Representative Steve King doesn't come across as the most compassionate guy in the world, bragging about opposing aid for Hurricane Katrina victims and questioning the need to stop deporting undocumented Haitian immigrants after last month's earthquake.
But if you thought King was incapable of feeling empathy, you're wrong. Over the weekend he spoke to a panel on immigration at the Conservative Political Action Conference:
During his closing remarks, King veered into a complaint about high taxes, and said he could "empathize" with the man who flew a plane into an IRS building last week.
During the question and answer session, the Media Matters staffer asked King to clarify his comment, reminding him of his sworn duty to protect the American people from all sworn enemies, foreign and domestic. In response, said the staffer, King gave a long and convoluted answer about having been personally audited by the IRS, and ended by saying he intended to hold a fundraiser to help people "implode" their local IRS office.
That's right, King feels empathy for a guy who crashed his plane into a federal building, intending to harm the IRS employees inside. In the process, the man killed a loving family man and longtime federal worker who served two terms in Vietnam.
Think Progress posted a partial transcript of that clip.
TP: Do you think this attack, this terrorist attack, was motivated at all by a lot of the anti-tax rhetoric that's popular in America right now?
KING: I think if we'd abolished the IRS back when I first advocated it, he wouldn't have a target for his airplane. And I'm still for abolishing the IRS, I've been for it for thirty years and I'm for a national sales tax. [...] It's sad the incident in Texas happened, but by the same token, it's an agency that is unnecessary and when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the IRS, it's going to be a happy day for America.
TP: So some of his grievances were legitimate?
KING: I don't know if his grievances were legitimate, I've read part of the material. I can tell you I've been audited by the IRS and I've had the sense of 'why is the IRS in my kitchen.' Why do they have their thumb in the middle of my back. ... It is intrusive and we can do a better job without them entirely.
I love it when fake "law and order" Republicans complain about the IRS enforcing federal laws.
And talk about blaming the victim. Does King really think right-wing nutjobs would stop plotting violence against the federal government if we abolished the IRS? Some people out there consider civil war an appropriate response to Congress passing a health care reform bill.
Politicians like King, who command respect on the right wing, should be denouncing all attempts to incite or glorify violence against the government. Instead, King acts as if having a grievance against the IRS might push anyone over the edge.
Imagine King's response if the suicide pilot who crashed into a federal building had been a Muslim immigrant.
It's also really classy for King to use a question about a terrorist attack to give a mini-lecture on the benefits of a national sales tax. The so-called "fair tax" is one of the worst economic proposals ever devised by Republicans, which is saying something.
Speaking of Republicans who seem unconcerned about wingnuts taking things too far, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty told the CPAC crowd that conservatives should "take a 9 iron and smash a window out of big government in this country." Senator Scott Brown's response to a question about the IRS attack also left a lot to be desired.
UPDATE: Bret Hayworth wondered whether King really expressed empathy for the IRS attacker, since those words are not in the video clip Think Progress posted. The "empathize" comment came during King's remarks to the CPAC immigration panel. That session was not recorded.
King's office released this statement on February 23:
As a founder of a small business who has endured I.R.S. audits, I understand the deep frustration with the I.R.S. In the early days, my company could not run without me on the job. I once had to shut it down just to be in the room with the I.R.S. I did not get a fair shake, but I channeled my frustration the American way and ran for office. Americans looking for an outlet for their frustration should join me in calling on Congress to pass a national sales tax and abolish the current federal tax code and the I.R.S.