I am heartbroken by the murder of so many innocents in Arizona, and in the midst of sorrow I have one regret which, with some trepidation, I feel moved to articulate. In December of 2008, Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi threw a shoe at President Bush during a press conference in Baghdad. Despite being deeply angry at Mr. Bush for what I felt was negligent leadership on his part, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the incident. The assault was an affront to the dignity of the United States, and exposed vulnerabilities in the President's security that might embolden would-be assassins. I did not, however, publicly express outrage or condemnation. I take little solace from the fact that I was not alone in this lapse.
The current tragedy throws my inattention at that time into sharp relief. It may seem grotesque to compare the somewhat farcical incident of 2008 to the terrible events now, but they do exemplify a common principle. Any assault, no matter how trivial, on the person of an American government official, is an assault upon the office he or she holds, and an attack on the nation that office embodies. For anyone of any political stripe who claims to love our country there can be no question of degree or area of gray on this score. Our democratic Republic can not long withstand the repetition of acts like that in Tucson. Either the persons of our elected and appointed officials are sacrosanct, or our Constitution is not worth the paper upon which it is written. Anyone who suggests, even rhetorically or in jest, any sort of physical trespass upon the person of any official of the United States government, is not a patriot, and should be given no attention whatsoever in serious discourse.
I realize that it is in bad taste to express an abstract principle on the occasion of what is a horrific personal tragedy for so many, but I hope I may be excused. My thoughts and condolences go out to all who have been affected by this heinous act. May God bless you and grant you strength to endure your grief.