I reported earlier, not so much on Rep. Cynthia McKinney's confrontation with Capitol police, but on the poor journalism and political demagoguery that is (forgive me) coloring it.
Today there are two more unsurprising "dog bites man" developments:
(1) House Republicans meddle in an ongoing criminal investigation and try to turn a minor incident into political hay, criminalizing politics or politicizing criminality or whatever their victimization buzzphrase is, and
(2) House Democrats, terrified of ever taking a stand on anything, variously cower in fear or actively enable the Republicans' demagoguery.
Wow. What cutting-edge news: Republicans politicize everything! Democrats cringe in fear!
I still don't take any position on who's right (McKinney or police), but I hate the way all parties -- Republicans, Democrats, and the press -- are handling what should be a straightforward police-blotter story:
WASHINGTON -- House Republicans, reacting to the confrontation last week between Rep. Cynthia McKinney and a Capitol Police officer she is accused of hitting, pressed for a resolution Tuesday to commend the police force for its professionalism.
Democratic leaders did not defend McKinney or her charge of racial profiling.
"I don't think any of it justifies hitting a police officer," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. "If it did happen I don't think it was justified."
Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said all lawmakers, staffers and visitors in the building have a responsibility to obey Capitol Police. "I think we all should cooperate fully," he said.
Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, had no comment, a spokesman said.
As a federal prosecutor considered whether to press assault or other charges against McKinney, Republicans were introducing their resolution.
"I don't think it's fair to attack the Capitol Police and I think it's time that we show our support for them," said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., a sponsor of the measure. Ignoring a police officer's order to stop, or hitting one, "is never OK," McHenry said.
McKinney is alleged to have hit a uniformed police officer who did not recognize her and asked her to stop on her way into a House office building.
McKinney says she took action in self defense after the officer inappropriately touched her. A spokesman for the congresswoman did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.
The six-term Georgia Democrat says the issue is not about whether to obey a police officer's order, whether she hit him or the fact that she was not wearing the lapel pin that identifies members of Congress.
She and her lawyers have said that a series of confrontations between McKinney and U.S. Capitol and White House law enforcement officers who don't recognize her points to a pattern.
"The issue is racial profiling," McKinney, who is black, told CNN Monday.***
Republicans suggest the incident says something negative about the Democrats. A spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said that a Democratic lawmaker hitting an officer does not support the minority party's claim of a commitment to security.
Pelosi last week called that argument "pathetic." She added that she would not make a big deal of what she termed "a mistake" by an officer.
The lack of Democratic support for McKinney is notable. She and her lawyer, James Myart Jr., said on Friday they expected several members of Congress to join her at a news conference that day at Howard University.
None did. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton issued a statement of concern about the incident and urged the parties to come to an agreement.
Purely rhetorical questions:
-- Why do the Republicans refuse to comment on the Valerie Plame Wilson scandal, on grounds they don't want to interfere with a pending investigation, but they will introduce legislation designed to turn sentiment against a U.S. Representative on the very day a federal prosecutor is deciding whether to press charges against her?
-- Is the real lesson here that when a Democrat fights back against law enforcement overreaching, the Republicans will villify her and the Democrats will abandon her? Shades of Feingold's censure resolution, Kerry's Alito filibuster, and 100 other good efforts either ignored or actively blocked by the cowardly lions in the Democratic caucus.
-- Will someone, anyone, slap Hastert silly for claiming that a scuffle with a cop betrays a lack of commitment to national security?
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