In­creas­ing hos­til­ity from po­lit­i­cal left hits break­ing point

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVE BOYER

The “Re­sist” move­ment spawned a shoot­ing ram­page Wed­nes­day morn­ing that tar­geted Repub­li­can law­mak­ers — an at­tack by a self-de­clared anti-Trump cru­sader that un­der­scored the poi­sonous tenor of mod­ern Amer­i­can pol­i­tics.

While po­lice were silent about a mo­tive, the Repub­li­cans who came un­der fire as they prac­ticed for a char­ity base­ball game said they were cer­tain they were tar­gets be­cause of their po­lit­i­cal party. And the gun­man’s bi­og­ra­phy backs them.

The shooter opened fire at a base­ball field in Alexandria where the Repub­li­can team had been prac­tic­ing for weeks, se­ri­ously wound­ing House Ma­jor­ity Whip Steve Scalise, a con­gres­sional staffer, a lob­by­ist and two U.S. Capi­tol Po­lice of­fi­cers from Mr. Scalise’s se­cu­rity de­tail.

The of­fi­cers re­turned fire and killed the gun­man, iden­ti­fied as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkin­son of Belleville, Illi­nois.

His brother said Hodgkin­son was up­set about the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Trump and trav­eled to the Wash­ing­ton area weeks ago to protest.

As lead­ers in both par­ties ap­pealed for na­tional unity and po­lit­i­cal ci­vil­ity, some sup­port­ers of Mr. Trump said the shoot­ing by a sup­porter of Sen. Bernard Sanders’ White House bid was a likely con­se­quence of an in­creas­ingly hos­tile “Re­sis­tance” cru­sade against the pres­i­dent.

“You’ve had an in­creas­ing in­ten­sity of hos­til­ity on the left,” said for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich, an ally of Mr. Trump. “You’ve had a se­ries of things which send sig­nals that tell peo­ple that it’s OK to hate.”

A day af­ter fall­ing just shy of win­ning his party’s gu­ber­na­to­rial nom­i­na­tion in Vir­ginia, Corey Stewart was even blunter, ac­cus­ing Democrats and lib­eral ac­tivists for en­cour­ag­ing sup­port­ers to take “the fight to the streets.”

“This is the fault of the left,” Mr. Stewart, chair­man of the Prince Wil­liam County Board of Su­per­vi­sors, told The Wash­ing­ton Times. “They have blood on their hands.”

The de­mo­niz­ing of Mr. Trump has be­come a con­test of one-up­man­ship, which in just the past weeks in­volved co­me­dian Kathy Grif­fin dis­play­ing a like­ness of the pres­i­dent’s bloody sev­ered head and the stag­ing of a play in New York City that de­picts the as­sas­si­na­tion of Mr. Trump.

The vit­riol di­rected at Mr. Trump has ex­tended to his Repub­li­can al­lies in Con­gress, whose sup­port for the pres­i­dent’s agenda has sparked such a heated out­cry that some law­mak­ers have de­bated the need for more se­cu­rity at town hall meet­ings in their dis­tricts.

It was in that in­creas­ingly po­lar­ized po­lit­i­cal cul­ture that Hodgkin­son opened fire with an as­sault ri­fle at Repub­li­can law­mak­ers and staffers at the base­ball field at 7:09 a.m. Wed­nes­day, af­ter in­quir­ing whether the play­ers were Repub­li­cans or Democrats.

Mr. Scalise of Louisiana, the thir­drank­ing House Repub­li­can, was wounded in the hip as he stood near sec­ond base. He dragged him­self into the out­field grass, leav­ing a bloody trail in the dirt as the gun­man me­thod­i­cally took aim at other play­ers.

Mr. Trump and first lady Me­la­nia Trump vis­ited Mr. Scalise at MedS­tar Wash­ing­ton Hos­pi­tal on Wed­nes­day night. Mrs. Trump brought flow­ers to the re­cov­er­ing law­maker.

The hos­pi­tal said in a tweet Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon that Mr. Scalise “was crit­i­cally in­jured and re­mains in crit­i­cal con­di­tion.”

In the evening, Mr. Scalise’s of­fice said a sin­gle ri­fle shot trav­eled through his left hip, frac­tur­ing bones, dam­ag­ing or­gans and caus­ing se­vere bleed­ing. He re­ceived mul­ti­ple blood trans­fu­sions, and his crit­i­cal con­di­tion will re­quire ad­di­tional oper­a­tions.

Af­ter the visit, Mr. Trump took to Twit­ter to say that Mr. Scalise “is in very tough shape.”

“But he is a real fighter. Pray for Steve!” Mr. Trump wrote.

Law­mak­ers and other wit­nesses de­scribed the ag­o­niz­ing min­utes they spent seek­ing cover at the ath­letic com­plex un­til Capi­tol Po­lice of­fi­cers were able to re­turn fire.

