The Guns of August

The simmering undertone of violence in our politics seems to be getting darker.

Comments: 125

  1. Thanks for your forthright comments. It is discouraging to watch this president turn into a weakling. You are documenting week by week how this is happening, and we are getting further away from a decent health reform bill. Thanks again for keeping us informed--you follow all the happenngs which we don't have time to do.

  2. As a native Oklahoman I am embarrassed at both our Senators. What Coburn and Inhofe both share is the Bush philosophy that God speaks to them. I have thought long and hard why our state would elect such idiots and have concluded it is directly connected to the fact Oklahoma ranks consistently at 49th in what it puts in education. I saw a recent survey that only 8% of scientists identify themselves as Republicans. If the Democrats really want to crush the remants of the Republican party it must put more emphasis on education. If not we will be condemned to more McVeighs, Coburns, and all the rest who believe everything they hear on Fox.

  3. Charles Grassley, deceptive and snide,
    Sly stooge of the "Privatized Side",
    With a flair debonair
    Has Obama right there,
    On the slope of a slippery slide!

  4. Exactly...why are these nutjobs allowed to carry a weapon, loaded or otherwise, anywhere near a public media. Is it because they are allowed to because as the 2nd amendment states "the need for a well-regulated militia"? Is there a need for a militia near a presidential speech? It seems so...and that would be the secret service and police to arrest those gun nuts who pose a threat to out president.

  5. Thank you Mr. Rick for stating so succinctly what many Americans are feeling as we watch a President in whom we had such hope, give the Republicans so much power. With friends like Coburn and Grassley, I would suggest the President invest in some bullet proof clothing, as these two men are as bad or worse than the right wing loonie tunes hauling guns to town halls. As you point out, Coburn should know better. Either he's a bonafide nut or he's an opportunist who is concerned only about re-election. That's obviously Grassley's excuse. What the Democrats in Congress are thinking is beyond my understanding at this point. All I know is that I won't be contributing anything--time or money--towards their campaigns until they start behaving like a majority party.

  6. Frank, you, along with many others, are worrying about the wrong things. Obama rewarded the bankers after they destroyed our economy while failing as gamblers. Congress is owned by the same bankers and other corporate interests including big Pharma- and big health insurance -- therefore, no healthcare reform.

    Our waters and air are still being polluted by men who later make a sweet name for themselves by their so-called philantropy and then sit with heads-of-state.

    This country is quickly tumbling down a nasty steep path, and you are worrying about a few pebbles on the side of the path. Start to look at , and talk about the boulders.

  7. With people like Coburn in the government, there is good reason to be afraid.

  8. The author states the poll statistic of 21% approve of the way the Republicans in Congress are handling health care reform. What he fails to point out is that 47% disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing in handling the issue of health care reform. The Republicans are almost irrelevant in this debate. They have not power right now. What is relevant is the general public 47% of whom disapprove and only 41% approve. What is relevant is that those 47% will be voting in November, 2010.

  9. the guns that are being wielded at these public events are not for the purpose of threatening the government, but the public itself. those who lost the election and are in the fringe minority are resorting to violent threats against those of us who won, and who want to continue creating change and living in a democratic civil society. they are declaring war on us.

  10. President Obama is behaving like a junior salesman; he's trying to "win all the business" by reaching out to people who desperately want to see him fail. That's nuts. Rush Limbaugh and his followers (and they include most of the Republican opposition) are beyond redemption. Why waste time reaching across the aisle when you know (Obama should, by now, know) that the only predictable result is to have your hand slapped?

    Obama was elected by a majority who wanted the change he promised. Why continue trying to win all the business when all he needs is a majority in the House and Senate? I once has a boss who told me idealism was a good thing provided I didn't bring it to the office. That's pretty good advice for a President who seems determined to please as many people as possible. Let's hope that Obama learns from this experience; that politics isn't beanbag.

  11. When Bush began shredding the Constitution after 9/11 my American husband and I (I am Canadian) moved our family to Canada. When Bush began saying that anyone who opposed his policies was not a patriot, my husband cried. At that point he told me that American democracy was dying.

    Having a son who is studying psychology, I have come to learn how fear is a normal reaction to loss. The fear is of something new, something you do not understand. And for Republicans that fear seems coming from a growing realization that their policies have failed. The policy of allowing big business tax cuts has contributed to a lower federal budget which is not able to meet it's domestic financial obligations. The policy of allowing industries to regulate themselves has led to policies which are only designed to the benefit of the top 1-2% of the company employees, and certainly not America as a nation. And the Republicans cannot seem understand how this happened. The loss of the support of the American public is the result, and if Republicans cannot understand the cause of the loss of support then they cannot fix it. All they can do is try to make people as afraid as they are. After all, they know how people who are afraid will act and what they will want, because Republicans are these people.

    And I now see fear ruling in America. I can only hope and pray that brave Americans will stand up and cry enough.

  12. I don't think President Obama is turning into a weakling. I think people may have underestimated the true position of opponents to change. With each passing day they are showing us their cards and also just how desperate they really are. The Tai Chi master does not confront his opponent directly, rather he lets him make his attack and steps out of the way. In so doing, he lets his opponent exhaust himself, using his own energy. Obama's attempts at bi-partisanship and seeking a concessive speak only to his strong character, not his weakness. As the republicans show us the extent of their fear-based, extreme positions, reason will prevail. As well as the necessary path that democrats need to take, to bring change and reform to our country.

  13. Thanks Frank, You are once again on the mark. I am cooling my heels right now knowing that, as usual, Obama will come through in the end.

    And for the first time in my life I have taken to writing Republican senators with my opinions of them, their tactics and their party. I don't get a response but it makes me feel better. Guess I'm becoming an old crackpot.

  14. I wonder if our president reads columns like yours and Krugman's, and Herbert's, and the comments that accompany them. I was a strong supporter and contributor to the Obama campaign, and I was thrilled when he began his administration. Since then I have been increasingly disappointed. First, he got completely rolled by the generals. Next, he capitulated to the Goldman Sachs crowd, and now he's caving to the likes of Coburn and Grassley, men who mean him nothing but harm. I'm sorry to say that he's turned out to be another cardboard cutout: all shiny surface with little substance behind it. I even sent him an email urging him to go to Des Moines and Cedar Rapids to denounce Grassley for his lying hypocrisy. Instead, he went to the Vineyard. I begged him to at least take the bat off his shoulder and take some cuts, to go down swinging. It's time for me to face the awful truth, much as I hate to do it, that this guy just doesn't have it after all, despite all the early promise. Sad, so very sad. Pete McGuire, Atlanta

  15. It is indeed sad. The wonderful opportunity for Americans to join the rest of the develoiped world with the right to health care - and it is going down. No public option? Keep Republicans happy? Obama needs to use his strengths, not his weaknesses.

  16. Frank, I hope you're wrong. I do hope you're wrong.

  17. It is obvious that the Senators that do not support a public option are representing the corporate interests of the Insurance Industry. Theinsurance industry lobbyists use groups like "Freedomworks" to fan the flames of irrational fears and provide the "nuts" at the town hall meetings to provide a cover for the Senators like Charles Grassley to come out against a "Public Option". They are a disgrace.

    The Public Option should be "the" Bill and the senators such as Grassley, Coburn, and the like should be voted out of office...along with their Republican colleagues.

  18. The Democratic party is certainly exhibiting weakness, but Obama? Hardly. It seems to me that what President Obama is doing is EXACTLY what he said he was going to do when he was campaigning. Also, his stance on Healthcare Reform, that he believes that a Public Option would be a good way to achieve his goals but he is open to other proposals if they can accomplish the same thing, has not wavered one bit.

    To me it seems that those on the left who keep reporting that he is changing his position or waffling as to whether or not he wants to see a Public Option in the bill must not be paying attention. I don't see it that way at all. It makes me wonder if those that see shifts in Obama's position on this might have been reading cryptic messages into his statements in the first place.

    Chill out everybody. Obama is two steps ahead of you. Again

  19. As always, thoughtful commentary and brilliant insight. Recently, President Obama signed into law a CREDIT CARD BILL with an attachment that had been added by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, making it legal to carry loaded guns in National Parks and wildlife refuges beginning next February. The Democratic Senate and House of Representatives agreed to this totally off topic and unnecessary insert in spite of the huge number of deaths, injuries, and medical/hospital costs which result annually from gun violence in this country, and cause heartache to so many. National Parks and wildlife refuges have traditionally been among the safest places in the country for families and hikers. This was truly a test of character and responsibility for President Obama and he failed miserably.

