The threat of political violence is on many minds these days, especially after former President Donald Trump called for protests against what he said were plans by the Manhattan district attorney to arrest him. To some, the situation is eerily reminiscent of January 6, 2021, and what occurred after Trump asked his followers to march to the Capitol and protest the certification of Joe Biden as president by Congress.
US House of Representatives Majority Leader Steve Scalise is someone who knows about the dangers of political violence. On June 14, 2017, Scalise, along with five other people, was shot during a baseball game where members of Congress were practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game. It was later determined that the shooter, a far-left devotee of Senator Bernie Sanders, was motivated by his anger at Republican politicians. He was killed in a shootout with police.
Scalise, then the majority whip, underwent surgery to save his life, and later endured several more operations because of the damage that was caused by the shooting. Despite his injuries, he has returned to his vibrant political career.
Born in New Orleans in 1965, Scalise has served the State of Louisiana since 1995, first as a member of the State House of Representatives, then in the State Senate, and then in the US House of Representatives, to which he was elected in 2008. He was voted in as majority leader this past November.
There’s so much I wanted to speak to you about since Jun 14, 2017, when you were shot while playing baseball. Now I finally have the opportunity.
Some of the things you said when you returned to Congress were very inspirational on many levels to people of all faiths. There’s so much that your experiences can help with going forward in what are troubled times, but I feel that we don’t hear enough from you about those experiences. They can be a lesson and help people navigate these times. What are your thoughts about that?
I’ve been overwhelmingly touched by the outpouring of support, love and prayers over the years throughout my recovery. It has meant a lot and helped me get stronger, but I also know that we’re living in troubled times. We need to speak out against political violence. We all have passionate beliefs, but you resolve those at the ballot box, and then you go fight for the things you believe in. You don’t need to demonize the people on the other side of the argument.
You’ve said many times that a miracle saved your life, and but for the grace of G-d, you could have lost it to political violence. There’s a lot of unease because of growing radicalism. Do you fear the rhetoric, perhaps on both sides?
Everyone ought to be aware that what they say is heard by other people, and you don’t want to say things that are going to incite violence. “Go fight for your beliefs.” Then again, we’re a country that cherishes the ability for people to speak their minds and to go fight for those things they believe in. You do that in the political process at the ballot box by electing people who share your beliefs or running for office yourself. Political violence should never be a part of that process.
There may be an imminent indictment of Donald Trump, which has the potential to trigger serious violence. What are your feelings on a potential indictment and the prospects of violent consequences?
It’s a shame that there are some people who have spent their entire careers just trying to hate President Trump and tar him and his family out of hatred for the things he believed in as president. You look at his record, we had a phenomenal healthy economy, people of all income groups benefited tremendously, especially those in the lower income groups. We were losing our middle class, and President Trump’s policies helped bring millions of jobs back to America and regrow the middle class. Yet there are people who wake up every day just trying to find a way to express their hatred of the former president. Let’s focus on the problems we’re facing today. It seems that that gets lost, and they don’t even care about the struggles that hardworking families have today because they’re spending all of their time harnessing hatred towards someone.
We haven’t recovered from the violence of January 6 yet, and the message that has been coming from Congress and other places has been mixed. You made some very strong condemnations about the violence, and now there are others who have stated contrary things. I would like to get your perspective. You originally said that it was an act of terrorism. Has your position changed?
I’ve been clear from the beginning that the people who broke into the Capitol and attacked police need to be held accountable. There’s no place for that in our society. It has been unfortunate to see how Speaker Pelosi politicized it. Even when they set up the January 6 Commission, initially a lot of people thought it would be looking equally at political violence and trying to find out facts. Instead, she kicked Republican members off of the committee because she didn’t want it to be looked at in a truly candid way; she wanted to make it all about a political narrative. That was a disservice to the country, because I don’t think it ought to be politicized, and yet it has.
January 6 was a political act, though, and it was aimed by a group of people who were disappointed about the elections. Perhaps politicizing it was part of cleansing what happened on that day.
But if you’re trying to find out the facts, you should try to find out all the facts and not take certain things off the table that might not look favorable to one particular party. At that point, you taint it, because then it really does look like you’re not trying to get the full picture, you’re only trying to use it to bludgeon your political enemies. We were all vocal then that it should not have been politicized, and it tainted that investigation.
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