Republicans and even top Democrats are condemning Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., for urging Trump administration critics to confront cabinet officials in public places, a call that a prominent political and media commentator regards as on the brink of “incitement.”
As the intense debate over family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border unfolded, protesters chased Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Trump adviser Stephen Miller from separate restaurants. On Friday, owners of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave their establishment.
On Saturday, Waters urged supporters to crank up the pressure.
“If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, at a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them,” Waters said through a bullhorn. “You tell them, they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
American Women’s Alliance President Gayle Trotter, who is also a regular panelist on the Fox News Channel’s “Media Buzz” program, says comments like those raise political tensions to a dangerous level.
“It’s terrifying and shocking that a sitting Congress member would rile the crowd up like that. One of our most esteemed constitutional rights is the First Amendment [protection of] political speech. But this speech by Maxine Waters almost goes to incitement,” said Trotter.
On Monday, the top two Democrats in Congress denounced the call to confrontation.
“No one should call for the harassment of political opponents, that’s not right, that’s not American,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who also noted that he “understands” the inclination of Democrats to respond in kind to President Trump’s “bullying harassment and nastiness.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., struck a similar tone in a tweet.
“In the crucial months ahead, we must strive to make America beautiful again. Trump’s daily lack of civility has provoked responses that are predictable but unacceptable. As we go forward, we must conduct elections in a way that achieves unity from sea to shining sea,” tweeted Pelosi.
Trotter is not impressed.
“Pelosi’s comment is equivalent to saying, ‘Her skirt was too short.’ It’s trying to pin the blame on the victim, instead of really calling out a member of her caucus and saying this is completely unacceptable.” said Trotter, who wonders why Pelosi won’t call on Waters to resign.
But are these confrontations a result of high passions over immigration policy or the inevitable progression of a toxic political culture?
“This seems to be a progression that is getting more dangerous all the time,” said Trotter.
And while Waters’ comments are getting quite a bit of media attention, Trotter says if the political tables were turned, liberals and the media would be howling in protest.
She points to the New York Times and others blaming Sarah Palin, without basis, for the 2011 shooting of Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords while seeing no larger issues in the Waters comments even as another Homeland Security official found a decapitated and burned animal on his front porch.
“In past circumstances, the press has made up these types of examples. Yet here, if you go to the editorial page of the New York Times, there were no [columns] there talking about the danger of this effort to target anybody in the Trump administration,” said Trotter.
Trotter sees a troubling transition as incendiary words turn into actions against Trump administration personnel. She also thinks many of these protesters are looking for their 15 minutes of fame, pointing out the restaurant owners who kicked out Sanders and her family had to know their actions would make news.
“It seems like it’s not only disagreements about politics, but it’s also to the point where people are doing things just to get 24/7 media attention. This is failing to underscore that the left is failing to practice what they preach. They talk about tolerance, and yet we don’t see people condemning violence in the face of political disagreement,” said Trotter.
She says there’s nothing wrong with intense political disagreement, but it needs to stay within the confines that the Founders intended.
“Robust political debate is what made this country great. Instead, what we have now are people on the left who are promoting this mob mentality. It’s a disturbing pattern of intolerance,” said Trotter.