  20. The calm before the storm. I fear that we are walking through the night trying to make our way in the darkness not realising that we are skirting along the edge of a cliff. It could all go very wrong quickly if we make the wrong turn. I still can't believe how quickly reason disappears so quickly when short term fear gets churned up. What's happened to our collective ability to find common sense and clarity through the heavy breathing and din. It bespeaks of the witch hunts and paranoia of the wretched post war era when moral courage and reason went on the wane.....Let's take a breath and get our bearings!!!
    Tom Douglas Mexico

  21. Garry Trudeau used a buttery waffle as President Clinton's symbol in the White House. Will he use a triple-stack for Obama? The presidency is all about trust and confidence - remember Bush immediately post 9-11? The President needs to stop relying on the [fading] euphoria of his campaign slogan, hope and change ... soon.

  22. I think I would have to exceed the 5000 character limit if I were to write about this whole column. Suffice it to say that in less than 50 years the US white population will be a minority within the country. Suffice it to say that the new majority will eventually be sufficiently politically motivated to make a true difference in the governing structures of the country. They will do this peacefully and democratically but America being America there are going to be casualties and perhaps fatalities. It took 300 000 dead to bring freedom to the slaves of America and preserve the union. America is changing. The old elites are passing ever so slowly but they will pass and the new rainbow America can still be a light to the world

  23. You bring up an extremely important point. I remember stories from Israel before their Prime Minister, Rabin, was murdered. Their right also little by little created an atmosphere which allowed for such an event to happen. I am afraid we might be going in the same direction, which no one wants, and it's important to try stop it as soon as possible.

  24. Frank, you're the only one who tells it like it is....and thanks for all of the info on prior writers.....never knew so much of this stuff was covered in the must drive you nuts to see this happening all over again..

  25. Change is hard for any animal. Dramatic change ordinarily produces a feeling of crisis, even danger. Fear triggers the perceived need for self preservation, or at least maintenance of the status quo. All are ordinary human behaviors. That Kennedy, Clinton and now Obama have generated dramatic change, and that there is resistance, fear and anxiety, should come as no surprise. Violent resistance, as primitive as it is, is not surprising, unless one chooses to disregard human nature. I trust that the Secret Service has undertaken the most intense observation and monitoring of individuals and infiltration of groups whose paranoia or irrational imagination produce such stunts as seen in Phoenix recently. But, beware of an equally radical reaction by the so-called progressives - if you start restricting important freedoms for the sake of "stability," you may regret what you have started. All freedoms that tend to be uncomfortable: speech, assembly,silence, and privacy, will be at risk once you start down the road of retracting any rights. That is ordinary human behavior, too, with ample historical precedent.

  26. Great column, Frank. Parallels the story of a little town in New Jersey. In the 1960s, town fathers went to Puerto Rico to bring over cheap labor for the town's factories. In the 80s, with the immigrants' second generation settled in and buying homes and reviving the downtown with wonderful Latino restaurants and shops, the town's political class -- all white, all frightened -- began blocking commercial growth and harassing the non-white majority. Only when the town Hispanics got themselves organized and elected did the tide turn.

    Today's Republicans are like the town fathers of this little town. They barricade themselves in their cul-de-sacs and take no responsibility for the welfare of the people they invited to live next door (and exploited for their own gain). Now, when they are outnumbered, they are kicking and screaming and lying.

  27. Don't panic. Obama is offering the Republicans the opportunity to really compromise right up to the conference committee. The Republicans can be reasonable and constructive, or, more likely demonstrate their duplicity and insanity. Then the Democrats will pass as good a bill as they can and get all the credit. Obama can stay civil, but the supporters of real health care reform should keep up the pressure on with their friends, the media, and especially the wavering Blue Dog Democrats who will lose without the support of the 20 - 30% of liberals in their districts/states if health care reform fails. Many Blue Dog Democrats are already positioning themselves to vote for reform (or against a filibuster) at the last minute, but take credit for improving the bill by fighting off single payer. That's OK.

  28. The press continues to poll people that are ignorant of the facts. IT IS NOT OBAMAS FAULT, it is the fault of lazy reporters and ignorant TV hosts. Both rightwing(Foxnews) and leftwing(Cnn and MSNBC) continues to mislead their viewers on every aspect of Obama's healthcare plan. They repeat false allegations, report them as facts and when the truth stares them in the face, they ignore it for ratings. A recent poll asked where viewers got there news from and 41% of the respondents that watch CNN and MSNBC were misinformed about Obams healthplan. A whopping 70% of those that watched fox were ignorant of Obama's true healthcare plan. The media is obsessed with NEGATIVE news and they spin every bit of news about Obama into a negative news story(even when the original story about Obama was positive.)

  29. Welcome back Carter!
    Thank you Dems for giving this conservative something I didn't think possible 8 months ago -- hope!

  30. Paranoid bullies of the right have made a ruckus, and have scared a lot of folks. Rich makes a good point when he states that they are reacting out of a fear of change (of various sorts). Fear is a powerful motivator, but not all powerful. Americans will recognize this nonsense for what it is. Obama still has time to bring together a coherent argument for health care reform. Most people realize there's a big problem with health care, and are willing to be convinced, but the clock is ticking.

  31. The rifle guy in Arizona was part of a radio station prank, as was widely reported. And tax-cutting, saber-rattling JFK was far more conservative than Obama or any of the current Democratic leadership. Amd don't forget a left-wing nut killed him. Or maybe you believe the CIA did it?

  32. Like the naked women from the PETA protests, these second ammndment people exercise their Constitutional rights to make a point, while making the rest of us unconfortable.

    While I am not the type to be naked or armed in public, I don't feel, in any way, threatened by those who are the type to be naked or armed or loud in public.

    Agitation is good.

  33. Obama does tower over his opponents-he is the most credible, the most trusted, and the most-looked-up-to political leader we have. He doesn't need to be on the defensive. As to all the hooplah about the ruckus at the town halls--anyone with half a brain can see that these "protestors" are McCain-Palinites, the same ones that yelled those horrible things you mention in your column during the 2008 campaign. The yelling and screaming come from the right-wing fringes--notice they are overwhelmingly white, elderly people? As our dear Senator Arlen Spector noted, these people are not "representative of America" at large, no matter what Charles Grassley and Co. try to spin. Once again, I repeat, despite the deeply disturbing, and confusing, events of the summer, Obama DOES NOT need to be on the defensive. The population is still with him; we are just waiting for him to go on the attack and lead the charge.

  34. Without a public option the proposed bills are nothing but a huge giveaway to insurance companies. They understand that they will gain 40 million new premium-payers who will be subsidized by the taxpayer, which is why they are not making more than token gestures of opposition to the current proposals, saving all their fire for the public option. Max Baucus negotiating for reform instead of Ted Kennedy is a cruel joke.
    I say dump the entire project at this point and start over, start small, and push it through before the 2010 elections. And if nothing passes, maybe its time to enforce the Anti-Trust laws against the industry.
    As for the guns, there is apparently no federal appetite to enforce conspiracy laws; a brief perusal of half a dozen websites would support indictments for conspiracy to violate a several different statutes.
    And why is there no state enforcement against these gun-carriers at protests? Is the NRA so powerful that no state can maintain common-sense regulations of crowds anymore?

  35. You said Obama's failure to get healthcare reform would be a result of "treating the pharmaceutical and insurance industries as deferentially as it has the banks" or "because he in any way catered to a decimated opposition party that has sunk and shrunk to its craziest common denominator." Well you have identified most of the villains that the administration has tried to blame for their difficulties thus far.

    I think that maybe the 5 versions of the bill are too confusing for even the politicians to understand, and maybe Obama has flipped on some major issues in the bill, and maybe it costs too much as rated by the CBO. If healthcare reform fails, I am sure you will point the fingers at the "radical right" rather than the people behind an unfocused and incoherent bill.

  36. Obama may be too amiable for comfort, but the real horror story in this article in the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of Conservative leaders. The problem began to show itself at the Republican National Convention, where the GOP leaders who took the podium demonstrated an untoward appetite for below the belt verbal assaults against candidate Obama that had only the most tenuous connection to reality, causing the Party's base on the floor to roar maniacally with glee. At the time, I was one of the few who thought a large swath of the country had become all but unhinged.

  37. Most unfortunately, the following has already happened. This president is looking good but running scared and selling out. It is time for Plan B folks, people power to reclaim the American government, here and now.

