It All Depends on What Constitutes an Imminent Threat

By now, you’ve probably heard about the House Republicans–specifically Rep. Bill Thomas–calling the cops on the Democrats, or rather one Democrat. Eschaton’s Lambert has the money-quote from an Austin-American Statesman piece on the incident:

Republicans defended Thomas, saying he had no choice but to call in police to head off physical attacks they said appeared imminent from Rep. Fortney “Pete” Stark, a 71-year-old Democrat from California.

The Republicans allege that Stark was threatening 50 year old Colorado Representative Scott McInnus (left). Mr. McInnis’ biography states that, “Prior to serving in Congress, McInnis worked as a police officer and a family attorney in Glenwood Springs,” and that he “was named Man of the Year by the Korean Veterans Association.” Each of these occurred prior to his recent fit of cowardice in the face of the 71 year-old Stark. Here are the two principals–note the beady menacing eyes of Rep. Stark (right):


Also, Stark was the only Democrat in the room at the time, as the other Dems were in the Ways and Means Committee Library discussing various strategies that might allow them to actually review a bill before voting on it (Republicans delivered a new draft of a bill on changing pension rules shortly before midnight on Thursday, then sought to force a vote early on Friday; the altercation broke out when Democrats resisted).

So, to recap:

  1. There are 24 Republicans in the Ways and Means Committe, and though it’s not clear whether all of them were in the room at the time, it is certain that many of them were.
  2. Pete Stark was the only Democrat in the room at the time.
  3. At some point, Stark did say to McInnis “you little wimp” and “you little fruitcake.” (Note: Stark says these remarks were made after the police arrived).
  4. This was clear and convincing evidence of an imminent threat to the safety of House Republicans.
  5. Rep. Thomas cited reports by British Prime Minister Tony Blair indicating that the 71 year old Stark may have or soon have a program in progress that would allow him to circumvent Robert’s Rules of Order and that, within 45 minutes at the most, Rep. Stark could have the ability to punch Rep. McInnis in the nose, notwithstanding the numerical odds and age gap.
  6. Chairman Thomas therefore had no choice but to take bold action in response to this imminent threat, calling the Capitol Police.

Sounds at least as reasonable as some other justifications for confrontation that I’ve heard recently from Republicans.


UPDATE: Jesse reports that the odds Stark was facing were actually 9 to 1. Jesse also has the full “wimp and fruitcake” quote from Rep. Stark; based on the quote, it looks like Stark made the statements before the police arrived.