In all, dozens of shots were fired, shat­ter­ing car win­dows and whizzing over the heads of ter­ri­fied res­i­dents who had brought their pets to a nearby dog park or vis­ited a YMCA ad­ja­cent to the ball­field.

Rep. Mo Brooks, Alabama Repub­li­can, dove with other law­mak­ers into the first-base dugout.

“A cou­ple of the peo­ple in the dugout had cell­phones telling peo­ple we were un­der at­tack, and they’re scream­ing for re­in­force­ments,” Mr. Brooks said. “We’re help­less. We’ve got bats ver­sus a ri­fle — not good odds. So very in­tense mo­ments. I don’t know how many dozens of shots, 50 to 100, but there’s a lot of it.”

Katie Filous of Alexandria told The Wash­ing­ton Times that she was walk­ing dogs to the dog park when she heard loud pop­ping sounds and saw “lit­tle puffs of dirt on the base­ball field.”

“Peo­ple were scream­ing, ‘He has a ri­fle, he has a ri­fle,’” she said. “The gun was re­ally, re­ally loud. Every­body was scream­ing, ‘Lay flat.’ It was ter­ri­fy­ing.”

She wit­nessed the shoot­ing of one of the uni­formed Capi­tol Po­lice of­fi­cers, who was re­turn­ing fire against the gun­man.

“I saw a per­son get out of a black Sub­ur­ban. He or she had a hand­gun, say­ing, ‘Drop your weapon!’” Ms. Filous said. “I saw the gun­man shoot­ing the agent.”

‘Ter­mi­nate the Repub­li­can Party’

Though in­ves­ti­ga­tors wouldn’t say they had es­tab­lished a mo­tive for the shoot­ings, Hodgkin­son, in ad­di­tion to a record of run-ins with the law, had a his­tory of lash­ing out at Repub­li­cans and be­longed to a Face­book group called Ter­mi­nate the Repub­li­can Party.

He had vol­un­teered for Mr. Sanders’ pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. A post on a Face­book page be­lieved to be Hodgkin­son’s stated: “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has De­stroyed Our Democ­racy. It’s Time to De­stroy Trump & Co.”

For­mer Navy SEAL and Trump sup­porter Carl Hig­bie of Con­necti­cut placed the blame on Demo­cratic lead­ers for fan­ning the flames of the “Re­sist” move­ment.

“We must ex­am­ine why it has hap­pened,” Mr. Hig­bie said. “It’s be­cause the Demo­cratic Party, led by Max­ine Waters, Nancy Pelosi, my home-state U.S. se­na­tor Chris Mur­phy and the like have en­cour­age[d] this child­ish, an­ar­chist #Re­sist move­ment to the point where peo­ple are act­ing vi­o­lently on be­half of it.”

He said Democrats must “stop this vit­ri­olic #Re­sist nar­ra­tive and start act­ing like adults be­cause your words have con­se­quences.”

Oth­ers said it was pre­ma­ture to lay blame. Rep. Peter T. King, New York Repub­li­can, said there are un­bal­anced in­di­vid­u­als on both ends of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

Mr. Sanders took to the Se­nate floor to con­demn the at­tack. He said he was hor­ri­fied to learn that the sus­pect had been a vol­un­teer for his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign last year.

“I am sick­ened by this de­spi­ca­ble act,” Mr. Sanders said. “Let me be as clear as I can be. Vi­o­lence of any kind is un­ac­cept­able in our so­ci­ety, and I con­demn this ac­tion in the strong­est pos­si­ble terms.”

Hours af­ter the at­tack, Rep. Clau­dia Ten­ney, New York Repub­li­can, said she con­tacted Capi­tol Po­lice about a threat­en­ing email she re­ceived.

“One down, 216 to go,” a Boonville, New York, res­i­dent wrote in the email, pub­lished by Politico.

“Did you NOT ex­pect this?” the per­son wrote. “When you take away or­di­nary peo­ples very lives in or­der to pay off the wealth­i­est among us, your own lives are for­feit. Cer­tainly, your souls and moral­ity were lost long be­fore. Good rid­dance.”

Ms. Ten­ney, a fresh­man law­maker, told Syra­cuse.com that the na­tion should be hav­ing a ro­bust de­bate about pol­icy is­sues, but ‘‘this is be­yond an­other realm.”

Rep. Rod­ney Davis, an Illi­nois Repub­li­can who was at the ball­field, pleaded for more po­lit­i­cal unity in the af­ter­math of the shoot­ing.

“It’s my break­ing point of ci­vil­ity in pol­i­tics when you go to base­ball prac­tice for a game for char­ity and you have to

dodge bul­lets and you watch your col­leagues lay in [the] field,” Mr. Davis said. “Hate has to stop. We can dis­agree on poli­cies as Repub­li­cans and Democrats, as Amer­i­cans, but that’s what makes this coun­try great. It’s a sad tes­ta­ment of what I now con­sider po­lit­i­cal rhetor­i­cal ter­ror­ism.”

