A Republican congressman in Oklahoma recently fielded a question at a town-hall event from a voter who said President Obama “should be executed as an enemy combatant.” The congressman’s reaction made matters much worse.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R) recently hosted an event in his Oklahoma district, where he fielded a noxious question from a constituent. Specifically, an unidentified woman suggested President Obama “should be executed as an enemy combatant.” She added, “This guy is a criminal, nobody’s stopping him.”
Ordinarily, this would be about the time a member of Congress – or really, anyone concerned with basic decency – would say such talk is inappropriate and an invitation for a chat with the Secret Service. But Bridenstine chose a different course, answering the woman by expressing some sympathy for her views.
“Look,” the congressman responded, “everybody knows the lawlessness of this president. He picks and chooses which laws he’s going to enforce or not enforce. He does it by decree.” Bridenstine, slipping even deeper into the fever swamp, added that Obama “uses foreign bodies, he uses, you know, the United Nations to change the laws in the United States.”
For the record, for those living in reality, the president has not used the U.N. or any foreign body to try to change domestic laws.
Regardless, why is it, exactly, an elected member of Congress seemed wholly unconcerned when confronted by someone who wants to see the president executed? Why couldn’t Bridenstine take a moment to say something, anything, about the recklessness of such comments, before he expressed some sympathy for her perspective?
We don’t know exactly when the congressman’s town-hall meeting was held, but eight days after the video was posted to YouTube, Bridenstine’s office issued a statement. Here it is
in its entirety:
“A public figure cannot control what people say in open meetings. I obviously did not condone and I do not approve of grossly inappropriate language. It is outrageous that irresponsible parties would attribute another person’s reckless remarks to me.”
As best as I can tell, no one has attributed the voter’s comments to the congressman. Rather, many have questioned why the congressman didn’t denounce the remarks immediately, rather than waiting more than a week.
What’s more, while it’s true public figures aren’t responsible for what others say in open meetings, public figures are responsible for how they respond to disgusting speech. In this case, Bridenstine heard someone call for the president’s execution, and he responded with bizarre and plainly inaccurate rhetoric about presidential “lawlessness.”
Finally, I found it interesting that the congressman’s statement added that he “obviously” doesn’t condone what the woman in the video said. I’ve watched the clip a few times, and if he was troubled by the voter’s comment, there’s nothing “obvious” about it.