Eric Cantor and the Magic Bullet

Eric Cantor (AP)
Eric Cantor

Watching the reports of threats and violence against Democrats pile up, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) did what any self-respecting Republican politician in a similar situation might do: He changed the narrative.

On Thursday, Cantor claimed that someone had fired a bullet through the window of his Richmond, Va. campaign office. If true, that would mark a shocking escalation of the ugliness which has accompanied the battle over health care reform legislation. Cantor got what he hoped for as the first round of media stories bought the spin. But Talking Points Memo got a hold of this statement from the Richmond, Va. police and it's worth a read:

"The Richmond Police Department is investigating an act of vandalism at the Reagan Building, 25 E. Main St., Richmond, Virginia. A first floor window was struck by a bullet at approximately 1 a.m. on Tuesday, March 23. The building, which has several tenants including an office used by Congressman Eric Cantor, was unoccupied at the time A Richmond Police detective was assigned to the case. A preliminary investigation shows that a bullet was fired into the air and struck the window in a downward direction, landing on the floor about a foot from the window. The round struck with enough force to break the windowpane but did not penetrate the window blinds. (My emphasis.) There was no other damage to the room, which is used occasionally for meetings by the congressman."

So someone fired a bullet which followed a parabola-like trajectory and then landed "about a foot" away from the window. Serious stuff, but there's a world of difference between the police statement and Cantor's assertion. The investigation may ultimately find that the shooter had a political motivation, but the authorities haven't made that claim. There's no evidence suggesting that Cantor's trying to pull an Ashley Todd but he is playing for sympathy.

The random acts of vandalism obviously don't cast the conservative opponents of the health care form bill in a favorable light. Cantor and the GOP know that the next battle will be to sell the American public on competing narratives offered by Democrats and Republicans. That's why he's singling out the Democrats for using the reported threats as political props (he called them "political weapons")

Related News:

Anthony Weiner's Office Receives Threatening Letter Containing White Powder

Rattled Dems Move Forward Amid Threats

Coffin on Lawmaker's Lawn, Other Reports of Angry Actions Surface

Hoyer: Violent Threats Not "Par for the Course"

Bart Stupak Received Threatening Messages for Health Care Vote (Listen)

But is that what the Democrats are doing? Stirring up their base by publicizing boorish behavior by no-nothing knuckleheads? Cantor said that the Democrats are guilty of "ratcheting up the rhetoric" by blaming Republicans for inciting a hostile atmosphere. Rush Limbaugh made a very similar argument during his talk show on Wednesday. By that logic, though, Bart Stupak was wrong to release recordings of threats left on his office phone? That's a tough one to buy. Cantor's a savvy guy but he's really stretching to make a point. From my perspective, he seems more keen to blame the victim than to examine how we arrived at this sorry state.

Update: Richmond police on Friday said that the bullet that hit Cantor's office was the result of random gunfire.

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.