June 14, 2017
It was supposed to be a game honoring the victims of the Manchester terror attack -- until this morning, when it turned into a bloody tragedy of its own. A baseball diamond -- one of the few places in Washington where there are no politics, no agendas, and no animosity -- turned into killing field when a man opened fire on Republican members of Congress at practice for tomorrow's exhibition at Nationals' Park. Four people were shot, including my good friend and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.). Thanks to the heroic actions of the Capitol police, who suffered serious injuries of their own, the gunman was fatally wounded -- and countless lives were saved. "Without the Capitol Hill police, it would have been a massacre," Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told reporters.
While the shooter fired off round after round, members tried to jump into the dugouts for cover; others crawled through the dirt, desperately trying to find cover. "We had nothing but baseball bats to fight back against a rifle with," said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.). "...While all of this is going on, Steve Scalise, our whip, was lying on the ground near the second base position inching into right field, leaving a trail of blood." Brooks was able to use a staffer's belt to tie a tourniquet on another victim's leg and stop the bleeding. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) told Fox News how defenseless the members were in the open air as a madman sprayed bullets in every direction. "[I] felt like I was in Iraq," the combat surgeon said, "but without my weapon." Ultimately, he was able to get to Steve and treat him until first responders arrived.
Early reports are that Congressman Scalise is in critical condition after undergoing surgery earlier today. As his office said, "He is grateful for the brave actions of U.S. Capitol Police, first responders, and colleagues." But it was a sobering reminder of the days in which we live. Every generation has its differences, but America is experiencing time of sustained hostility. The cloud of vitriol that grew under Barack Obama has so poisoned our dialogue that it may have once again driven a man to target innocent people -- this time public servants whose only crime was gearing up for one of the few moments of comradery and bipartisanship left in the city. Late this afternoon, the media confirmed that in addition to his anti-Trump rants, this gunman had liked the Southern Poverty Law Center's page on Facebook, the same organization tied to domestic terrorism in federal court for inspiring the shooting at FRC. This is where the path of intolerance can lead. And in a country spewing inflamed rhetoric from Broadway to the Beltway, it's time for reasonable people to step in and say, "enough."
From the White House, President Trump appealed to the country to remember, "We may have our differences, but everyone who serves in our nation's capital is here because they love our country... We are strongest," he went on, "when we are unified and work together for the common good." House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) echoed the president's message in a gathering of the chamber. "We are united in our shock and we are united in our anguish. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us."
We continue to pray for Steve and the entire Scalise family, the brave law enforcers, and young Hill staffer injured on the scene. Most importantly, we lift up our nation, which desperately needs God's healing touch if we have any hope of rediscovering the mutual respect that makes America great. May the Lord help us to be reflective as a people about what's at stake and seek His hand as we navigate these difficult waters.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.