    "Should Obama fail to deliver serious reform because his administration treats the pharmaceutical and insurance industries as deferentially as it has the banks, that would be shameful. Should he fail because he in any way catered to a decimated opposition party that has sunk and shrunk to its craziest common denominator, that would be ludicrous.
    If the president insists that enemies like this are his friends — and that the nuts they represent can be placated by reason — he will waste his opportunity to effect real change and have no one to blame but himself."

  38. Frank, thanks for your column. I would like to add a prediction: the Democrats will pass a health insurance reform bill and the GOP will be even more marginalized after it is signed into law. I do think progressives fret way too much about Obama's outreach to Republicans. I would like to list a few things I believe are obvious:

    0) You can't be elected to the Presidency after defeating Hillary and Bill Clinton, Edwards, and McCain, by being naive
    1) Obama is well versed in political games whether played by Democrats or Republicans
    2) The GOP will continue to shrink because of their propensity to overplay their hand and adopt ridiculously extreme positions
    3) The Republicans are not the ones Obama is negotiating with. As Frank says, they are too small to be of any consequence. He is really negotiating with the so-called Blue Dogs.

    Point 3) is the important one here, because the Republicans give cover to the Blue Dogs with their absurd claims and Obama wants to keep Blue Dogs in the Democratic family and I agree with him. What's slowly been killing the GOP over the years is the shrill insistence by the Republican base to adhere to conservative ideological purity---we progressives don't want to follow that path and should keep our tent big. No one has a monopoly on the truth and progressives should not form a circular firing squad. A few more observations:

    4) Republicans are philosophically opposed to universal coverage. They would get rid of Medicare if they could.
    5) The Blue Dogs want to achieve universal coverage, but they want to do so without losing their seat in the next congressional elections. Some of them might even truly believe in the infallibility of the 'invisible hand of the market'.

    I say, the public option is not the reason we are reforming the health insurance system. I worry that the public option has become a fetish for Democrats who are upset that insurance companies will increase their profit with mandatory coverage in the absence of a vigorous public option and lose sight of the whole point of this exercise: access to quality and preventative health care for all, regardless of income level. There is no doubt that a public option would reduce cost (22 billion to 40 billion dollars a year according to the Urban Institute policy center). However, even without a public option, we would still reduce cost and HUGELY expand coverage and never again worry about a catastrophic illness bankrupting our families. Let's get this done, let's leave ideological rigidity to the Republicans. Let's not govern out of anger.

  39. It seems incredibly old-fashioned to refer to homemakers these days, but that’s the metaphor that springs most readily to mind. A good homemaker works hard behind the scenes so that life for those who live in the home is as serene and stress-free as possible. Constantly calling attention to all that goes on behind the scenes works against serenity, so the homemaker is often underappreciated, and if despite a superhuman effort on his or her part things don’t function as smoothly as everyone would want, he or she is blamed for mucking up an undervalued job that everyone has come to believe is easy.

    Government is like the underappreciated homemaker. When things are running smoothly enough to keep a critical mass of people happy, it is not acknowledged, and when things go wrong, it is criticized. To me the worst part of Ronald Reagan’s legacy is his having convinced so many people that government is not the solution to our problems, but the cause of them. He not only underappreciated the homemaker; he convinced everyone to kick him or her out of the home, to privatize as much as possible, and to “free” us from regulations.

    For those who think government is the problem, I would suggest watching the 1994 Italian film L’america, about Albania after the fall of communism, a horrifying look at what anarchy can be like. Or you might simply give some serious thought to everything we have accomplished as a society before asking, “What has government every done that has gone well?” You might take time to imagine what life would be like if the richest, the strongest, and the most ruthless were not constrained by law, if we had not banded together to decide what we value and how we want to live. You might consider how our founding fathers built on the progress made by others before them to create a country free from tyranny and abuse of citizens.

    Now that so many of us feel at sea, scared of the future, where can we turn for reassurance, if our only vehicle for shared effort is totally devalued? Nowhere. So we grab-—“cling,” if you will-— onto guns to fight our battles on our own.

    President Obama has a superhuman task ahead of himself. If he alienates all his adversaries, irrational as they may be, he has failed at perhaps his greatest task—-re-convincing the public that it is through good government that we can best shape our shared destinies. I am as disappointed and impatient as the next liberal at the way things are going so far, but I still cling to the hope that President Obama is not just a facilitator, but also a leader. What I want to hear from him is not a speech that will denigrate his adversaries, but one that will help all of us remember how much we owe to our government, imperfect though it may be.

  40. Republican hypocrisy has no bounds. Can you imagine the reaction if armed protesters had assembled outside a Bush speech or rally? If they weren't shot down in the street, they would surely have been hauled off en masse and put on the next plane to Guantanamo.

    Message to Sen. Coburn (R-OK) and his cohorts, quoting Joseph Welch, "Have you no sense of decency, sir?"

  41. Well done.

    I am deeply troubled that our country, a product of the Age of Reason, has descended into a swamp of fear, anger and momentary celebrity.

    We spend $2.5 trillion a year on healthcare. $1 trillion to reform healthcare over 10 years is $100 billion a year, 4% of the annual $2.5 trillion healthcare tab to expand coverage, improve quality, and bring costs under control.

    This is socialism?

    We are an increasingly diverse nation, driven forward by those who still believe in the American Dream, no matter what their backgrounds.

    Google "Obama czars" for alternative views.

    Change, seen first as healthcare reform, seems to threaten many who profit handsomely from the status quo of ineffective, inefficient spending. Life expectancy is declining, infant mortality is a scandal, and the U.S. ranks number 37, between Costa Rica and Slovenia, in the World Health Organization assessment.

    To defend their interests, why not stir up the crazies? Put paid flacks like Dick Armey and Betsy McCaughey on TV to misinform the nation and inflame the uninformed. Make the victims of our bubble economy the footsoldiers opposing reasonable change.

    Without reform, Medicare will be insolvent within the decade, the Federal budget deficit will spin out of control, families will be crushed by increasing premiums and decreased coverage, and the uninsured will survive, at best, hand to mouth.

    This is America?

  42. “All that’s lacking is a spark.”

    The president didn’t just fall off of a turnip truck somewhere on Pennsylvania Avenue. The president is a lot savvier than pollsters, politicos and pundits.

    I’ve watched as he chips away at the dormant and almost comatose GOP, now the party of the walking dead. This is the party of such luminaries as Sarah Palin, Michael Steele and John Boehner, otherwise know as the three stooges.

    The spark that seems lacking is the spark that brought the president to the White House. But it is not out. All of the men and women who worked for the president’s election are ready to take to the barricades again. We’re just waiting for the signal.

  43. The American people want a functioning government. The Democrats won a majority to end the gridlock that has paralyzed the legislative process. Anyone, Democratic or Republican, who obstructs health care legislation -- something desperately needed and wanted by the American people -- is preventing the government from functioning and does not represent the people or deserve a tax funded paycheck.

    President Obama and Democratic lawmakers need to get a good bill and good policy passed. This shouldn't be a political game. Everyone needs to grow up and start solving the daunting problems this country faces.

  44. Denny if all you got from this article is that the President is a weakling you need to bone up on your reading skills. What have you done lately. Have you called, emailed your congressmen? Have you gone to a townhall meeting? We cant leave everything to the President. We bear some responsibility too. And most of all we should speak against the violence, of words and deeds, from the far right. We should call out Coburn and Grassley and other republican leaders and force them to denounce this behavior.

  45. Denny (#1)-- This column is not about President Obama turning into a weakling. Mr. Rich has written an outstanding column, attempting to lay bare the needless violence that erupts in our nation when reason turns to emotion and when discourse turns to murder. This column is not about presidential weakness but about the potential for mob rule, and your attempts to change the subject does little justice to a fine piece of writing.

    As far as Mr. Rich keeping us informed because "we don't have to time to do," it is your responsibility (and mine) to make time to keep abreast of what is happening in our nation. If we do not take that time, we will deserve the consequences of our carelessness.

  46. Can it be true that "threats against Obama, according to Kessler, are up 400 percent from those against his White House predecessor"? When one considers all the horrific offenses that the Bush administration committed, that increase can only attributed to one thing: racism.

  47. Well done sir. Obama needs to be reminded that there are times to play hardball, and healthcare reform WITH a public option is precisely that issue. I believe there will be a massive sign-up for the public option that puts the lie to all the opponents. The media will react with surprise and alarm. The people are ready, they just need the policy. Do it Obama, that's why we elected you.

