The shooting Wednesday morning during a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria flooded me with nostalgia for a time when congressional baseball was frivolous, fun and fraternal.
In 1956, I was a page in the House, appointed by Rep. Charles A. Halleck (R-Ind.), a former majority leader. The games and practices brought members of Congress to the ballpark for a late-afternoon or early-evening game. Beer, peanuts and popcorn populated the spectator stands and the dugouts. The mood was lighthearted and festive. A police presence was unnecessary.
Whether it was House Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-Tex.) at the plate or Minority Leader Joe Martin (R-Mass.) , everyone took his licks during the game with hoots and howls. Many congressmen not playing were in the stands in seersucker suits and straw boater hats. There was no Republican or Democratic section; they all sat together, some with their families.
In Congress, there were no personal attacks. Members addressed issues and worked collaboratively. They and their families entertained together on weekends, developing trust and camaraderie that superseded political affiliations.
Halleck maintained a three-room suite, known as the “Halleck Clinic,” where he would preside over drinks, cards and cigars with Republicans and Democrats. Policy differences and legislation were hammered out collaboratively. Senators crossed over to the House, unseen in the lower darkened hallways. These sessions often lasted long into the night, but real legislative progress was achieved, and the serious issues of the national agenda addressed.
Oh, for the good old days where brew and bravado ruled, not bullets.
Lowell E. Baier, Bethesda
The tragic shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and others Wednesday morning in Virginia is a stark reminder of the problem of violence that has always haunted American politics, and of the effort each of us must make to stop it.
It is worth remembering that it was a political feud that “got personal” that cost Alexander Hamilton his life in a duel with Aaron Burr more than two centuries ago. Sixty-one years later, politics cost President Abraham Lincoln his life. The institution of slavery in this country was sustained through violence, including violence in the political sphere, and violence has often beset the struggle for civil rights since then.
Martin Luther King Jr., President John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy were taken from us by assassins’ bullets. Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan nearly met the same fate, and former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) suffers to this day from being shot in the head at a public meeting in Arizona in 2011.
Whatever our differences, people who summon physical violence to “settle” them should suffer our collective disapprobation instead.
Bob Kline, Waxhaw, N.C.
The shooting at the Republican baseball practice is one more tragic American shooting. There are now many questions about security for members of Congress, the same questions many Americans have been asking repeatedly, day after day, year after year, about how to keep our neighborhoods safe in the face of overwhelming gun violence.
I worry that our country will be attacked by terrorists, but I worry more about the growing number of Americans who are shot by Americans.
Carolyn Becker, Landenberg, Pa.
It seems sad that the media view this shooting as so important even though 93 Americans on average are killed by guns every day. Each of those events, involving the deaths of men, women and children, is rightfully far more newsworthy than a congressman being wounded by a political activist who probably was mentally ill. Though each death is important, that there are so many amounts to a crisis the United States seems reluctant to acknowledge.
Will Congress finally see fit to address this?
Pat Kelly, Palo Alto, Calif.
The gun violence that has been exhibited throughout our country has visited itself again, this time upon members of Congress. Like many of our past victims of gun violence, they were engaged in a peaceful activity with little thought of being in danger.
Dana Milbank’s June 14 op-ed, “While you watched the Trump Show,” was unfortunately timely because the House natural resources subcommittee was to hear a provision called the Hearing Protection Act, a euphemism for relaxing the restrictions on gun noise suppressors. In Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-Ariz.) retelling of Wednesday’s events, he repeatedly mentioned it was the sound of gunfire that caused the targets to take cover. There is no need to relax restrictions on gun noise suppressors. Had silencers been available to the shooter, I am certain that many lives would have been lost.
Richard J. Baumgartner, Ashburn