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Lawmakers concerned as health-care overhaul foes resort to violence
"If we fail to learn the lessons of our history, we are bound to repeat them," said House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.). "I think all of us learned some great lessons from the '60s and '70s, and there are some lessons that none of us want to repeat, but one thing we know, as Steny Hoyer said, 'Silence is consent.' "
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) called the incidents unacceptable.
"I know many Americans are angry over this health-care bill, and that Washington Democrats just aren't listening," Boehner told Fox News Channel. "But, as I've said, violence and threats are unacceptable. That's not the American way. We need to take that anger and channel it into positive change. Call your congressman, go out and register people to vote, go volunteer on a political campaign, make your voice heard -- but let's do it the right way."
Some Democrats, sensing a political opportunity, suggested that Republicans were fanning the anger with their fiery comments in recent days. Several GOP lawmakers stood on the speaker's balcony at the Capitol overlooking a tea party protest last weekend holding up signs that read "Kill the Bill." Below them, protesters were yelling "No! No! No!" and, referring to the House speaker, "Nancy, you will burn in hell for this!"
One of the more threatening incidents involved Perriello, whose older brother, Bo, came home Tuesday and smelled gas in the house. He discovered that a line to a propane tank on a gas grill in his yard had been cut. A threatening letter was also sent to the home that day. Federal and local authorities were investigating the incident.
"While it is too early to say anything definitive regarding political motivations behind this act, it's never too early for political leaders to condemn threats of violence, particularly as threats to other members of Congress and their children escalate,'' Perriello, a freshman who faces a tough reelection fight, said in a statement. "And so I ask every member of House and Senate leadership to state unequivocally tonight that it is never OK to harm or threaten elected officials and their families with anything more than political retribution. Here in America, we settle our political differences at the ballot box."
Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, both Republicans, condemned the vandalism and threats. Cuccinelli, who has become a conservative folk hero for filing suit over the health-care law, said that the severing of the gas line was "absolutely, totally unacceptable" and that posting Perriello's address online was "way over the line."
Some of the vandalism appears to have been instigated by an Alabama blogger, Mike Vanderboegh, who encouraged his readers to throw bricks at the windows of Democratic headquarters across the country. Vanderboegh, a former leader of the Alabama Constitutional Militia who is headlining an open-carry gun rally in Northern Virginia next month, issued a call to the modern "Sons of Liberty" on his libertarian political blog to break windows nationwide to display opposition to health-care reform.
A vandal threw a brick into the glass doors at the Monroe County Democratic Committee's headquarters in Rochester overnight Saturday, attaching a note that quoted Barry Goldwater: "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice."
Vanderboegh did not respond to questions Wednesday from The Washington Post, but he took credit for the incident in an interview earlier this week with the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. "I guess that guy's one of ours," he told the newspaper. "Glad to know people read my blog."
Staff writers Ann Gerhart, Paul Kane, Anita Kumar and Rosalind S. Helderman and research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.