Rep. Peter Roskam brought Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the third-ranking member of the House GOP leadership team, to Naperville on Wednesday to help raise money for his re-election campaign.
But first Roskam called upon Scalise, famously wounded in 2017 by a deranged gunman targeting Republican baseball practice, to try to help him make the case that his Democratic opponent Sean Casten is part of a dangerous trend toward “violent rhetoric and incivility” in politics.
As they might say in Louisiana, I’m afraid that dog won’t hunt, at least not while their fellow Republican, President Donald Trump, is out there spraying skunk juice on the trail.
Roskam has been pushing the angle for months now that Casten is a Democratic version of Trump, at least when it comes to the personal attack stuff that even many of those who voted for the president don’t like about him.
It’s a way to fight back against the obvious problem for Republicans that independent-minded voters in suburban districts aren’t looking kindly toward the president and want to take it out on somebody — Roskam being a logical target and Casten a logical recipient as someone who opposes Trump’s policies.
Indeed, Casten has an unfortunate and unappealing propensity for shooting from the lip with insulting remarks aimed at those he opposes. He’s compared Trump to Osama bin Laden, casually referred to Republican donors as morons and called Roskam a lunatic.
That’s all completely unnecessary, and he needs to stop. But that’s still a long way from inciting violence, of which I have seen no evidence.
Roskam, who rarely holds public events accessible to the press, invited reporters to a “media availability” with Scalise before the fundraiser.
“Here’s the irony,” Roskam said. “Sean Casten says he doesn’t like Donald Trump, yet he is parroting Donald Trump, and that is not the 6th District.”
Others see the irony being that this message is coming from two prominent Republicans who have helped carry the president’s agenda in Congress and will no doubt try to re-elect him.
“This line of reasoning is rich coming from Peter Roskam who has been a strong supporter of Donald Trump of all people, voting with him 94 percent of the time and adopting Trump’s campaign tactics, even creating nicknames for his opponent,” said Casten spokesman Greg Bales.
In his own remarks, Scalise tellingly made no mention of anything Casten had said, speaking instead in generalities.
“Clearly, you’re seeing more and more rhetoric come out where people are calling and inciting violence. That’s a line I think our country does not want to see crossed. And unfortunately you are seeing more people inciting the kind of violence where they are saying go and harass somebody at a restaurant, or go and kick somebody. You’ve seen too much of this. I’ve seen too much of it,” Scalise said.
“By the way, it has almost exclusively been coming out from the left,” he added, before telling the story of having chastised the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania for threatening to kick the Democratic governor with his golf spikes. Actually, the Republican said he was going to “stomp all over” the governor’s face with his golf spikes.
Scalise, who walks with the aid of a cane because of the serious injuries suffered in the shooting, has earned the right to say what he wants.
Still, it was a disappointingly partisan approach on this topic for someone who has been widely admired by both Republicans and Democrats for the courageous and inspiring way in which he has dealt with the attack — without adding to the national animus.
I asked Roskam and Scalise if they had ever held a “media availability” to speak up about Trump.
“I’ve said early on the President should throw the Twitter feed away,” Roskam said.
That’s the easy way out.
Roskam’s way of dealing with Trump is typical of many Republican leaders who have adopted an approach along the lines of: We don’t like a lot of the stuff Donald Trump says and tweets either, but if we’re going to get all this good stuff like tax cuts and conservatives on the Supreme Court, we just have to suck it up and pretend it doesn’t really matter how inappropriately he acts.
And that’s why Roskam is fighting for his political life.
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October 17, 2018 at 09:10PM