TO SIT IN SILENCE WHEN BROUN SHOULD PROTEST…. Rep. Paul Broun (R) of Georgia, one of Congress’ most right-wing members, hosted a town-hall event in his district this week. This wouldn’t be especially noteworthy were it not for one of the questions he received from a constituent: “Who is going to shoot President Obama?”

The exact wording of the question is not clear because, the Athens Banner-Herald reports, there was a lot of noise at the event. Perhaps more significant than the question was the response of the crowd and Broun, who is a member of the Tea Party Caucus and one of the most right-wing members of Congress.

The question prompted a “big laugh” from the crowd, in Oglethorpe County, Ga., according to the Banner-Herald. Broun, for his part, did not object to the question. He said in response:

“The thing is, I know there’s a lot of frustration with this president. We’re going to have an election next year. Hopefully, we’ll elect somebody that’s going to be a conservative, limited-government president that will take a smaller, who will sign a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

Broun’s office later confirmed that the question was about when someone was going to shoot the president.

In the immediate aftermath of the assassination attempt in Tucson last month, there seemed to be an effort to show restraint when it comes to language like this. Apparently, the grace period is over, and the viciousness is back.

Now, I don’t know who asked that question in Georgia, nor do I know what that person is capable of. Maybe the constituent intends to commit acts of political violence, maybe not.

I do know that the threat of political violence is real, and that the question — and the audience’s reaction to it — help create an even more toxic and dangerous political climate.

For his part, Broun had a chance to demonstrate some character and decency, making clear that talk about assassinating the president isn’t acceptable. A simple, obvious condemnation would have sent a loud signal about boundaries of propriety in our society. Broun instead chose to let that opportunity go by.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox once said, “To sit in silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men.” Someone ought to pass the quote along to Paul Broun.

By the way, if you’re unfamiliar with Broun’s work, the hysterical right-wing lawmaker has quite a greatest hits collection. It was, after all, Paul Broun who said cap-and-trade would kill people; the Affordable Care Act will dictate what kind of car Americans can drive; the health care reform effort reminds him of “Northern Aggression“; and that he considers President Obama to be a Hitler-like figure intent on establishing a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist dictatorship on Americans.

Last fall, in the midst of the midterm elections, the Centers for Disease Control launched a public-service campaign on the benefits of a healthy diet, which included recipes people can try that incorporate fruits and vegetables. Broun responded that the CDC intended to “give all the power to the federal government to force you” to eat healthier foods. He added, “This is what the federal, CDC, they gonna be calling you to make sure you eat fruits and vegetables, every day. This is socialism of the highest order!”

He’s quite a congressman.

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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.