  48. It sometimes seems the point of this administration is to prove it is friends with the crazies. They're negotiating away the only part of the bill that will bring about any kind of reform to a party that'll never give them a single vote, and when that seems obvious to onlookers, they're giving in to the Conrads and Nelsons of their own party. I don't see what the right wing gun nuts are that upset about - it looks like business as usual to me. Which isn't to say the fringe loons can't hallucinate enemies at the drop of a hat.

  49. So have any lawful gun owners, those who apply for licenses, take safety training, and undergo background checks, shot anyone unlawfully? The answer is pretty much no. Almost all unlawful shootings are committed by criminals who are not eligible to obtain a license.

  50. In the Age of Unreason, bipartisanship is the enemy of the good. The main reason the President has lost credibility and support among the public is his repeatedly stated willingness to engage the extreme right. As long as the President maintains the fiction that he can reach a deal with Grassley and Kyl and McConnell, all of whom to one degree or another have preemptively rejected a deal, the public cannot take Obama seriously. He is either kidding us or he is kidding himself. We need a President we can trust to protect us from destructive people like Coburn and DeMint, not one we suspect might be suffering from some weird Washington strain of Stockholm syndrome.

    There were whispers coming out of the White House toward the end of the week that the President just might fold up the concession stand he's kept open long after the game was over. It can’t happen too soon.

    The Constant Weader at

  51. Cowardly right-wingers always use such tactics of intimidation. Progressives must stare them down and hold President Obama and the Democrats in Congress accountable for bringing the change they were elected to achieve.

  52. Here's what really blows my mind: many people were arrested during the modern-day Dark Ages (the Bush/Cheney years) just for wearing t-shirts that expressed opposing viewpoints, yet somehow now it's perfectly okay for a plethora of false patriots to show up, guns at the ready, to events headlined by President Obama and other representatives. Cognitive dissonance does not even begin to describe this chasm in logic.

  53. If Obama doesn't do the 'right' thing now on health care reform ... he will have wasted his most golden of 'change' opportunities.

    Why is he making supporters like me worry about his fortitude? The mandate has been handed to him and I'm not happy with his belated wishy-washy stuff.

  54. It is not clear whether the president's appeasing attitude is leading to failure to fulfil his pre-election promises or his value system and priorities are not as deep as they were articulated in election rhetoric. In either case, hope for meaningful change has almost evaporated and you are absolutely right in saying that nobody can be held more responsible than Obama for this epic failure at this critical point of America's destiny.

  55. These People from the far left are very disturbing.If You don't agree with them,You are branded a nut.

  56. "... not a single Democratic politician endorsed the Weathermen in the Vietnam era."

    This is an absurd comparison. The Weathermen were violent criminals. Say what you want about the folks who are silly enough to bring guns to the protests, but not one of them was breaking the law.

    Demonization of those who don't share your views is a common tactic of extreme partisans and this article is a fine example of this.

  57. I can't believe they allow lunatics with guns near where the president is speaking. It is a prescription for catastrophe. Also food for conspiricy theorists.

  58. I share your concerns about the rise in right-wing radicalism, Mr. Rich. But why must so many of you insist on calling Obama a "weakling" simply because he acts like an adult...? Breathe, people. It's August recess. Let the nutcases like Coburn & Co. bloviate all they want right now. Obama will sign a strong health care bill -- which will include choice -- sometime later this year.

  59. I have known for a long time that an insidious force was taking over the USA. I voted for President Obama in hopes he would battle these forces from Wall St. Unfortunatly it is extremly obvious Mr Obama is one of the Wall St ghouls himself.

  60. There's much talk lately that progressives and liberals have been duped by Obama, promising change to get elected and now delivering nothing of the kind. But I'm wondering, is it duplicity, or spinelessness? Do we have a president that has absolutely no backbone?

    In issue after issue, Obama's unwillingness to confront his opponents head-on is taking a toll on his presidency and our confidence in him as a leader.

  61. Well, the Bush administration was right about one thing-there are some enemies that is is useless to talk to-in this case it's the Republicants and their right-wing camp followers. Have the proper authorities watch them closely, and get on with the business of doing what we elected the Dems to do.

  62. Hey, Frank, why don't you do some summertime grillin' on the sellout-health-care-bill? We NEED your voice. The gun nuts will always be with us. Lack of health care (public option) will kill a lot more of us than guns!

  63. President Obama is clearly a student of Sun-tzu, "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." - Sun-tzu Chinese general & military strategist (~400 BC). However, he should keep in mind that while you might keep your enemies closer you should never trust any of them. Unfortunately, he has trusted them and they have led him down a path that has weakened his Presidency and worse, weakened the overwhelming support he had when he came into office.

    It is time for President Obama to do something dramatic to regain that support. Any continuing negotiations with an enemy that has no intentions of meeting your proposals half-way is just destroying what support remains from his base. There is no 2nd-half in the game of politics and President Obama needs to understand he is not playing round-ball with these guys. Time ot get his head out of the clouds and into the business of winning at all costs.

  64. Maybe what Obama said Coburn being his friend is truth not rhetoric, after all his hero was Ronald Reagan not FDR according to him. His transformative hero managed to sell a bill of goods to America which in hindsight seems so empty and damaging while the status of Carter seem to grow although still dismissed by Washington insiders. Progressives grasped any straw to push Obama as a post racial miracle while dismissed Hillary Rodham as a has been and blamed her for the health reform failure instead of thanking her for tilting the windmill. His one speech on Iraq elevated him to anti-war hero while Hillary was pillaged for failure to step out of character as NY senator in post 9/11 world. His lack of experience a plus and refreshing as anti-beltway Mr. Smith go to Washington and slay it.

    Now Gov. Paterson claimed that it's racism for some to oppose him for his re-election and claimed the same in advance for President Obama for his declining ratings. Maybe progressives should do some self examination on so easily swayed by hope and change.

  65. Nuts with guns need to be taken seriously--not as contributors to political discourse, but as dangers to the body politic.

  66. Chris Matthews actually interviewed the first man to bring a gun to a health care town hall, and then more people brought bigger guns to subsequent rallies.
    Also, here's the video of Rep. Gingrey encouraging people to bring guns to town hall meetings on Chris Matthews' show:

  67. Frank, Well said. The only thing you left out was Robert Gibbs' milquetoast comment that they couldn't stop people from carrying guns (in states that allow it). YES THEY CAN!!! I can't believe I live in a country in which this is happening. I am getting the horrible feeling that Obama wants to be an ex-president more than he wants to be president. I hope he gets far enough out of the bubble while he's on vacation and realize that he might as well use his awesome presidential powers while he has them. Sure, it was worth the attempt to reach out to the right, but it's perfectly clear that it isn't working.

  68. Dear Mr. Rich:

    Absolutely correct: no guns at political rallies!

    But don't miss the real message: Many, if not most, Americans feel just as passionately about freedom and liberty today as during the revolution (got that--"REVOLUTION"). And many thousands more since then have fought in this same vein. So, when someone, or a t-shirt, says, "I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or death", or, " I regret that I have but one life to give...", or perhaps, "Victory or Death" (my guess you will have to google this), please take note and offer thanks. (P.S., I believe that back in the days, the NYT op-ed crew would have all been Tories and we might just as well be speaking the (Lockerbie) Queen's English.)

  69. Unfortunately, I am an Oklahoman whose representative is Senator Coburn. This man is a poor excuse as a senator and continues to be more interested in making a name for himself that representing the best interests of our state and country.

    There is indeed an increasing undercurrent of hatred towards President Obama and it is firstly due to his race, then his party affiliation. It amazes me that all these folks concerned about losing their rights to our "Big Guvment" never said a word when the morally-bankrupt Bush Administration was wasting all the money in Iraq and listening to private conversations of law-abiding American citizens without obtaining appropriate warrants.

  70. Now that the Congress is almost back, it is time for the majority leadership and the administration to pull together, finalize the game plan, and get the momentum back.

    There is NO position the party of NO will accept, so it is time to state the case for change clearly, lay out the plan in plain terms to the American people, and implement it swiftly and thoroughly.

    As to the kind gentleman from Oklahoma, he should be ashamed of himself. Maybe he needs to go sit in one of the chairs at the memorial in OKC and meditate about how that horrendous event came to pass.

  71. Mr. Rich, sadly true.

    I'm scared; not of "my government" but of the domestics terrorists. What can we do?

