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One moment stands out clearly in my mind. Back in the early days of the Bush administration, Mickey Kaus had a typically contrarian post in which he suggested that with the rising tide of animosity on the left toward President Bush it was only a matter of time before we saw the outcropping of political violence on the left, to parallel what we'd seen from the right with the Clinton-hatred of the mid-1990s. (Perhaps someone can dig up the post? Late Update: Found.) It was a typically Kausian post, not only for its strained contrarianism but more for its complete failure of predictive value. And the failure of anything in parallel to arise was even more telling because antipathy toward President Bush really did become entrenched, inflamed and profound. Far more than I would have imagined at the outset.
Now, I know we'll likely get emails from right-wingers pointing out some animal rights activists who freed a bunch of gerbils, another fellow whose tires got slashed and no doubt a host of people with backwards Bs scrawled on their cheeks. But I think we all know the story here.
This isn't a matter of fear, though like all patriotic Americans we react strongly to veiled threats against our legitimately elected president. It's really more in the mode of the concern you show an old -- perhaps estranged -- friend or relative with a chronic alcohol problem or maybe one who just can't kick the crack pipe and always has it hovering in the background -- a threat to their well-being in moments of stress but also a constant temptation.
In a way you want to help. But mainly -- and at the end of the day -- you don't want to let their personal demons drag the whole family down.
Let's be honest with ourselves: the American right has a deep-seated problem with political violence. It's deep-seated; it's recurrent and it's real. And it endangers the country. It just makes sense to say something the first time they hit the sauce and not wait for things to get really out of hand.