Discourse in D.C. shifts to security, 'soul-searching' over rhetoric, Yarmuth says

01/11/2011 07:07 PM

Officials and politicos in Washington are “soul searching” in the wake of last weekend’s shooting in Arizona, as members of Congress come to grips with security concerns and how to tone down political hyperbole, U.S Rep. John Yarmuth said.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville

“It’s pretty obvious we have at least made political figures demons and targets because of the nature of the political dialogue that we have,” said Yarmuth, a Louisville Democrat. “… Everybody’s looking in the mirror to see if they have been in any way responsible for any of this hyped dialogue.”

Yarmuth told Pure Politics Tuesday night that he expects politicians to be more careful about how they refer to their opponents, at least in the near term.

“We won’t try to make the debates as personal as we may have. And I hope the media follows suit,” he said. “Again, politics should be a discussion about policy and the direction of the country, not about individuals and characterizing them in ways that really don’t relate to the lives of everyday people.”

Yarmuth was elected to Congress in 2006, the same year as Arizona Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head at a constituent meeting on Saturday. Giffords, who remains in critical condition, was among 13 people injured in the shooting. Six others died, including one of her staff members, a federal judge and four constituents who came to see Giffords.

In addition to the “reflection and soul-searching” over the tone of political discourse, Yarmuth said members of Congress are reviewing security for them, their staffs and constituents.

Yarmuth said he hasn’t made any decisions about changing his own routine. But he said he stopped doing “Congress on your Corner” events — the type of event Giffords had organized in Tucson Saturday when she and others were shot.

He said ended that type of event because of the “incapability of managing them very well” because some people “would come just to disrupt the event.”

“The actions of a few made those events worthless,” he said.

Earlier Tuesday, Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said the current tone in politics isn’t too hostile.

“We’ve always had a pretty spirited discourse in this country,” he told Louisville radio show host Joe Elliott on 970-WGTK. “There are plenty of problems in this country but I don’t think political discourse is high on that list.”

McConnell also said members of Congress should coordinate with local law enforcement but not end constituent meetings, such as the“Congress on your Corner” meetings.

“We should not allow this act of violence change how we interact with our constituents,” McConnell said.

- Ryan Alessi


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.