    I don't want to live through the 60's again....I still mourn Jack, Bobby and Martin

  72. I agree with you Frank Rich but why this topic today? Where are the NY Times and the rest of America's MSM while the graves of the Lockerbie victims are being desecrated by the mindless British decision to release the only person convicted of the bombing of PanAm 103? If we cannot support justice for all those innocents who perished, whose cause can we rightfully champion? FBI Director Mueller is the only American official joining with the thousands of Americans jousting in blogs with the bloviating, anti American Brits who choose to pay tribute to a mass murderer to spite America and all thing American. Please, use your talents to voice object to a most horrific miscarriage of justice.

  73. "There will be Blood"
    The only question is when and where. And whether it will be enough blood to convince senators like Dr Coburn and Grassley to finally do something about it

  74. My hope is that the elected representatives of the 41 percent that support the President in his health care reform man up and stand behind him and do the will of their constituents.

  75. Ok, so now that we're aware of the problem, what should be done about it? I would start by suggesting that some responsibility for driving and inciting right-wing-nut sentiment lie with media that loops it over and over to raise ratings and stir controversy. Balanced and fair coverage in all realms of the media is necessary now!

  76. Thank you Mr. Rich for one of your best written and most timely columns yet.

    Sen. Coburn can count me in as another U.S. citizen who has stopped having confidence in my government and believes we should fear it, but but only because I'm incredulous that a majority of Oklahoma citizens are stupid enough to re-elect this nut case! I'm also appalled at his Congressional colleagues who condone and support gun wearing constituents at public forums to intimidate and threaten those they disagree with. These gun slingers are obviously consumed with hate and are advertising the fact that they are seriously mentally ill and in desperate need of psychiatric care.

    What's worse is that while Coburn and his co-horts are most likely wearing bullet proof vests, have the option of Secret Service detail if they feel threatened, and believe there isn't a bullet out there with their name on it, the rest of us don't.

    However, they all clearly illustrate while they may live in the home of the free and the land of the brave, they are cowards, believe only in the kind of freedom of speech that is bought and paid for by extremists and guns, and certainly cannot be called patriots. Patriots - especially U.S. Congressmen and women - would certainly publicly stand up and demand that those who wear guns like jewelry to public gatherings and who spew their hatred and violence-provoking speech are not wanted, not needed, and can hardly be called anything but despicable, cowardly, scum. What sane, rational person would even now attend a public forum if they thought gun-carrying hate mongers who may not agree with them would be attending too?

    It's time we called upon President Obama to forget about trying to forge health care reform and insurance with these "paper muscrats" and to stop deferring to pharmaceutical and insurance industries. We also need to demand that EVERY U.S. Congressman and woman who is hypocritical enough to vote to support and fund the fighting of terrorism abroad to stop condoning and supporting homeland terrorists.

  77. Frank's demonizing of those who "cling to their guns" makes him sound like a Bush administration propagandist as he attempts to sow fear by raising the specter of terrorist violence.

    He glibly dismisses the concerns around rationing of health care arising from Obama's secret sweet hearts deals with the lobbyists of the drug dealers and the other powerful profiteers in the health care system by equating the voicing of such concerns with capitulation to the armed fringe.

    At a time when millions of Americans have lost their jobs and homes, Obama's pandering to the powerful and his enablement of their ongoing profiteering rackets whether on Wall Street or in the health care system leaves Americans feeling violated.

    The real threat to the well being of Americans comes not from the lunatic armed fringes but from a President who serves the interests of the powerful at the expense of the rest of Americans. Frank's seeking to distract Americans from that truth by focusing on the lunatics in our midst is more of the irresponsible journalism that works hand glove with a Washington old boy establishment that perpetuates the powerful profiteering elites in our society while the rest of America gets screwed big time.

  78. Health care is a topic where Republicans are weak, every time it comes around. The GOP sponsored health care plan is the emergency room, which of course is no health care plan at all. Is it really any surprise that they are trying to change the debate to gun control? Republicans are wise to try to attack this issue where Democrats are divided and Republicans united. The most important thing is to not take the bait and stay focused on accomplishing health care reform.

    In most places in America it is quite legal to walk down the street with a holstered weapon or carrying a rifle. Do you assume that someone walking down the street carrying a firearm is up to no good or has some kind of criminal intent? I would guess that the answer would depend on whether you are from an urban or a rural area.

    I really want to point this out -- in my home state of Montana, hunting and fishing is literally written into the state constitution. Montanans are very independently minded to the point that our Governor Schweitzer is a Democrat but his running mate, Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger is a Republican. We were very fortunate to elect John Tester, a Democrat, as one of our US Senators. But he only won by a couple thousand votes. Pursuing gun control laws would break down a lot of gains by Democrats in Montana and other rural states. It is especially telling that the proposed law for honoring concealed weapons permits across state borders garnered 58 votes in the senate.

    It would be really nice if President Obama could say a few kind words about the uniquely American traditions of hunting and marksmanship. You can never quite convince true believer wing-nuts that their guns are safe. But it would reassure more moderate voters.

    I think Team Obama needs to keep on target with the health care reform. That's something we all can get behind no matter what state we come from.

  79. The custom of many in the mainstream media to report (1) falsehoods and truths with equal credence and (2) to morally equate a lie by one side with an ambiguous statement means the truthful loose in the media.

    Opinions, even weird opinions must be respected. After all, it did turn out the world is round. On matters of opinion, balanced reporting is necessary.

    However, when someone makes statements that are can be verified as clearly false, those statements should be reported as "mistakes" or "mis-readings".

    If it can be shown that the person making the statement knew the statement was verifiably false, the statement should be reported as a “lie”.

    People do make mistakes when giving answers to unexpected questions, and in that case leniency is appropriate. But otherwise the media should report mistakes and lies as what they are.

    When a news maker, be it a politicians or a prominent commentator lies, or if they prove unable to understand a document, that is news. It is good journalism to report the news.

  80. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan or more accurately, Dirty Harry, Barack Obama needs to challenge the Republicans to " Go Ahead! Make my Day!" Bullies will only back down when their opponents are willing to stand their ground and fight! Mr. President, you can show your leadership by demonstrating your willingness to fight for what is and was an important agenda in your current administration, and a promise that you made during the campaign---- real health care reform!

  81. I feel that so many things are getting out of hand. The guns, the inability of our president to create sanity by crafting a healthcare bill, sensible banking reform. He needs to lead. Unfortunately, bipartisanship is not working. Leadership, something that he campaigned on, is desperately needed now. This country is rapidly becoming unhinged, as evidenced by a lunatic fringe that seems to be developing on a daily basis. There desperately needs to be a voice of reason. If President Obama cannot step up to the plate, someone else will. And this is coming from a diehard Democrat.

  82. It's funny that the Republicans are so marginalized, but still three of them are writing the Senate health care bill with three conservative Democrats. These six will give us such a mushy bill the only ones who will be satisfied are the drug companies and the insurance idustry.

    With all this power on Capital Hill why are the Democrats about as inspiring as a sack of wet socks? Seriously.

  83. Everyone should read in today's op ed washington post --by T.R. Reid--5 Myths About Health Care Around the World. This is the very type of fact based, realistic information that is rare in our newspapers, TV and radio.

    Our hyped up cable talk shows could use this as a basis for great discussion to foster reality based not fantasy based thinking. If alternative health systems that are now working for millions of people are presented to us to pick and choice from, the right wing screamers would be forced to come up with some rational retorts. And our legislators, too. Now, they can say anything they want because most Americans are uninformed. This delays the day when we will narrow the absurd gap between us and the rest of the modern world in basic health and financial security.

  84. As many lose heart during the dog days of August, I for one am impressed by the President's steadiness in the face of mounting criticism. We need to support him now, when the country needs his success most. Yes, there will be compromises. But negotiation with the other side is not weakness, its realism. A few votes in the Senate will make or break this initiative.

  85. Great piece, Frank. At last some totally honest facts about this nonsensical gun culture we live in. We are constantly looking over our shoulder at every loud sound when we're in public, to make sure it's not the next gun nut gone wild. We're a nation that is shell-shocked right now. I was 10 years of age when the madness started in 1963. It has continually gotten worse throughout my whole life. Enough is enough. No private citizen needs an assault rifle.

  86. Thanks, Frank. I was thinking of writing a blog on guns and the health care debate — I see all this gun toting as an attempt to abrogate the First Amendment rights of the town hall attendees. Now I think I'll circulate the URL of your excellent essay to augment or perhaps even replace my own piece.

