January 31. 2013 8:55PM

Civility in question: Rep. Horrigan shamed again


Ah, the good old days, when joking about watching your political opponents die untimely deaths was considered inappropriate.

Back in 2010, Democratic state House candidate Keith David Halloran of Rindge wrote on his Facebook page that he wished Sarah Palin and her daughter's former boyfriend had been killed in the fatal plane crash that took the life of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. Democratic state Rep. Timothy Horrigan commented in response, "Well a dead Palin wd (sic) be even more dangerous than a live one...she is all about her myth & if she was dead she cldn't (sic) commit any more gaffes."

Republicans noticed, and for this bit of insensitivity Horrigan resigned his seat in the House the next day.

One would think that he'd have learned his lesson. Not quite. On Wednesday night Horrigan, who was reelected, forwarded from his Twitter account a joke in which the writer expressed hope that former Vice President Dick Cheney would shoot conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. That raises so many questions.

For one, why does Horrigan find humor in the gruesome early deaths of conservatives? More broadly, when did we as a culture become so debased that this kind of malicious humor became something an elected public official would find an acceptable part of public life? Then there is the obvious point that Democrats insisted after the 2011 Tucson shootings that violent imagery be purged from political discourse. Except, of course, when they use it.

Horrigan quickly deleted the joke after we pointed it out. That says enough about its appropriateness. It is remarkable that some public officials have to be shamed into refraining from publicly musing about their opponents being killed.