GOP LEADER MILDLY CRITICIZES RIGHT-WING TACTICS…. As far-right opposition to health care reform has grown increasingly ugly and violent, the deafening silence from Republican leaders has been hard to miss.

It’s tempting to think a sensible, mature political party would, at some point, encourage its supporters to lower the temperature a bit. In general, that hasn’t happened — GOP leaders have been egging their base on, and condemning Democrats for criticizing right-wing tactics. No matter how many swastikas, nooses, death threats, or firearms show up in public, Republicans just haven’t been willing to stand up and say, “Enough.”

Indeed, as Brian Beutler noted yesterday, “By and large … there seem to be two main tracks for members the GOP: 1). Scare protesters silly, then point to the circus they create as a sign of high-functioning democracy and concerns about the Democratic agenda, or, 2). Look the other way.”

To her credit, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) managed to offer at least some criticism of conservative activists today.

“I think the purpose of the town halls is for people to be able to express their views in an orderly and respectful manner, and that needs to take place on both sides,” said McMorris Rodgers, the fifth ranking Republican in the House.

“I certainly don’t condone violence, I don’t condone calling President Obama Hitler and painting swastikas on signs at townhalls,” continued McMorris Rodgers, vice chairwoman of the GOP conference.

McMorris is the first member of the House Republican leadership to decry the Nazi comparisons.

Granted, it’s fairly weak tea. For that matter, it’s striking to think we’ve reached the point that it’s a breath of fresh air when a lawmaker is willing to say, in public, “I don’t condone calling President Obama Hitler and painting swastikas on signs at townhalls.”

But at this point, and with this minority, I suppose we’ll have to take what we can get.

Now, what do you suppose is more likely: that other Republican lawmakers will follow Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ lead and denounce over-the-top conservative tactics, or that Cathy McMorris Rodgers will be forced to walk this back, explaining that she didn’t really mean it?

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.