But Mr. Stewart wasn’t in a for­giv­ing mood, say­ing Democrats have con­doned vi­o­lence against con­ser­va­tives in the past, so he doesn’t buy their calls for unity now. He high­lighted Miss Grif­fin’s “Trump be­head­ing” pub­lic­ity, which re­sulted in CNN break­ing ties with the co­me­dian.

“You don’t see con­ser­va­tives at­tack­ing lib­er­als or Democrats. It is al­ways the vile, dis­gust­ing, an­i­mals that are at­tack­ing Repub­li­cans,” Mr. Stewart said.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can, told a packed House cham­ber later that “an at­tack on one of us is an at­tack on all of us.”

In the most ob­vi­ous dis­play of unity, law­mak­ers in both par­ties said the an­nual char­ity base­ball game will take place as sched­uled at 7:05 p.m. Thurs­day.

Rhetoric spin­ning out of con­trol

But on a broader level, Mr. Gin­grich and oth­ers said, the hos­tile po­lit­i­cal rhetoric is spin­ning out of con­trol.

“I talk to col­lege stu­dents reg­u­larly who say to me if they are openly for Trump, they get threat­ened,” Mr. Gin­grich said on Fox News. “Some of them get death threats. The in­ten­sity on the left is very real, whether it is a so-called co­me­dian hold­ing up the pres­i­dent’s head in blood or it’s right here in New York City, a play that shows the pres­i­dent be­ing as­sas­si­nated. … This in­ten­sity has been build­ing, I think, since elec­tion night.”

Af­ter the shoot­ing, Don­ald Trump Jr. retweeted with ap­proval a post from con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Har­lan Z. Hill: “Events like to­day are EX­ACTLY why we took is­sue with NY elites glo­ri­fy­ing the as­sas­si­na­tion of our Pres­i­dent.”

Since Mr. Trump’s elec­tion, many front lawns in the heav­ily Demo­cratic neigh­bor­hood where the shoot­ing took place have dis­played signs pro­claim­ing a

generic mes­sage of “Kind­ness.” Sprin­kled among them are some “Re­sist” signs, along with a few hold­outs still de­fi­antly sport­ing “Clin­ton/Kaine” signs.

A Vir­ginia poll watcher in Alexandria said she be­lieved the shoot­ing was a car­ry­over of the anger dis­played by the Re­sist move­ment dur­ing Tues­day’s pri­mary elec­tions in Vir­ginia.

“It’s not as if I cer­tainly ex­pected this to hap­pen or what­ever, imag­ined or pre­dicted this to hap­pen, but in ret­ro­spect, yes­ter­day I vis­ited four or five precincts right around the im­me­di­ate area where the shoot­ing oc­curred, and the vit­riol and the anger was pal­pa­ble,” Mari Es­tull said in a phone in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Ms. Es­tull, 51, said she was spit upon and cursed at by the Re­sist pro­test­ers.

“Vir­ginia was out in force yes­ter­day vot­ing, so it was kind of un­usual be­cause I got to see the ac­tual vot­ers … I got to sort of have a glimpse of the tenor of the feel­ing in pol­i­tics here and it just so hap­pens the very next day this hap­pens and I’m in shock. In ret­ro­spect, it’s al­most like ‘aha,’ ” said Ms. Es­tull, a mother of two. “I cer­tainly can’t say I saw this com­ing, but I sensed this seething anger yes­ter­day, just 24 hours ago.”

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam won the Demo­cratic gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary, aided by a TV cam­paign ad in which he called Mr. Trump a “nar­cis­sis­tic ma­niac” and say­ing “we’re not let­ting him bring his hate into Vir­ginia.”

Par­ti­san vit­riol was still ev­i­dent on so­cial me­dia hours af­ter the shoot­ing.

Some peo­ple lashed out at David Ax­el­rod, who served as an ad­viser to Pres­i­dent Obama, when he said on Twit­ter that he was “sad­dened to read po­lit­i­cal re­sponses among ex­pres­sions of thoughts and prayers. Can we please hit pause on that for now?”

On the Face­book page called the Trump Re­sis­tance Move­ment, many peo­ple ridiculed Mr. Ax­el­rod’s plea for unity.

“Turn about is fair play,” wrote Steve Lubbs of Long­mont, Colorado. “The pres­i­dent [Mr. Trump] has shown us the way.”


AF­TER­MATH: An SUV at the ball­field had a bul­let hole in the wind­shield and a flat tire af­ter the gun­man shot at a U.S. Capi­tol Po­lice of­fi­cer who was re­turn­ing fire to pro­tect the law­mak­ers.


WOUNDED: House Ma­jor­ity Whip Steve Scalise was shot while stand­ing at sec­ond base dur­ing base­ball prac­tice.


PO­LIT­I­CALLY HOS­TILE: James T. Hodgkin­son be­longed to the Face­book group Ter­mi­nate the Repub­li­can Party.

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