In December 2009, on the eve of the Senate vote on Obamacare, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) issued a blistering speech on the floor of the Senate lashing out at opposition to Obamacare, which was led by the Tea Party movement, in the most inflammatory terms.
Among other things, Whitehouse invoked the images of the use of the guillotine in the French revolution, Nazis who ran through the streets on Kristallnacht, and racists who lynched blacks from trees, while arguing that opposition to Obamacare was the new “paranoid” style of politics:
History cautions us of the excesses to which these malignant, vindictive passions can ultimately lead. Tumbrels have rolled through taunting crowds. Broken glass has sparkled in darkened streets. Strange fruit has hung from Southern trees. Even this great institution of government that we share has cowered before a tail-gunner having secret lists. Those malignant movements rightly earned what Lord Acton called “the undying penalty which history has the power to inflict upon wrong.” …
And why? Why all this discord and discourtesy, all this unprecedented destructive action? They are desperate to break this president. They have ardent supporters who are nearly hysterical at the very election of President Barack Obama. The birthers, the fanatics, the people running around in right-wing militia and Aryan support groups, it is unbearable to them that President Barack Obama should exist.
[Side note: See this post about Whitehouse’s rhetoric about cutting off troop funding.]
This speech, and Whitehouse’s refusal to walk it back, is what turned me against Whitehouse, someone I had not posted about prior to that speech even though he is my home state Senator. I wrote at the time of the speech that Sheldon Whitehouse Becomes Alan Grayson.
So I wondered what Whitehouse’s position would be on the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has seen numerous publicized incidents of anti-Semitism, which has the support of the American Communist and Nazi parties, and in support of which one celebrity demanded the return of the guillotine. The malignant, impassioned rhetoric surrounding Occupy Wall Street seemed to fit Whitehouse’s description of those opposed to Obamacare, except that as to OWS it was an accurate description.
All I could find was a statement by Whitehouse expressing support for Occupy Wall Street:
Rhode Island’s two Democratic senators say they welcome the protests embodied in the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, so long as they remain peaceful.
“I think this is a message that is going to be heard in Washington,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who added, “it will help expand the range of what is possible in Washington.”
So I contacted Whitehouse’s communications director, Seth Larson, to find out if Whitehouse had issued a statement about the anti-Semitic rhetoric at Occupy Wall Street rallies. Larson did not seem to know what I was talking about, and said he was not sure if Whitehouse was aware of the anti-Semitic statements. Larson suggested I provide details so he could find out, which I did in an e-mail:
Dear Mr. Larson,
I run Legal Insurrection Blog, a conservative politics and law blog. I am aware of Senator Whitehouse’s speech on the floor of the Senate criticitizing the Tea Party movement because some supporters allegedly were involved in right-wing militias and “Aryan support groups,” and were “birthers.”
When I called you this morning I asked whether Senator Whitehouse had issued a similar statement decrying anti-Semitic rhetoric at Occupy Wall Street rallies and you indicated that you were not sure if Senator Whitehouse was aware of it.
Please see this blog post at my blog, which sets forth details of the anti-Semitic rhetoric, UPDATED: Both Major Anti-Semitism Watchdogs Issue Statements on #OWS. Additionally, the American Communist Party and the American Nazi Party have come out in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
In light of these supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement, will Senator Whitehouse be issuing a denunciation not only of the specific individuals, but also of the Occupy Wall Street movement based on the same criteria used in Senator Whitehouse’s speech on the floor of the Senate regarding the Tea Party movement?
I would appreciate a response as soon as possible, as I plan on writing about this issue this afternoon.
I followed up with another e-mail and phone message seeking comment, but have not heard back from Larson. If Senator Whitehouse does issue a statement, I’ll let you know. And if he makes a speech on the floor of the Senate, I’ll post the video.
Whitehouse’s silence in the face of the widespread publicity about anti-Semitism at Occupy Wall Street rallies stands in stark contrast to Whitehouse’s willingness to falsely compare opponents of Obamacare to Nazis and lynch mobs.
Whitehouse owes the Tea Party movement and opponents of Obamacare an apology.