The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Peter King blames asthma and obesity for Eric Garner’s death. That’s a problem for the GOP.

There has been a rare breakout of bipartisanship over the death of Eric Garner, with Republicans and Democrats sharing concerns about a grand jury's failure to indict a New York police officer who put him in a chokehold.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer called the decision "totally incomprehensible."

"It looks as if at least they might have  indicted him on something like involuntary manslaughter at the very least," Krauthammer said on Fox News. "The guy actually said ‘I can’t breathe,’ which ought to be a signal, if the guy was unarmed and the crime was as petty as they come."

(Garner was suspected of selling tax-free single cigarettes.)

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), meanwhile, has called for House hearings. And Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) slammed the decision.

"You don't have to be a lawyer or an ex-prosecutor to know a human being was killed," Rangel said at a press conference, where he was flanked by other members of the New York delegation. "He was surrounded by policemen. No one else touched him. And the grand jury did not say that he committed suicide. They didn't say what happened."

But amid all of this consensus, one of the exceptions has been Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y), who tweeted this:

King, who represents Long Island, also defended police officer Daniel Pantaleo's use of the chokehold, suggesting Garner's obesity and asthma made the situation more dangerous than it should have been.

"The police had no reason to know he was in serious condition," King said on CNN. "You had a 350-pound person who was resisting arrest. The police were trying to bring him down as quickly as possible. If he had not had asthma and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he would not have died."

Medical examiners ruled Garner's death a homicide and said his health was a contributing factor. It listed the chokehold, his position on the ground and the compression of his chest as the main cause.

While it is unlikely that many other lawmakers, Republican or Democrat, will frame the case in the way that King has, his take will likely be a template for how some other conservatives -- particularly on talk radio and in the more obscure blogosphere -- will talk about the case. And the grand jury that declined to indict Pantaleo has its defenders. (For his part, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky), has blamed Garner's death on the high cigarette tax in New York.)

Even as many in his party are anxious to show that they are concerned about the police's treatment of an unarmed black man, King is sticking with this police-were-right mentality. And that probably doesn't help the GOP, given the consensus that seems to be forming here.