I agree with the editors of the Washington Post’s assessment of the newly-elected representative from the state of Montana:
“GIANFORTE GRABBED Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him.” That was Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna’s account of how Greg Gianforte allegedly assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, the day before Mr. Gianforte won a special election to fill Montana’s at-large congressional seat. Along with an audio recording of the incident, the eyewitness accounts confirm that the now-congressman-elect engaged in brutish behavior. That he subsequently tried to blame Mr. Jacobs for the incident, in which the reporter was merely asking an honest question, makes Mr. Gianforte’s actions all the more inexcusable.
Inexcusable means inexcusable. The House, led by Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who said “there’s never a call for physical altercation,” should have made clear that Mr. Gianforte would not be welcome in the chamber.
Historically, the Houses of Congress have had the power to limit their own membership. Ever since Powell v. McCormack the only grounds that either house of Congress has had for refusing to seat a member has been those specifically laid out in the Constitution. Shoving a reporter isn’t one of them.
I think that Paul Ryan should make it very clear to Mr. Gianforte that he’s not welcome in the House and do whatever lies in his power to follow through with that. Regardless of your feelings about reporters in general or the particular reporter involved, resorting to physical altercation is beyond the pale. Having principles means acting on them even when it goes against your interests.
Claims that this incident in Montana is emblematic of Republicans in general or of a grave disorder in our politics seem overwrought to me. There are more than a half million elected offices in the United States which means that there are more than a million candidates for office. One incident of battery doth not a trend make and claiming that it does sounds more to me like opportunism than analysis.
BTW, based on my experience as a juror in a case of battery, don’t be surprised if Mr. Gianforte is never convicted of anything or, if convicted, is merely given a nominal fine and probation. Battery is harder to prove than you might think. If my experience is any gauge it’s as indicative of malice on the part of the plaintiff as it is miscreance on the part of the defendant.