REHBERG EYES ‘ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST’ FOR FEDERAL JUDGE…. About a month ago, in the wake of the massacre in Tucson, prominent political voices started using a little more caution when choosing their words. Part of this was out of sensitivity following a tragedy, but there was also an ongoing debate about the role of rhetorical excesses in creating a toxic, and perhaps dangerous, climate.

I guess the grace period is over? (thanks to G.S. for the tip)

U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg R-Mont., speaking to the Legislature on Monday, attacked the policies of the Obama administration, defended states’ rights and said a federal judge in Montana belongs on the Endangered Species Act for his ruling on wolves. […]

“My job as your congressman to defend the states’ rights principle in Washington,” he said. That means keeping Washington off people’s backs, such as ending federal management of the grey wolf population here in Montana, he said to applause.

He blasted “environmental obstructionist” for finding a federal judge in Missoula, Donald Molly, whom he didn’t identify by name, who ruled that the wolf had to remain on the Endangered Species list.

“When I first heard his decision, like many of you I wanted to take action immediately,” Rehberg said. “I asked: how can we put some of these judicial activists on the Endangered Species list?”

Look, I seriously doubt the far-right congressman wants to see this federal judge targeted with violence. But it’s been less than a month since a mad gunman shot and killed a federal judge. Does a member of Congress really feel the need to “take action immediately” against a ruling he didn’t like, by wondering aloud about how to place the judge “on the Endangered Species list”?

If the congressman wants to disagree with a court ruling, fine. Veiled threats, especially so soon after the violence in Tucson, is just offensive.

As for his claim that the Endangered Species list is necessary for “judicial activists,” one wonders if Rehberg is sharp enough to realize that he loves judicial activism when it comes to rulings on health care.

Also note the context here. Rehberg wasn’t joking around on some radio talk show, or getting a rise out of the base during a fundraiser — he was speaking from a prepared text to the Montana legislature.

What’s more, these remarks come on the heels of Rehberg launching a U.S. Senate campaign, and offering at least tacit support for Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-Minn.) ridiculous presidential aspirations.

Steve Benen

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.