    I hope one of the gun nuts doesn't open fire on a peaceful town hall meeting. I'd hate to see them put in their place through the martyrdom of innocent citizens who are just trying to learn about health care options. That could be easily prevented if Republican leaders in Congress and elsewhere would take a stand against the extremists and their mobster tactics.

  87. Obama is all alone for the most part. His democratic partners are not really on his side. It is amazing that almost nobody is speaking up louder to support his agenda. Every time I do hear a Democrat "defend" Obama it sounds forced, wishy washy and anything but sincere.

    You have Republicans doing what they do best which is scare tactics and out right lies. That's to be expected but it would be much harder to swallow those lies if the Democrats would unite and pass this reform bill. Why is there all this debate in the Democratic party? It's the insurance money that they all keep taking. It's not the republicans who are making it impossible. Their votes are not needed. It's the Democrats and their hypocrite nonsense that is truly despicable.

    What is Obama to do? Alienate his own party and lose what little support he has? It reminds me of Lincoln and all the opposition he had from everyone at every turn.

    Surely Obama knows that trying to convince right wingers of anything they didn't think of themselves is futile. I think he is trying to shame the Democrats into voting for this health bill by going public every day and stating his case. By doing that he is making it clear that it is time for the Democrats to put their vote where their mouth is. How hard as it must be for Obama to endure the tongue biting, the stupid questions, the ridiculous translation of his bill and most of all the fact that he needs to sell this to his own corrupt party. It helps that he is always the smartest guy in the room.

    I hope this bill includes some dental relief; I need my gums fixed before my teeth fall out.

  88. Mr. Rich, you lost me when you headed down that "not us" memories of history. I'm not going to make you uncomfortable by calling out that big white elephant in the room but would recommend you expand your reading list to include John Hope Franklin if you want to understand our history with guns.

    Guns are as American as apple pie. I remember seeing pictures of the Black Panthers exercising their rights to carry guns -- "A gun is power." Those images were empowering, threatening, and so American. And it was legal in California at the time. I understand it's legal in New Hamphire and Arizona.

    It is uncomfortable to see men with guns because we can't immediately defend ourselves against a gun. It is all completely sane until the gun is actually aimed and fired; that's the argument any way.

    BTW, President Lincoln was a Republican and President Kennedy was a Democrat. President Reagan was a Republican.

  89. Yes. Yes. And again yes.

    Time to for our President turn his back on such disingenuous creeps as Grassley, Coburn, McConnell, Hatch, Inhofe, DeMint et altera ad nauseum and lead the citizens of this country to higher healthier ground.

    He will forever be revered as a good and caring man by the compassionate citizens of this nation if he does so. To fold in the face of these weasels would be a shame from which his reputation will never recover.

  90. Currently vacationing in Canada: Today I met a Texan of some prominence who was, as a business person against the policies of the Obama Administration. Given his background and point of view this was not odd--even his parroting the "death panel" lies in the health care reform debate.

    He was a Republican from Texas who thought that California (where I live) had been ruined by Swarzennegger and Pelosi and that state's inability to balance it's budget (unlike Texas). There were other issues discussed in which we took opposing views or agreed. But in the midst of this conversation, I was troubled by his statement that he thought Obama was going to be shot. He didn't want it to happen, he said, but he expected it.

    I do not think this gentleman had any violent intention himself, in fact, despite our political differences he came across as a well-intentioned, hard-working and honest entreprenur. Someone who cared for his employees and for the quality of the work he did.

    His comment was alarming because it gave me the sense he was taking the temperature of some part of a community he was aware of and observing that things among certain anti-Obama groups within that political locus were becoming radioactive.

  91. I have hoped for months that Obama's "weakness" was a strategy, one that proceeds ultimately from his respect for the half of his family that isn't "black" at all.

    The importance of the "white" part of his background is that it gives him an understanding no one seems to appreciate he has, that people like his maternal grandmother and grandfather, conservative Kansas white folk of just the sort that Republicans assume are their "base", actually might be and regularly can be, good people, just as his grandparents were, and can actually be talked to, so long as you're reasonable, honest, and somehow credible, in their eyes, which aren't stupid, any more than they themselves are stupid.

    So my own hope is that he's letting the ranters & the wing nuts go on at whatever length they want, in town meetings, Fox News, on Capitol Hill, or wherever. He wants them to continue doing what the Republican Party wants them to do; because he's not talking to Republican politicians, he's talking completely around them; he's talking directly to their "base".

    He's saying, "look, I want bipartisan agreement; i want to go beyond these tribal divisions in the American electorate, I understand that you have perfectly valid ideas about the problems we're facing, and I want to incorporate them with what we're doing; but how can we even talk about any of this, if all we get from your party is screaming, lying, disruption, and ignorance?"

    To me, it's absolutely in Obama's interest to let the ranters rant - for a while - until they've succeeded in doing what he wants them to do, and should want, them to do, which is to define the Republican party in their image, a horrifying image to most polite, well-mannered consevatives, such as my own Kansas relatives, and appealing only to the perhaps 25% of the electorate that is unreachable to any form of reason or discussion, which of course is why that minority wants to prevent reason from prevailing or discussion from taking place. Rage is all.

    That leaves him, and us, with the remaining 75% of the country. I hope it's a strategy; and I hope it works.

  92. I see your point about negotiating with craven Senators. Still, I think the President's dream headline would be "Congress Passes Sweeping Health Care Reform", not "Cool, Smart Liberals Outwit Wingnuts--Vindication for Past 8 Years". Doesn't anyone remember the primaries when, "key" state after "key" state, we waited for him to deliver the death blow? That's not how he operates. Punditry adjectives like weak-tough, gaining-losing aren't part of his vocabulary.

    Which isn't to say he doesn't get what he wants. And he wants health care reform, as do all sane people in the country.

  93. "Brandishing"? Hardly. That word has a specific criminal definition, you know that right? No weapons were brandished at these town halls that I'm aware of.

    More generally: why so afraid of an armed citizenry, Frank? You don't trust our judgment? This editorial could have been written in Massachusetts colony, c. 1774, by a writer similarly sympathetic to the regime of the time. Hey, wait. Maybe *that's* why you're afraid of an armed citizenry!

  94. “If the president insists that enemies like this are his friends — and that the nuts they represent can be placated by reason — he will waste his opportunity to effect real change and have no one to blame but himself.”

    Even more worrisome, President Obama is “playing with fire.” Read Digby’s Hullabloo post on August 19th:

    “But on a political level, the left has been betrayed over and over again on the things that matter to us the most. The village is pleased, I'm sure. But the Democratic party only needs to look back eight short years to see just how destructive it is to constantly tell their left flank to go ---- themselves…

    Obama mobilized a whole lot of young people who have great expectations and disappointing them could lead to all sorts of unpleasant results. Success is about more than simply buying off some congressional liberals or pleasing the village. It's worth remembering that a third party run from the left is what created the conditions for eight long years of Republican governance that pretty much wrecked this country.

    After 2000, what is it going to take for the Democrats to realize that constantly using their base as a doormat is not a good idea? It only takes a few defections or enough people staying home to make a difference. And there are people on the left who have proven they're willing to do it. The Democrats are playing with fire if they think they don't have to deliver anything at all to their liberal base --- and abandoning the public option, particularly in light of what we already know about the bailouts and the side deals, may be what breaks the bond.”

    When I voted for Obama, I expected a Democratic president in the mold of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, or Lyndon Johnson. Instead we have a president who serves corporate interests and ignores the interests of those who elected him. Punked!

    Obama is not engaged in bipartisan compromise, he is engaged in appeasement of the worst kind, and every time he caves, it only emboldens the other side. What kind of change is President Obama offering when immediately after he praises Senator Grassley for his bipartisan approach, Grassley tells his constituents that they have a right to be afraid of Obama's plan?

  95. I appreciate your warning of the rise in the danger signs for violence in our emotionally laden times.

    As a person who came of age in the early sixties I was driven away from a college age interest in conservative thought and politics by the fringe haters who either were responsible for or tolerated the violence against the civil rights movement and paved the path for the assasinations of JFK, MLK, and RFK, and the subsequent violence of the anti-war movement.

    And you are right then the vast majority of Democrats and Republicans disassociated from the extremists advocating violence.

    That is not happening now and the addition of a cowered TV press, cable television and talk radio have only served to stir the pot. I was really upset the day of the New Hampshire town hall only Ron Allen of CBS was visably upset at the guntoting protester. None of the three major networks even criticized it on their nightly news.

