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GOP's silence at congressman's comments about would-be bomber speaks volumes

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board (TNS)
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., offered words of empathy for a  would-be bomber. (Office of Congressman Mo Brooks/TNS)

On Thursday, a North Carolina man drove a truck onto a sidewalk outside the Library of Congress, demanding to meet with President Joe Biden, ranting about a “revolution” and claiming he had explosives. After the man was arrested, Rep. Mo Brooks — the Alabama Republican who helped stoke the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — issued a statement appearing to offer empathy to the suspect, expressing understanding at “citizenry anger directed at dictatorial Socialism.”

Brooks’ right-wing extremism is well established, but where are the other Republican voices rising to censure him and declare this isn’t the sentiment of their party?

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There is plenty of blame to go around for the deadly insurrection of Jan. 6. It wasn’t just the chief instigator, then-President Donald Trump, who whipped up the anti-democracy mob but also elected fellow-travelers like Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, whose key challenge of election results lent undeserved credence to Trump’s vote-fraud lies.

Authorities investigate a pickup truck parked on the sidewalk in front of the Library of Congress' Thomas Jefferson Building, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in Washington. A man who claimed to have a bomb in a pickup truck near the Capitol surrendered to law enforcement after an hourslong standoff Thursday that prompted a massive police response and the evacuations of government buildings and businesses in the area. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Brooks’ culpability was even worse. He was the first member of either chamber of Congress to formally object to the vote-certification of Joe Biden as president. Hawley was subsequently the first senator to do so, which ensured there would be congressional votes attempting to overturn a valid election. Brooks was also the first speaker at the Trump rally preceding the attack, encouraging the mob to “start taking down names and kicking ass.”

Brooks was later implicated with two other GOP congressmen in collaborating with one of the far-right organizers of the attack. Brooks is also facing a lawsuit from fellow Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., alleging Brooks knowingly incited the mob.

With all this in mind, it should come as no surprise that Brooks has all but sided with the deranged, would-be bomber.

“Although this terrorist’s motivation is not yet publicly known, and generally speaking, I understand citizenry anger directed at dictatorial Socialism and its threat to liberty, freedom and the very fabric of American society,” Brooks tweeted. Aside from labeling him a terrorist, Brooks’ statement doesn’t include any condemnation of the suspect’s actions.

This is about more than just one radical congressman. There’s the silence of most of the congressional GOP in response to Brooks’ outrageous comments — including, as usual, nothing but crickets from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

GOP leaders have yet to recognize that their words can influence and inspire deranged acts of deadly violence. A mass shooter in El Paso echoed words against immigrants spoken by Trump. In 2018, a Florida man was arrested for mailing pipe bombs to prominent figures. Trump’s inspiration was reflected in the mass of stickers covering his van.

As of Friday, the only notable GOP voice challenging Brooks was Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, whose words should be pondered by his fellow Republicans: “Are we going to be the party that keeps stoking sympathy for domestic terrorists and pushes out truth, or finally take a stand for truth.”

— From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board (TNS).