After ‘armed and dangerous’ messages, who bears responsibility for violence?

Where are John Boehner’s tears now?

You’d expect a man who cries at the drop of a hat to at least show some emotion over the mass shootings in Arizona. But while addressing the tragedy at a news conference Sunday, the newly elected House speaker was as dry as tumbleweed.

“Public service is a high honor, but these tragic events remind us that all of us in our roles in service to our fellow citizens comes with a risk,” said Boehner (R-Ohio).

What kind of statement is that? You’d think he was talking about military casualties, not a rampage by a gunman at a political gathering in Tucson, where six people were killed, including a federal judge, and 14 were wounded — including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona), who is fighting for her life. The shooter’s motive was unknown.

But could it be that some emotional circuit breaker had cut off the speakers’ tears to protect him from a surge of guilt over his role in helping to create such a charged political climate — his support for nearly unfettered access to handguns?

Why had the man who is said to cry just by thinking about the welfare of children not shed a tear over the death of a 9-year-old girl in that rampage?

Did her role as a child just come with the risk?

“This inhuman act should not and will not deter us from our calling to represent our constituents and to fulfill our oaths of office,” Boehner said.

Where did that thought come from? Nobody’s running scared. And, pray tell, what oath is he talking about?

Just last year, Boehner declared that then-Rep. Steve Dreihaus (D-Ohio) “may be a dead man” because he voted for President Obama’s health-care law. “He can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati,” Boehner told the National Review.

That’s how thugs talk, and from the way Boehner and other elected officials have sounded lately, you’d think the only oath they’d taken was to uphold the code of the streets.

Just as gangsters use symbols to send intimidating messages to their rivals — say, pointing a finger, thumb cocked like the hammer on a pistol — Boehner’s political gang has taken to drawing crosshairs on opponents, posting inciting images on the Internet and calling for “Second Amendment solutions” to the nation’s problems.

Trading in ambiguity and veiled threats, thugs, whether on the streets or in the political suites, can always deny they meant any harm.

But no one is surprised when a street kid picks up on the gangland signal and carries out a hit. Nor should anyone be surprised when misguided ideologues start showing up at town meetings armed with assault rifles — or at supermarkets with handguns.

“Our nation was founded on violence. The option is on the table,” Stephen Broden, a tea party-backed former Texas GOP congressional candidate, has said. “I don’t think that we should ever remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms.”

From Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.):

“I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax, because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us, having a revolution every now and then is a good thing, and the people — we the people — are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country.”

The shooter’s motive in this case could have nothing at all to do with the statements of people such as Broden and Bachmann.

But Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik, who is leading the investigation into the shootings, minced no words in saying that vitriol spewed mostly by Republicans had contributed to the tragedy in Tucson.

“There’s reason to believe that this [suspect] may have a mental issue. And I think people who are unbalanced are especially susceptible to vitriol,” Dupnik said. “People tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech, but it’s not without consequences.”

Boehner ought to be crying a river.

milloyc@washpost.com

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