Kavanaugh plot shows Dems’ double standard on violent rhetoric


I’m sure Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer didn’t intend to encourage 26-year-old Nicholas Roske to go to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home armed with a pistol, knife and various kidnapping accessories this week.

The mentally disturbed California man was angry about the possibility the court will overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. He reportedly told police he intended to murder the judge. Fortunately, he was arrested before he could carry out his evil plot.

But in the wake of this incident, it’s worth bringing up the speech Schumer made outside the Supreme Court in 2020 warning its conservative majority, particularly Trump appointees Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, that there would be consequences if he and other Democrats disagreed with their decisions.

Referencing the abortion debate, Schumer let his love of hyperbole get the best of him: “I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

Nicholas Roske was arrested with a gun and knife near Kavanaugh's house.
Nicholas Roske was arrested with a gun and knife near Kavanaugh’s house.

Schumer was probably thinking about court packing rather than murder. But imagine what the reaction would be if former President Donald Trump had said those words and the foiled murder had targeted a liberal justice. The mainstream press would be screaming for Trump to be jailed, and pundits would be attacking Republicans who had not condemned the words that had supposedly led to threats of violence.

Of course, that’s not what happened in this case. And the Kavanaugh murder plot will likely be quickly forgotten in much the same way the press buried the story of an armed Bernie Sanders supporter attempting to murder Republican congressmen at a softball practice in 2017.

It’s not as if the media are shy about trying to connect rhetoric and violence. We’ve heard a great deal about how Trump’s words and tweets incited violence from the far right. It didn’t matter that the disturbed extremist who murdered 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 had actually condemned Trump in his online rants. Most in the liberal press and political establishment still blamed Trump. The same people have blamed conservatives after other mass shootings, such as the tragic murder of 11 African Americans in Buffalo last month.

These unfair accusations are more than anything else a function of the hyper-partisanship that has led many Americans to lose the capacity to ascribe good motives to their political foes. But it’s true that the breakdown of civil discourse can lead to more than toxic Twitter feeds.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gave a speech in 2020 where he warned Kavanaugh that he will "pay the price."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gave a speech in 2020 where he warned Kavanaugh that he will “pay the price.”

Kavanaugh and other Supreme Court conservatives have been under siege since the leak of a draft opinion that may soon overturn Roe v. Wade. Enraged activists have protested in front of the court. And despite a federal law that outlaws attempts to intimidate judges by demonstrating in front of their homes, that’s exactly what’s been happening — with Attorney General Merrick Garland refusing to do anything about it. Indeed, the day after Roske’s arrest, protesters were back outside the Kavanaugh home.

Though the White House is condemning the incident, it wasn’t long ago that it was encouraging the harassment of justices by pro-abortion mobs. “I know that there’s an outrage right now, I guess, about protests that have been peaceful to date. And we certainly continue to encourage that outside of judges’ homes, and that’s the president’s position,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said May 10.

Roske said he was angered by the Supreme Court potentially overturning Roe v. Wade.
Roske said he was angered by the Supreme Court potentially overturning Roe v. Wade.
Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images

In today’s political culture, talk of incitement only seems to run one way. Democrats who encouraged the “mostly peaceful” yet deadly and destructive Black Lives Matter riots in 2020 — or, like Vice President Kamala Harris, helped bail out the rioters — were never held accountable.

If only Republicans are accused of fomenting mayhem with their rhetoric while Democrats are excused for violent words that actually do lead to violence, it creates a double standard that undermines any belief in a common stake in maintaining civil discourse.

Liberals may think the awfulness of their opponents justifies their hypocrisy. But this contempt for political opponents that is interpreted by a deranged few as a license to kill is an integral part of the moral rot eating away at American democracy. We ignore the danger of giving Schumer a pass for the way he has helped lead public debate into the sewer at our peril.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS.org.

Twitter: @jonathans_tobin


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