On Wednesday, Kelley Paul, Sen. Rand Paul’s wife, wrote an open letter to Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) about the tragic loss of civility in America today. She called on Booker to retract his public call for activists to harass members of Congress, referencing the horrific struggles her family has faced.
“It’s nine o’clock at night, and as I watch out the window, a sheriff’s car slowly drives past my home,” Kelley Paul began. “I am grateful that they have offered to do extra patrols, as someone just posted our home address, and Rand’s cell number, on the internet — all part of a broader effort to intimidate and threaten Republican members of Congress and their families.”
Indeed, last night police arrested 27-year-old Jackson Cosko, a former staffer to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) who has been charged with releasing private information about Republican senators.
Kelley Paul explained the personal ramifications of the threats and harassment against her and her family. “I now keep a loaded gun by my bed. Our security systems have had to be expanded. I have never felt this way in my life.”
“In the last 18 months, our family has experienced violence and threats of violence at a horrifying level,” Kelley Paul explained. “I will never forget the morning of the shooting at the congressional baseball practice, the pure relief and gratitude that flooded me when I realized that Rand was okay.”
Sen. Paul (R-Ky.) was caught up in the shooting that threatened the life of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.). He has condemned the climate of political violence that encouraged a terrorist to mark congressmen — and the brave police defending them — for death. Scalise and Paul survived, but two police officers did not.
Mere months after this tragic shooting, Sen. Paul faced more violence. As his wife recalled, “He was not okay last November, when a violent and unstable man attacked him from behind while he was working in our yard, breaking six ribs and leaving him with lung damage and multiple bouts of pneumonia.”
Decent Americans might expect decent Democrats (a phrase that seems to be quickly becoming a contradiction in terms) to condemn the attack. Instead, “Kentucky’s secretary of state, Alison Lundergan Grimes, recently joked about it in a speech. MSNBC commentator Kasie Hunt laughingly said on air that Rand’s assault was one of her ‘favorite stories.’ Cher, Bette Midler, and others have lauded his attacker on Twitter.”
Kelley Paul’s next words should move every American. “I hope that these women never have to watch someone they love struggle to move or even breathe for months on end,” the aggrieved wife wrote.
“Earlier this week, Rand was besieged in the airport by activists ‘getting up in his face,’ as you, Senator Booker, encouraged them to do a few months ago. Preventing someone from moving forward, thrusting your middle finger in their face, screaming vitriol — is this the way to express concern or enact change?” Kelley Paul pointedly asked. “Or does it only incite unstable people to violence, making them feel that assaulting a person is somehow politically justifiable?”
Then again Kelley Paul directly addressed Senator Booker. “Senator Booker, Rand has worked with you to co-sponsor criminal justice reform bills. He respects you, and so do I. I would call on you to retract your statement. I would call on you to condemn violence, the leaking of elected officials’ personal addresses (our address was leaked from a Senate directory given only to senators), and the intimidation and threats that are being hurled at them and their families.”
Almost one year after the congressional baseball game shooting, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) called on liberal protesters to harass members of the Trump administration wherever they see them.
“If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, at a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere,” Waters urged.
Cory Booker echoed that call days after Waters first made it.
Shortly thereafter, protesters targeted Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at her home. As the Supreme Court confirmation battle for Judge Brett Kavanaugh picked up steam, insults and threats were directed at Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). Protesters yelled Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) out of a Washington, D.C. restaurant. Two women trapped Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in an elevator, yelling at him that his support for Kavanaugh told all women that they “don’t matter.” One of those women leads a liberal group funded by George Soros.
After Ted Cruz’s harassment, Scalise told PJ Media, “There’s simply no place for this type of behavior in our country. Our Constitution protects our right to disagree with one another through open debate and by settling our differences at the ballot box — not with intimidation, harassment or threats.”
“When you’re resorting to this type of behavior, you’ve already lost the debate,” Scalise argued.
Kelley Paul’s letter was heartbreaking enough, and Sen. Booker should immediately apologize for his disgusting attack on American civility. But Rand Paul’s wife left out one crucial detail — a direct threat to her and her children. The senator’s office had to call the police after a man threatened “to kill me and chop up my family with an ax.”
How can any Democrat — or any decent human being — encourage more harassment in the face of these threats?
On the flip-side, Kelley Paul’s well-wishes for the people who mocked her husband for his broken ribs show the best of American civility. It reminds me of the powerful moment when Brett Kavanaugh choked back tears recalling his daughter’s desire to pray for his accuser, and the beautiful moment when Kavanaugh’s wife Ashley brought cupcakes to the reporters besieging her house.
Americans should learn from these brave women, and answer threats and harassment with well-wishes. Today’s political battles will come and go, but the ugliness of harassment and the beauty of these brave women’s responses will be etched into America’s memory. Civility must triumph, no matter what happens in November.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.