Boston Marathon bombing moves from solidarity to partisan politics

Partisanship was absent in the days following the Boston Marathon bombing. Now, political issues are entering into the discussion, including gun control, immigration, and national security.

Melissa Majchrzak/AP
Runners pause during a moment of silence for those injured and killed in the Boston Marathon bombings before the start of the Salt Lake City marathon on Saturday,.

Democrats and Republicans declared a truce of sorts Saturday – at least in their respective weekend radio addresses, both of which focused on the Boston Marathon bombing. Usually those venues are used to attempt to score political points on things like the economy, immigration, and gun control.

"Through days that would test even the sturdiest of souls, Boston's spirit remains undaunted – America's spirit remains undimmed," President Obama said in his regular weekly address. "Our faith in each other, our love for this country, our common creed that cuts across whatever superficial differences we may have – that's what makes us strong."

"I have no doubt the city of Boston and its surrounding communities will continue to respond in the same proud and heroic way that they have thus far, and their fellow Americans will be right there with them every step of the way,” Obama said just hours after the second alleged attacker had been captured, ending a day of violent confrontations in which the first alleged attacker was killed in a shootout with police.

Speaking on behalf of the GOP, US Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, echoed the same theme.

"We will stand strong, we will stand united, and we will stand together for Boston," Sen. Scott said. “The greatness of America is not seen during times of prosperity, but is crystallized by how we respond to challenges."

"The leaders of this country will do everything in our power to bring justice for the families and the communities impacted," he said. "Our freedom is our most precious possession – any effort to take it away will only strengthen our determination."

Through the long, dark week that ended with the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Watertown, Mass. Friday evening, the nation’s political leaders had hung together in their support of stunned Bostonians and the law enforcement agencies, medical personnel, and just plain citizens who worked heroically to respond, then as federal, state, and local officials scrambled to find the perpetrators and prevent any other attack that might have been planned.

Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who had been soundly defeated in the presidential election by Obama, praised the President’s speech at a memorial service in Boston honoring the victims of the multiple blasts that killed three people and injured more than 170 – a terrorist attack that brought a lock-down of Boston and surrounding towns.

“I thought the president gave a superb address to the people of this city and the state and the nation,” Mr. Romney said on CNN. “It was an inspiring day.”

But any event can be turned to political purposes, and the Boston Marathon bombing is no exception.

With news that brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had an arsenal that included pistols and a rifle as well as home-made bombs, gun control was sure to come up.

On Fox News, Chris Wallace asked how many people in the Watertown area where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had hid “might like a gun to be able to protect themselves and defend their homes?”

Since the Tsarnaev brothers – ethnically Chechen – had emigrated to the United States, their legal status was sure to come up as well. (Tamerlan had a green card, and his younger brother had become a US citizen).

In a hearing Friday, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, tied the Boston bombing to the debate over immigration reform.

"Given the events of this week, it’s important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system," he said. "How can individuals evade authorities and plan such attacks on our soil? How can we beef up security checks on people who wish to enter the US? How do we ensure that people who wish to do us harm are not eligible for benefits under the immigration laws, including this new bill before us?"

There is a national security consideration here as well, since the older brother had recently spent six months in Russia, which has been battling Chechen separatists, some of whom are Islamic fundamentalists.

Russian officials had warned the US about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and critics say officials here should have been more alert to what it turns out he allegedly was plotting.

On Saturday, key Republican lawmakers – Rep. Peter King of New York and Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina – urged the Obama administration to prosecute the younger Tsarnaev brother as an enemy combatant, which would deny him certain legal rights afforded those charged in civilian courts. Others have suggested that he be sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“It is clear the events we have seen over the past few days in Boston were an attempt to kill American citizens and terrorize a major American city," the lawmakers said in a statement Saturday. "The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise, but terrorists trying to injure, maim, and kill innocent Americans."

To some activists, even domestic violence may be a consideration in processing the Boston bombing. The connection here is that Tamerlan Tsarnaev reportedly had been arrested for domestic violence in 2009 after assaulting his girlfriend.

“The introduction of the element of domestic violence into this equation raises red flags for domestic violence experts and advocates,” officials with the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence said in a statement Saturday. “We continue to work with our partners as this information is unfolding in order to expand and deepen our shared understanding of the connections between domestic violence and other forms of violence.”

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