REPORT FROM THE HILL…. I traded emails today with a Capitol Hill staffer with whom I speak regularly, and I think the aide’s perspective is worth passing along. (I’m republishing the staffer’s note in its entirety with permission.)
To say hill staff is shook up after the weekend’s events would be an understatement. We are family up here and I know I’m not the only who has already gotten requests from family to find another line of work. We have had this in the back of our minds for quite some time now. We had people storm our office during health care, they were filled with end-of-times rhetoric and even made mention of violence as an answer.
One thing that isn’t getting reported yet is how this isn’t an “isolated” incident. We don’t know yet if right wing hate talk played a roll, but can we please not forget that a deranged anti-government man flew his plane into an IRS building in Texas killing a veteran. Can we please not forget an unhinged racist killed a security guard at the Holocaust Museum. Can we please not forget about the man arrested in northern California armed to the teeth and on his way to the Tides foundation. I’m certain there are others that I’m forgetting. This stuff comes from the right, we know that.
I was working in D.C. in 2001, and I remember how shaken plenty of Hill staffers were after two lawmakers’ offices — both Democrats — were sent weaponized anthrax, and the powerful antibiotics started being handed out in congressional office buildings. It took quite a while before folks dropped their guard while opening their mail.
The massacre in Tucson obviously isn’t the same thing, but in light of the assassination attempt, against the backdrop of excessive right-wing rhetoric and tactics, I wonder if the effect might be similar. After all, one of those slain on Saturday was Gabriel Zimmerman, the 30-year-old director of community outreach for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D).
If I had to guess, the effects seem likely to linger. Aides fielding angry phone calls will feel a bit more nervous than they otherwise would be; staffers opening hate mail might be a bit more inclined to pass them along to the Capitol police; and I shudder to think what happens the next time a Democratic lawmaker hosts a town-hall meeting and a nearby car backfires.