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Rachel Maddow: The Growing Threat Posed by Gun-Strapped Right-Wingers at Obama's Townhalls

Rachel Maddow and Frank Rich discuss the use of intimidation as a political tactic.

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Were you intending to make that explicit allegory because you‘re worried about assassination attempts?

RICH:  You know, the truth is, I‘ve been worried for sometime even before the events surrounding these health care town halls.  It began during the campaign where people were shouting treason and worse about Obama at Palin rallies, and essentially, no one would -- in the Republican Party -- would condemn it.  There were people, you know, appearing in sort of Nazi regalia and all the rest of it, and it‘s just been stepping up ever since then.

The Department of Homeland Security, as you know, released a report in April talking about a rise in 1990s-like militia activity on the far-right and had various, you know, incidents, including the George Tiller killing, the shoot-up of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, and now, we have this stuff going on at these town halls.

So, I think we have to worry about right-wing political violence,

whether we have to hope and pray really that the president is well-

protected, but doesn‘t necessarily manifest itself in a presidential

assassination.  It can manifest itself in things like Oklahoma City or what

as you were just talking about -- what was contemplated apparently in Phoenix only a year or two later.


MADDOW:  I have to say that I am -- we‘ve been talking about this a lot on the show because of what‘s been happening at these town halls, because I think it has been shocking.  And to see people then turning up with guns -- especially, people turning up with guns in conjunction with threats that reference earlier acts of political violence in the United States -- I‘m thinking specifically of that young man at the New Hampshire event holding the sign with the saying on it that McVeigh was wearing on his shirt the day he was arrested after Oklahoma City -- after the bombing.  We‘ve been talking about this stuff because you have to, but I‘m uncomfortable talking about it.

RICH:  I am, too, and I‘m uncomfortable writing about it.


RICH:  And I‘m just old enough, I was a kid, I remember I woke up in 1963 to the horrible events in Dallas.  Even as a kid, I happened to be growing up in Washington, D.C., it was palatable to me all this hate talk about Kennedy and this sort of crazy fear.

Then it was the John Burke‘s Society.  They were worried that the government was trying to fluoridate the water and poison everybody.  They thought that Dwight Eisenhower was a communist tool.

But there were a lot of threats.  There was a lot of stuff going on that in tone resembles this.

And I think we have to try to tread a cautious line here but we have to be vigilant about it.  I think we have a problem.  This has been going on for too many months and has started with the ascent of Barack Obama.

And it always seems to happen when there‘s a new liberal group taking over.  It‘s not coincidence that the militias started up again in the 1990s when Clinton came in or when Kennedy came in, the right-wing stuff in the early ‘60s.  It‘s now, of course, complicated by the fact that we have an African-American -- which is even more of an affront, unfortunately, to some of these people.

MADDOW:  I have incredible faith in the Secret Service and I have -- I have incredible faith in the professionals whose job it is to actually keep not only politicians safe but also to keep federal building safe.  I think that we have -- we have great security officers in this country and I think that they -- one of the things that we can be sort of proud of and sure of is the professionalism of that class of people involved in law enforcement.

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