Congressman Emanuel Cleaver is proving to be a voice of reason in the wake of the Arizona shooting that killed six -- including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge -- and critically wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Cleaver joined the round-table discussion on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday and spoke of the out-of-control political discourse in this country, which has devolved into pro wrestling promos.
"We are in a dark place in this country right now, and the atmospheric
condition is toxic," Cleaver told host David Gregory. "And much of it
originates here in Washington, D.C., and we export it around the country
to the point that people come to Washington, they come to the gallery,
and they feel comfortable in shouting out insults from the gallery. We
had someone removed last week shouting out some insult about President
"I think members of Congress either need to turn down the
volume, begin to try to exercise some high level of civility, or this
darkness will never ever be overcome with light. The hostility is
here. People may want to deny it. It is real, and if we, and if we
don't stop it soon, I think this nation is going to be bitterly divided
to a point where I fear for the future of our children."
Cleaver should know. He's seen it firsthand at his public meetings with constituents.
"I think what we are seeing, though, is, you know, the public is
being riled up to the point where those kinds of, of, of events and, and
opportunities for people to express their opinions to us are
becoming a little volatile," he said. "We have 435 members of Congress.
If you rank them in terms of volatility, Gabby is probably in the last
one-half of 1 percent. ...
And it just seems so ironic that she would become a victim.
... And she is clearly not a hothead or somebody who's prone to create
Cleaver never mentioned Sarah Palin's map with crosshairs on Giffords' district. In March, Giffords realized the dangers of such rhetoric.
"We're on Sarah Palin's targeted list," she said, "but the
thing is that the way she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun
sight over our district. When people do that, they've got to realize
there's consequences to that action."
Cleaver noted that the Arizona killings should be a "wake-up call."
"We, we ought to come back with a different attitude," Cleaver said. "... This ought
to be a wake-up call to, not only the members of Congress, but the
people in this country, that we're headed in the wrong direction.
"Congress meets a lot, but it rarely comes together. We are coming from,
from two different points of view -- which is a democracy and we ought to
do that -- but we, we come for the purpose of fighting. And it's entertainment, I guess, for the nation, for some. But for some it,
it gives them an excuse to exercise the bitterness that, that may be
deep inside of them. And we've, we've got to watch what we say, and
we're not doing it. It starts when -- in campaigns. You know, campaigns
now are opportunities for people to say anything and do anything ... to each other and about one another. And I think it's, it's
devastating, and it'll probably get worse unless something dramatic
Later, Cleaver added: "What has happened to the debate is one person or one
side -- Republicans or, or Democrats, it doesn't matter -- they say, "I'm
right, and you're evil." And that is what's damaging this country."
Let's hope people heed Cleaver's words.