    Please keep up the questioning of our politicians and public figures who are not proesting this rising danger to our country.

  96. It's astonishing that Americans will go ballistic over the right to carry assault weapons but won'tgive their fellow citizens the right to be cared for when they are Ill. I see no hope. It's a nation which has gone collectively insane.

  97. As I read these words, I found them ominous, and, as if by instinct, said a prayer for our President, who may be safer than Kennedy in November of 1983, but is not safe.

    Frank Rich must be a fan of Sondheim's "Assassins", which wonderfully delineates the marginalized folk who are drawn to this horrible line of work. I understand that politicians like Grassley and Coburn want to give voice to those who feel that they have been written out of the current discourse, if they are men of honor, integrity, and historical intelligence, they will differentiate between voice and violence. They, like Palin, have an obligation as public citizens to disavow the fiery and hateful rhetoric of some of the extremists we see all too much of these days.

    Let us not forget that the word "jihad" is not, in the minds of most Muslims, connected to violence. Those on the right, embracing anti-government (or smaller government, or better government) as though they were so many modern day Thoreaus, must not permit their fringe supporters to hijack their lines in our national conversation.

    I pray for Obama's safety, but I remain - for the time being, anyway - hopeful that divine intervention is not necessary to get right-wing politicians to recognize the prudence, wisdom, and rightness of distancing themselves from the gun which kills many men before it's done.

  98. And after Obama or Pelosi or Barney Frank is assassinated, the moronic and narrow-minded Republicans will wring their hands for a few days on the talk shows and then it’ll be business as usual. They support the violence and fear mongering because they have nothing else to sell. Of course it was a Democrat who said, There’s nothing to fear but Fear itself.

  99. Indeed, I always enjoy and learn from reading Rich. As for Coburn and Grassley -- perhaps a petition to impeach is in order?

  100. One of the reasons it has become so exasperating to watch Obama begging the Republicans to love him is that the Republicans are now a mostly militant party and Obama's fawning only encourages their militancy and hatred. The press covers the gun wavers and Hitler poster wavers and then Obama says that maybe the public option isn't important after all. If that is true then what is the important part of reform? If some militants are able to prevent this country and president from solving a very fundamental problem like our system of delivering health care, then we're in more trouble then we know.

  101. Thank you Frank, this should be required reading, at least by anyone with half a brain and can understand the English language.

  102. As reviled as Bush was by the left, we never saw this kind of gun toting at Bush engagements. Even though these guys are from "the base" I don't think Bushs people would have tolerated it. They would have picked them up (or shot them and asked questions later)as national security threats. Obama doesn't want to give the NRA fodder to say he wants to take away guns. These crazy dangerous people are empowered to brandish waepons near a President of the United States. What if someone does this as a distraction? It should not be allowed.

  103. I grew up in the South in the sixties, and remember whites expressing the hope that someone would "take out" Martin Luther King. Sadly, I get those same vibes from many of these right wing nut jobs today. In a complex world, many -- not all -- southern whites revert to a not-too-hidden racism to explain their plight. May the gods help us all.

  104. The Right *needs* a William F. Buckley Jr. today, right now. Otherwise Palin and her like-minded cohorts will define this end of the political spectrum.

  105. It is amazing that the Democrats, with the majority in Congress cannot pass a health care bill, which should include a public option. I do not agree with most Republican's positions, but when in power, they have 'balls' to pass what they want with or without Democrat’s support. The President wants to run his government with consensus with the Republicans. It is a great idea. But get over it! Republicans are not going to help, but obstruct. All you have to do is listen to the radio and hear all the nonsense coming from their famous loud mouths on the radio. And the sad thing is these people get their news and believe everything coming out of these people without questions. That Obama is not a native USA citizen, death panels... etc. I have never heard them mentioned that McCain, their candidate in the last elections, was not born in the USA, but in Panama. Democrats don't be wimp and govern as the republicans are not there!. If you cannot do it with the majority, then when?

  106. I live in a small town where the rule is if you want to speak at the annual meeting, you have to identify yourself. As far as I can tell, that has not been happening at these Congressional "town meetings".

    So we end up letting a radical minority, hiding behind their anonymity, and in some cases their guns, hijack and intimidate public sentiment. And as usual, the corporate media toadies play along.

    And what few see - certainly not the pawns spewing their garbage at representatives and Senators - is that this is all part of a calculated effort to grab back power in 2010 by weakening Obama.

    Rich's point is correct. The President needs to call the GOP on its bluff. Let them obstruct. See how far that gets them.

  107. Thanks Frank Rich. Senator Coburn is a detriment to all America stands for, and I hope that the people of Oklahoma are smart enough to vote him out of office at the earliest possible opportunity. Unfortunately, I think that the people of Oklahoma may be part of the problem, not part of the solution. My guess is that most of them do not realize that their "political" position is against their own economic interests and they are not smart enough to realize it - preferring, as they do, rabid right rhetoric and gun toting mentalities. Perhaps we should just let them pay full freight to extortionist for-profit health care insurance companies, and continue to have to have bake sales to afford cancer treatments for their children, while the rest of us have a financially affordable (but barely) public option for health care. The rest of us understand that bringing loaded assault weapons to a Presidential town meeting is lunatic. So Oklahoma -- the rest of the country is watching to see if you continue to support Senator Coburn. As a country we might to better with 49 States. Or 48 -- Oklahoma and Texas can both be spun off.

  108. I am discouraged by the media's focus on the radical fringe (left or right), and also by the lack of courage on everyone's side. At the same time, I remember that every presidency, early on, well, just screws up. And considering what Pres. Obama had to do - and the new administration - didn't we steer away from the brink or is it just my imagination? But the most interesting aspect perhaps is that we are so used to the imperial presidency that a thoughtful, intelligent (could Bush have done town halls?) person could seem weak? do you think, or am I just a fool? or that a president who leaves it to Congress to legislate (perhaps my greatest complaint - unfair of me?) - as they are supposed to do, is considered weak? Well, it seems all mixed up to me. People on the right are screaming, "Read the bill! Have you read the bill????" and what draft of the bill do they mean? There is no bill. But the same people are yelling, "Where's the birth certificate?...and there is one. It's "Through the Looking Glass Time" and, this time, the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts are armed. I'm only grateful my TV has largely not survived the digital conversion. But I just wish that someone would start talking sense. I know it's not me. Well, ok, Mr. Rich, maybe it's you.

  109. I was at the rally in Phoenix last week and the crowd supporting President Obama was much larger than the oppositions side, but they had weapons and they got the attention from the media. Which was their intent in the first place. BTW , the guy with the assault rifle was in on a publicity stunt.

  110. I can't believe this is the same man I supported and voted for president!

  111. What we are seeing with these gun-toting individuals is the same strategy their grandfathers (real or philosophical) pursued during the bad old days of Jim Crow. The white supremacists at that time merely had to gather in front of the registrar's office or the polling place and make a menacing display. It is frightening, it is insidious, but it sure isn't democratic. The men in Arizona with the guns are no different than the Taliban in Afghanistan who threatened to cut off the dyed fingers of voters.
    The real shame must be heaped upon those who egg the "mob" on, and those who condone their actions from on high. These individuals are stirring up a hornet's nest. When will they stop? When someone is killed?
    Mr. President, those who are stirring up the mob have no plans to stop. They certainly have no intention of working with you in good faith. Otherwise, they would not be so busy agitating their base.

  112. Rich citing Coburn:
    “There is a far greater fear [than terrosism] that is present in this country, and that is fear of our own government.”

    I am sorry but wasn’t this the Left’s refrain during the Bush presidency? What’s good for the goose must surely be good for the gander, no?

  113. First, as a true conservative, I agree it is wholly unacceptable to use violence or attempt to intimidate anyone with violence to achieve a political end and David From's comment is totally correct. But what Frank Rich is cleverly trying to do is consign all opposition to the President's plans for the Banks, healthcare and gun control to being part of the looney fringes of politics. If that becomes the true perception of the washington elites that run the media, politics and academia, etc. in this country, then we will have alienated a sizable section of the population by labeling them nutters simply because they do not share the President's views or policies. Just a few facts, please. 1. The President has spent a record amount of borrowed monies (with deficits of up to 9 trillion into the future) to prop up the Banks, take over the auto industry, as well as give foolish homeowners who bought houses far in excess of their incomes, a break to allow them to stay in their unaffordable homes; 2. The health care reforms being proposed will fundamentally affect the 250 million Americans who depend on the delicate balance between government and private health care, as well as the 40-50 million who are uninsured. It will affect their relationship with their employers, at a time where there is great uncertainty in the job market, and Americans are justifiably concerned and should be permitted to oppose these changes, even being loud and rude. Come and see how politics is played here in the UK. Americans are especially concerned because we don't really know what the plan is since Congress can't even get behind one of the bills floating around. What we have are thousands of pages covering three different bills, neither the full house, the senate or the President have endorsed yet or explained the full costs of the plan? So this adds to the uncertainly and even explains some of the extremism rearing its face.

