Thursday, May 25, 2017

Gianforte Puts The Political Smack Down

On May 24th, Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian attempted to ask Greg Gianforte, Republican candidate for Montana's at-large U.S. Congressional district, his position on the American Health Care Act (TrumpCare) now that the Congressional Budget Office report had come out. According to Jacobs, Gianforte reacted angrily to the question and "bodyslammed" him to the ground, breaking his glasses in the process. Gianforte was initially unapologetic, blaming the incident on Jacobs, saying that Jacobs grabbed Gianforte's wrist, causing them both to fall to the ground. Unfortunately for Gianforte, an audio recording of the incident surfaced and appeared to support Jacobs' version of events. Other reporters who were present at the scene also corroborated Jacobs' version of events. Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna, who witnessed the incident, said "Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground," then "began punching the man" and "yelling something to the effect of 'I'm sick and tired of this!'"; Acuna added that Jacobs was not showing physical aggression prior to Gianforte's outburst. Gianforte was booked for misdemeanor assault.

The incident was shocking enough that three of Montana's largest newspapers pulled their endorsement of Gianforte. The incident and Gianforte's subsequent lie regarding it were met with a smattering of condemnation from Republican leaders, but many of Gianforte's future colleagues doubled down in support of him. Montana State Senator, Jennifer Fielder went so far as to accuse Ben Jacobs of baiting Gianforte for publicity on the eve of the election: "About the Gianforte altercation with the liberal reporter... I would like to see an investigation into the 'agitator training' leftist 'journalists' receive. Good journalists are respectful, but I have noticed a definite trend in agitator tactics being used by liberal operatives acting as reporters. They intentionally try to blindside you, push a predetermined adversarial narrative, persist with badgering questions (often about material you haven't even seen yet), rudely interrupt and intrude into your personal space, and whatever else they can do to provoke a controversial response. Guess Ben Jacobs got more than he bargained for when he decided to tangle with Greg Gianforte!". This, from the so-called "party of family values". I guess "turning the other cheek" now means "putting the other guy on his ass". I'm awaiting comparisons with Jesus' confrontation of the money changers. Political pundit Laura Ingram took it a step further by shaming the victim: "Politicians always need to keep their cool. But what would most Montana men do if ‘body slammed’ for no reason by another man? Did anyone get his lunch money stolen today and then run to tell the recess monitor?

A number of Gianforte's supporters back in Montana have tried to explain away his actions, reasoning that the incident was the result of a liberal trick pulled on the eve of the election. One of Gianforte's supporters on Facebook remarked: "This smells strongly of a set up! Too bad Greg got caught by it. Wouldn't have changed my vote for him though. Wish his staffers would have handled it. Tired of all the out of state interference in this whole campaign. Still pulling for Greg !" Even if it were true, I don't think Greg Gianforte being dumb enough to fall for such a trick so easily is a positive. Who would want to vote for a guy that dumb? And then there's the moron going on about "innocent until proven guilty" while his profile picture is Hilary Clinton in a jailhouse jumpsuit with the caption "Lock Her Up!".

We're in a dangerous era on both sides of the party lines when alpha-male politics are excused and even celebrated. When we refuse to condemn those who represent us for their reprehensible actions, we're no longer arguing political philosophy, we're treating politics as a spectator sport and are cheering for our team to win at all costs. We need to at least hold our elected officials to the same standards we hold ourselves to. Ideally, we need to hold them to a higher standard than the ones we set for ourselves. Conservative columnist Mona Charen put it best and gives me hope that some sanity still exists out there. Both sides of the political coin should take note: "None of this is a gray area. You either uphold certain basic standards of decency or you don't. Some who call themselves conservatives have shown that they are nothing of the kind. To be conservative is to be honorable. These are contemptible, partisan hacks".

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