As Rand Paul held a mini-filibuster Thursday night to protest a bipartisan spending bill featuring trillion dollar deficits – the same kind of reckless spending Republicans have protested for almost a decade – singer and actress Bette Midler disapproved on Twitter.
But, hey, Midler was just making a joke, right?
Paul adviser Sergio Gor didn’t see it that way.
Nor was he alone.
Some wondered if Midler had violated Twitter policy.
One of the most retweeted responses to Midler was from Paul supporter “Heather.”
Others were more direct.
Former Paul presidential campaign adviser Michael Biundo asked, simply:
How is this okay?
“The average person takes 20,000 breaths a day. Since Nov. 3, my husband, Rand Paul, has not taken a single one without pain,” the senator’s wife, Kelley Paul, wrote at CNN in late November. “He has not had a single night’s sleep uninterrupted by long periods of difficult breathing or excruciating coughing.”
“There have been several nights where I had my hand on my phone ready to call 911 when his breathing became so labored it was terrifying,” Mrs. Paul added.
Could you imagine a celebrity – could you imagine anyone – joking about physically assaulting Democrats Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer and what kind of reaction that would elicit from the left?
In fact, we don’t even have to imagine it.
When Donald Trump joked in 2016 about former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s accident that blinded him in one eye, Reid called Trump’s remarks “toxic” and responded, “Donald Trump can make fun of the injury that crushed the side of my face and took the sight in my right eye all he wants — I’ve dealt with tougher opponents than him.”
Similar to Reid, you won’t hear Paul complain about his pain either (in fact, Reid thanked Paul, a still practicing ophthalmologist, for helping him with his injury). That still doesn’t make encouraging violence against those you disagree with okay. I don’t recall many liberals at that time dismissing Trump’s joke as “Oh, that Donald…”
The wrongness of Midler’s tweet can, perhaps, even be more clearly demonstrated with a more extreme example. Here’s a headline from the website of far-right, fascist idiot Chris Cantwell (of “crying Nazi” fame): “Gabby Giffords Begs for Another Bullet.” He was upset that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords – a gun violence victim – was pushing for gun control in 2013.
I don’t know a single person, left or right (including every pro-Second Amendment advocate I have ever encountered), who would view such a headline about a woman who was almost murdered with anything less than shock and disgust. If you don’t view it that way, there’s something wrong with you.
But, we don’t have to take it to that extreme to acknowledge why Bette Midler’s tweet got such a harsh response: Advocating violence over political disagreements should be unacceptable anywhere on the ideological spectrum. Even for liberals urging violence against conservatives.
Even for celebrities.
Disclosure: I co-authored the 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington with Sen. Rand Paul.