First, a reminder of what we’re talking about:
Does your opinion of North Carolina Congressman Bob Etheridge’s behavior depend upon whether he’s a Democrat or a Republican? Then you might be eligible for a job at the Washington Post! Like Chris Cillizza. He compares Etheridge’s “gaffe” to that of another politician:
Roughly two weeks before the  election, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball” and said that then Sen. Barack Obama “may have anti-American views.”
A massive controversy ensued, with Democrats casting Bachmann’s remarks as a tipping point for voters in her exurban Twin Cities seat. The Democratic nominee — Elwyn Tinklenberg(!) — raked in $2 million in the space of a week or so as Bachmann became a sort of poster girl for everything people didn’t like about Republicans nationally.
Then she won.
Even after she assaulted Chris Matthews on camera! Well, no, of course she didn’t. As nice as it is to think about… But that’s the example that came to Cillizza’s mind. He’s actually comparing a Republican’s gaffe — if you want to call it that — to what Etheridge did. John Hinderaker at Power Line has more. And the Post‘s Dave Weigel is still on the hunt for those two kids. Maybe he’s giving out free hugs!
David Corn at Mother Jones lists this incident among the Top 10 Candidate Gaffes of 2010, and says:
It’s never a good idea to grab, slap, pull, manhandle, or “hug, as in wrestling,” another person — no matter how annoying they are…
Which, coming from David Corn, must be considered an act of self-defense.
Brandon Leslie, who moved away seven years ago and is now an attorney in Oxford, Miss., said he had an encounter with the now seven-term Democratic congressman from Lillington almost 14 years ago.
In the fall of 1996, when Leslie was a senior at Pinecrest High School, he said he met Etheridge at a Pinecrest football game. Etheridge—then the state superintendent of public instruction—was challenging incumbent Republican David Funderburk for his congressional seat. At the time, Moore County was part of the 2nd District, which Etheridge now represents.
Leslie said he introduced himself to Etheridge and asked him about his stance on a particular education program. He said Etheridge didn’t answer his question, so he pressed him two more times.
“And that’s when he grabbed me by the shoulders, he shook me, and I’ll never forget it, he said, ‘Son, you need to learn to respect your elders,'” he said by phone on Wednesday. “I was just so taken aback, I think my jaw just dropped, and he walked off.”
Note that Etheridge allowed Leslie to introduce himself before laying hands on him, a courtesy he did not extend to his young interlocutor in this instance.
In addition to the Washington Post, Etheridge can also count on the fine folks at Politico to enable his behavior. Here’s Ben Smith’s latest:
The question of who baited Bob Etheridge into assault has been a minor Washington mystery — minor only because they didn’t do anything wrong, and their disguised identities were hard to understand even if — as the DNC claimed — they were Republican staffers.
Let’s take a second to unpack that sentence. Bob Etheridge was “baited into assault.” Or, what us non-Politico types would refer to as “being asked a question.” But then, somehow, “they didn’t do anything wrong.” Besides, of course, “baiting” him. And then their disguised identities are “hard to understand,” because Ben Smith has either forgotten about what was done to Joe the Plumber or doesn’t think it’s important.
And finally: Do you know what to do if a congressman attacks? You do now!