Threats aimed at lawmakers are unacceptable and outrageous

The members of Congress should lead by example and tone down the personal political rhetoric.

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Conservatives, liberals and moderates should be outraged at the deplorable behavior of a few of their fellow citizens in the wake of congressional approval of health-care reform.

The offices of at least four congressional Democrats in New York, Arizona and Kansas were struck by vandals, and at least 10 members of Congress have reported death threats, including obscenity-laced phone messages and a fax bearing the image of a noose, according to The Associated Press. And two Republicans have reported they, too, have been targeted and threatened.

Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate uniformly and predictably condemned the actions. And then they tossed accusations and political barbs at their fellow lawmakers.

"By ratcheting up the rhetoric, some will only inflame these situations to dangerous levels," said House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia. "Enough is enough. It has to stop."

A bullet struck the window of Cantor's campaign office building in his home state.

"It is reckless to use these incidents as media vehicles for political gain," Cantor told reporters.

Democrats had similar concerns.

To a degree, both sides are correct. The bombastic tone in Congress doesn't foster thoughtful debate and does fuel a public rage.

However, those who are making death threats are probably not motivated by heated political banter - their moral compass was already off.

Debate can be heated and emotional, but it should always remain civil.

Some of the behavior by members of Congress, including shouting at one another on the floor of the House, sets a bad example. The personal verbal attacks are too much - but not shocking. Look around, this strident in-your-face attitude is everywhere.

Perhaps this widespread ugliness will spur a change in Washington.

House Republican leader John Boehner and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came together to condemn threats.

Threats of retaliation "have no place in a civil debate in our country," Pelosi said.

Boehner added that, while many are angry over the health-care measure, "threats and violence should not be part of a political debate."

Now the members of the House and Senate on both sides of the aisle must lead by example and keep their rhetoric in check.

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