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Daschle Fears a Political Shrillness

November 21, 2002|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — Political discussion in the United States has taken on a shrill edge that has encouraged an increasing number of threats against public officials, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.C.) said Wednesday.

Daschle told reporters that the "very shrill edge" taken on by many radio and television talk show hosts has turned politics into entertainment and can spark an emotional response in people.

"What happens when [radio talk show host] Rush Limbaugh attacks those of us in public life is that people aren't satisfied just to listen," Daschle said. "They want to act, because they get emotionally invested. And so, you know, the threats to those of us in public life go up dramatically, on our families and on us, in a way that's very disconcerting."

Daschle, whose office was a target in last year's anthrax mail attacks, declined to go into detail about the nature of the threats.

But he said that when he was accused by Republicans of being an obstructionist, the number of threats against him and his family rose.

"If entertainment becomes so much a part of politics and if that entertainment drives an emotional movement in this country among some people who don't know the difference between entertainment and politics, and who are then so energized to go out and hurt somebody, that troubles me about where politics in America is going," Daschle said.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), asked about Daschle's remarks, said he did not agree that political discussion had taken on a shrill edge for entertainment purposes and was not aware of any increase in the number of threats.

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