    Rich's solution is to ignore this vocal majority/minority and pass an elitist bill for the "good of the nation". History shows that where people feel powerless and unable to be heard, that is when violence and extremist behavior comes to the forefront. The president would be wise to proceed slowly and explain honestly to the American people what "he" wants to do, and why he wants to do it and how it will affect the majority of people who repeatedly tell pollsters that they are satisfied with the health care they receive. Do not sit back and let Congress figure out the details and then swarm down and sign it in a big ceremony. Only then can the debate be truly joined and the people with their elected officials will be heard.

  114. Thank you Mr Rich. Many are thinking the way you do.

  115. "The protester was a nut. America has never had a shortage of them." -- Rich.

    And, a few of them write columns with anti American venum! You Mr. Rich are wrong! You label this man you never met with your own sense of paranoia! Ignorance breeds fear, and it is all over your face and this page!! Yes! Good Americans are standing once again against the tyranny of big government oppression! Against the government machine!!

    The New Hampshire mans sidearm, registered and legal based on the U.S. Constitution, was and will always be a symbol of liberty against oppressive government! He reminded us all of that and Obama too!!!


  116. Prof. Rich has done it again. Enough with talk of "compromise" and "post-partisan" debate, and pass a health care reform bill. Pres. Obama, you can't appease or please the nuts.

  117. And what do you suggest be done? In the absence of positive action, all you sow is fear. Should we forcibly take guns from American citizens? Should Fox News be banned? Burn the Limbaugh Letter? Internment camps for Republicans? The inconvenient truth we are all learning from the Obama presidency is that the majority party must still live with the minority; bi-partisanship means more than the minority acquiescing to the majority's view. Mr. Rich, please read the Comments that your own articles spawn, and then ask yourself whether you are a voice for peace, reconciliation and progress. You invoke the title "The Guns of August", but fail to mention the source: Barbara Tuchman's masterpiece detailing the buildup and initial stages of WWI. The poignant themes of the early chapters included the certainty with which Europeans of that era imagined that 1) war was impossible, and 2) the other side would back down in the face of bullying. Calm heads and open ears would have averted disaster, but were in short supply. Congressional Democrats now talk of forcing a health care plan through via "reconciliation", further ignoring minority opinions. Is it now July?

  118. Frank Rich:
    “I have been writing about the simmering undertone of violence in our politics since October, when Sarah Palin, the vice-presidential candidate of a major political party, said nothing to condemn Obama haters shrieking “Treason!,” “Terrorist!” and “Off with his head!” at her rallies.”

    Just out of curiosity, where were Mr. Rich and Mr. Obama when this came along?:
    (as if it was the only example)
    Did they say something to condemn the Bush haters?
    Where was the outrage about “the simmering undertone of violence”?

  119. Frank! Do you help to protect the rest of us against the (large number of) nuts on the right by attacking the guy standing in the middle? Or should you just keep up the attack on the nuts on the right and use Obama as the blocker?

    Obama only got 54% of the popular vote less than a year ago. That's right, the Way Over the Hill Man and the Embarrassing Whatever from Wasilla got 46%. The current polls are well within the margin of error of indicating not much having changed, when you factor in the superficiality of most people's attention span and comprehension, as ephemeral and as meaningless as the latest hot TV series. It's the long term trends that count.

    As un-progressive as Obama might be compared to some of the hopes he inspired, we are just barely out of a 28 year Dark Age (no, the Clinton Years were mostly a right wing festival including the flowering of the Congressional Fruit Loops, which still has significant remnants). Pressure the man if you must, but please concentrate on what is possible. Some things seem to be moving (almost unbearably slowly) to the better.

    But with an armed mob of crazies still able to get headlines and attention out there, it is important to move slowly, if steadily. Progressives just don't have enough insanity, or guns, to move otherwise.

  120. I would rather that these fearful people become flagellants wandering the dusty roads flaying the skin from their backs and praying for their souls. I know this is a pipe dream; but I have to wonder,how long until one of them fires into a crowd? (Then Fox news would blame Obama for poor security)

    Time to grow up America, progress comes from respectful discourse not from the barrel of a gun.

  121. The blindness of the gun-waving quasi militia men & women who vehemently claim to be asserting their ‘rights’, to the fact that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you have to; it is equally true that we exercise an even higher right if we abstain from an action based on a moral judgment.
    The right wing has launched a fear campaign and no one in the GOP is willing to stand up to it, virtually the entire party, (Snowe & Collins being perhaps the exceptions) is supporting the recent outbreak of anti-government demonstrations if not directly, certainly by silence.
    I do not understand how Republicans like Powell can remain in the shadows at such a critical juncture. Will it take an actual act of violence to wake them from their somnolence?
    Mr. Obama must abandon his well intentioned but naive attempts to woo the Republicans who have clearly put the revival of the party above the wellbeing of the country. It is demonstrably not going to happen. It is time for him to learn from their strategy of appealing to their base of 21% and renew his commitment to the majority of the nation who believed his pledge to bring change to Washington. I believe the President needs to give a “gloves off” speech, and call to the independents & liberals to come out from the shadows and stop wringing their hands while sobbing that “Obama has failed us”.
    He can’t do it alone; the right wing has commanded the spotlight too long! The media & the cameras go where the action is-even (make that especially) if it’s a bunch of gun waving nuts. The DNC needs to come out of the woodwork & mobilize the voters who supported change-their job was not over when Obama won-indeed the job has just started.
    Chairman Tim Kane, where art thou???

  122. It's not just right wing Republians like Inhofe and Coburn who are inflaming the gun nuts. Day after day, night after night, the lunatic right wing commentators Hannity and Beck on Fox News are busing pouring gasoline on the fires of hatred and irrationality. When---not if----- one of these nuts finally tries to use his assault weapons against the President let us hope the Secret Service will be up to the challenge. Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch have a lot to answer for.

  123. As Daniel Bell put it, “What the right as a whole fears is the erosion of its own social position, the collapse of its power, the increasing incomprehensibility of a world — now overwhelmingly technical and complex — that has changed so drastically within a lifetime.” Bell's assessment is a diplomatic way of saying that these gun-toting extremists are too dumb to keep up with the ever-changing, developing world in which they find themselves, so instead, they resort to the threat of violence to cling to what they believe is their rightful place in the world. That these people are ignorant and unreasonable underscores two key things: their ignorance makes them more dangerous and not less and President Obama needs to stop operating under the belief that these naysayers can be won over with reason and reality. Nothing is going to appease these nuts.

    This president, unlike his predecessor, has real political capital: he needs to ram through the legislation his soaring oratory promised us during the campaign. We voted the Democrats into the Oval Office and the Senate and the House. Those Democrats that rode into office on the coattails of Obama's promises of hope and change have to pony up and do what he wants them to.

    We are still reeling from the disastrous foreign policy decisions of the Bush Administration. I shudder thinking of what the rest of the world thinks of our handling of domestic issues when they watch these right-wing zealots and their sympathetic government leaders, like Tom Coburn, threaten the president. Aren't we supposed to be the shining example of democracy for the rest of the world? Senator Coburn, I think you have some 'splainin' to do.

  124. Thanks for this excellent column. The outcries of the fringe right at townhall meetings and the talk radio and cable nuts are all that remain of the Republican Party. Their only remaining trick is to demagogue every issue. Now, if only Obama would realize that seeking a concilliatory approach with wing nuts in order to appeal to the center only emboldens the wingnuts and weakens his base. We need him to stand up to the wing nuts - take charge - and push this reform through with a public option. Stand up Mr. President! And lead!

  125. Blaming Obama for buckling knees is fine but I see the same problems that I see with all leftists........Blame liberals first! Why are comentrators on the left such sissies that they cannot coment on the right unless the left completely discredits the left first?

    If you really support the liberal ideas (no ideas from right curently) that may be good for be clear about what is right or...........................keep your trap shut.