Lincoln Journal Star: Fortenberry: Country Must Not 'Rip Itself Apart' Over Political Divisions
Stunned and saddened by a shooter's targeted attack at a congressional baseball practice, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Lincoln said Wednesday that "the country cannot continue to rip itself apart like this."
The "dark cynicism" of today's political climate has poisoned the political debate, he said, and the scene of Wednesday's attack was "triply ironic" in terms of American values.
The congressional baseball game between Republicans and Democrats scheduled for Thursday is "the last bipartisan thing that is celebrated here" in Washington, Fortenberry said.
The game is played to raise funds for charity, he added.
And it is baseball, America's long-celebrated pastime.
"A lot of good men and good women in Congress are trying to do the right thing according to their beliefs," Fortenberry said. "We cannot continue to survive as a country if good men and women who are willing to serve become targets."
These are "real people from real communities with real families, all Americans," he said.
And personal security and safety has become a growing concern.
"You ought to see some of the stuff that people write," the 1st District Republican congressman said. "Some of it is awful, horrible, pointed language," and some of it leads to security concerns.
"While vitriol in politics is nothing new, it has accelerated," he said.
When Fortenberry held a town hall meeting in Lincoln in March, it attracted a boisterous and largely critical crowd of more than a thousand people, many of whom were critical of the congressman's support for repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Six Lincoln police officers were assigned to keep watch and, Fortenberry said, another four officers were sent to the scene at Lincoln Southwest High School as the evening proceeded.
"It's also about protecting other people who were there," the congressman said.
Fortenberry said Lincoln Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister phoned him Wednesday in the wake of the gunman's attack in Alexandria, Virginia, to offer his support.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was shot while he was standing at second base during the baseball team's early-morning practice, is "a friend of mine with whom I have a strong working relationship," Fortenberry said.
Fortenberry attended high school and college in Louisiana, where Scalise represents the 1st District.
Although public discussion of security needs and concerns is a delicate topic, Fortenberry said that this week's events add "a necessary intensity of vigilance."
Other members of Nebraska's congressional delegation expressed their concern on social media.
In a tweet, Sen. Deb Fischer said she was praying for Scalise and the others injured in the shooting.
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