House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was shot and almost killed while practicing for the annual congressional baseball game, threw out the first pitch at the opening game of the Washington Nationals playoff series last night. Scalise used crutches to make his way onto the field and a walker to set himself for the first pitch. He threw it to David Bailey, the Capitol Police special agent who was also wounded during the shooting. Two other victims, Zack Barth (a congressional staffer) and Matt Mika (a lobbyist) delivered the lineup cards.
Scalise received a standing ovation from the crowd. I wasn’t at the game, but Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post described the ovation as “thunderous.”
Not everyone was pleased by Scalise’s appearance, though. According to the Steinberg, Twitter comments included: “Bad choice;” “I will not cheer for him;” and “I’m physically sickened.”
Mentally sick is more like it.
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised, though. When a CBS lawyer/executive expresses lack of sympathy for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting because “music fans are often Republican gun toters,” how much sympathy can we expect from the sick left when the shooting victim is always a Republican and supports Second Amendment rights?
Steinberg prefaces his recitation of the tweets cited above with this passage:
[Scalise] has talked this month of treating political opponents with decency and respect, but also has made it clear that he isn’t backing down from his political pursuits, such as repealing the Affordable Care Act and speaking out for gun rights.
He is also scheduled to appear at next week’s Value Voters Summit, an event organized “to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government.” And those stances could make Friday night’s public reception — in a city that votes overwhelmingly Democratic — something less than unanimous.
What is Steinberg’s point? The fact that Scalise won’t back down from his political pursuits should go without saying. Why does Steinberg find it noteworthy? Did he (or would he have) written such a thing about Gabby Giffords after she was shot? Is there a presumption that conservatives should change their views on matters like Obamacare, religious liberty, and limited government after being shot?
And why does Steinberg feel the need to spell out Scalise’s specific conservative positions and mention his appearance at the Value Voters Summit, complete with the event’s agenda in quotation marks? Steinberg’s liberal bias often seeps into his coverage of sports, but a congressman, especially one who has been near death, should be able throw out a ceremonial first pitch without having his political views — widely held ones, by the way — spelled out by a sports columnist.
I suspect Steinberg spelled them out at least in part to signal his virtue. His message: I may be writing a heartwarming story about Scalise, but I haven’t forgotten that he’s a right-winger.
Another explanation — one that doesn’t exclude that which I offer above — is that Steinberg wants to explain the reaction of Nats fans who hated the choice of Scalise to throw the first pitch. In a city that votes overwhelmingly Democratic, Steinberg seems to say, it’s understandable that some might not stand and cheer for a conservative Republican.
I don’t think disagreement over political views is a good excuse for refusing politely to applaud a public figure — Republican or Democrat — who has battled his way back from near death. And it certainly doesn’t justify publicly claiming to be physically sickened by such a figure’s appearance at a ballgame.
Scalise was shot by a left-winger who supported Bernie Sanders and appears to have been inflamed by anti-Republican talking points. His intent wasn’t just to kill Scalise. He wanted to take out as many Republican members of Congress as he could because they uphold conservative positions.
It seems especially inappropriate, then, for Steinberg to include in his coverage of Scalise’s return to the baseball diamond a partial list of the Majority Whip’s sins against liberal orthodoxy, and even remotely to suggest that hating on Scalise’s appearance at the ballgame is understandable “in a city that votes overwhelmingly Democratic.”