not be persuaded to let the damn thing ring.
To me, crank calls and online threats pretty much come with the territory. Mostly I’ve ignored them. Man to man, people have always left me alone. But this joker had gone too far: vowing to beat me to death in front of my wife, and then rape and mutilate her.
He seemed to get a big charge out of talking dirty to her.
All this because I wrote newspaper columns broadly supportive of Democratic politicians — Bill and Hillary Clinton in particular. Both Clintons have always had a knack for infuriating guys like him.
I recorded a couple of calls and notified the phone company. They put a trace on my phone, documenting that the calls originated from a pay phone outside a liquor store on the North Little Rock side of the river — a different jurisdiction.
I took the evidence downtown to the police department.
And then, nothing.
Detectives assured me that the caller was a coward who would never confront me. I was pretty sure that was right, but the man was obviously disturbed. As I say, terroristic threatening is a felony.
The cops basically thanked me for my effort and kept the evidence. If he ever actually did attack me or my wife, they’d have all they needed to put him away. If he showed up and I shot him, I basically had my alibi.
But if all he ever did was talk ... Well, if they arrested every guy who talked trash whenever he got drunk, they’d have no time for anything else. I understood where they were coming from, but it became clear I was wasting my time. Not long afterward, we moved to the country, and he couldn’t find us anymore.
My point is that what’s needed in response to the Paul Pelosi incident may be what’s sometimes called “broken windows policing.” Local, state and federal authorities need to bust these clowns making threats against librarians and school board members and make a big show of it.
Because otherwise, we’re headed toward Berlin, 1933.
Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President” (St. Martin’s Press, 2000)
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