Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle blasted Rush Limbaugh, talk radio and religious conservatives today in a rambling broadside in which he compared them to foreign Islamic terrorists and said he felt his life has been endangered by their criticism.
“I think we’re in a different place because of the way politics has become such entertainment. We were just talking with some experts a couple of days ago about how if we’re going to try to break through as Democrats, we have to have the same edge that Republicans do,” said Daschle in a press availability this morning.
“You know, Rush Limbaugh and all of the Rush Limbaugh wannabes have a very shrill edge, and that’s entertainment. We were told that even people who don’t agree with them listen because they – because they’re entertaining. And, you know, but what happens when Rush Limbaugh attacks those of us in public life is that people aren’t satisfied just to listen, they want to act because they get emotionally invested. And so, you know, the threats to those of us in public life go up dramatically and – on our families and on us in a way that’s very disconcerting. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to dwell on that or to even go beyond that. But I will say that it has created a far different dimension. When I was accused of being an obstructionist, there was a corresponding and very significant increase in the number of issues that my family and I had to deal with. And I worry about that. If entertainment becomes so much a part of politics, and if that entertainment drives an emotional movement in this country among some people who don’t know the difference between entertainment and politics and who are then so energized to go out and hurt somebody, that troubles me about where politics in America is going.”
Asked if he thought there was a direct link between the talk radio criticism and the threats to his personal security, he answered: “I do. Oh, absolutely.”
“You know, we see it in foreign countries, and we think, ‘Well, my God, how can this religious fundamentalism become so violent?'” Daschle said. “Well, it’s that same shrill rhetoric, it’s that same shrill power that motivates. You know, somebody says something, and then it becomes a little more shrill the next time, and then more shrill the next time, and pretty soon it’s a foment that becomes physical in addition to just verbal. And that’s happening in this country. And I worry about where, over the course of the next decade, this is all going to go.”
Asked again if he believed there was a direct tie between the critics and increased physical violence, Daschle responded: “Right. Well, fortunately – and let’s just pray, and I mean pray, that it doesn’t get to that point. But certainly in terms of threats, I think that there’s no question – I don’t know what they were in the ’60s. All I know is that in the course of my time in public life, it has gone up exponentially.”
Is the media causing this problem?
“No, I’m saying that the media plays a role in creating this foment, in creating this – this extraordinary emotional fervor that is sometimes not – not contained and, therefore, then leads to other – other actions that are outside the control of anybody in the media or anybody in politics,” explained Daschle.
Who exactly in the media is responsible?
“The talk shows.” said Daschle.
Like Rush Limbaugh?
“Right,” said Daschle.
What was Limbaugh’s reaction?
“It appears the Democrats just got the results of their internal exit polling data back and now understand why they lost the election,” he said on the air today. “Isn’t it interesting that we just heard about this (threats of violence)? Is this not exactly what they tried right after the Oklahoma City bombing? The pattern here is just incredible to behold.”
Limbaugh and talk radio were blamed by President Clinton for creating a climate of “hate” following the devastating attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Building in 1996.
“What does this prove?” he asked. “It shows what they were trying to do with campaign finance reform laws. They don’t want to be criticized. They don’t want to be criticized 60 days before an election. They don’t want to be criticized 30 days before an election. They don’t want to be criticized any time.”
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