Editorial | Now you see it, now you don't

Editorial | Now you see it, now you don't

That was some rhetorical assault that didn't happen Tuesday in Springfield.

Illinois legislators occupy a make-believe world, one where money grows on trees and chickens never come home to roost.

But the delusions under which our solons labor aren't limited merely to financial malpractice. They extend well beyond, even to the point of pretending that things that happened on the Illinois House floor didn't happen.

Here's how the Associated Press described this week's rewriting of history.

"The Illinois House took the rare step Wednesday of erasing from its record a Democratic legislator's remark suggesting she'd like to infect the water supply of a GOP colleague's loved ones with 'a broth of Legionella.'"

Legislative debate sometimes gets strident, but rarely as personal as Rep. Stephanie Kifowit made it Tuesday when discussing legislation that would raise the $100,000 legislative cap on damages to $2 million through the state's Court of Claims.

The General Assembly passed the bill raising the limit in response to the outbreak of Legionnaires' disease at a veterans home in Quincy. In vetoing the legislation, Gov. Bruce Rauner said it's appropriate to raise the $100,000 damages limit but boosting it to $2 million would be excessive and unaffordable.

During the House debate, Republican state Rep. Peter Breen defended Rauner's position. Breen's suggestion of a compromise number between $100,000 and $2 million was hardly unreasonable. Indeed, the only thing extraordinary about Breen's comments was the extraordinary response it generated from the Aurora legislator.

"I would like to make him a broth of Legionella and pump it into the water system of his loved ones, so that they can be infected, they can be mistreated, they can sit and suffer by getting aspirin instead of being properly treated and ultimately die," Kifowit said.

She wrapped up her poisonous comments in an unintentionally hilarious manner.

"I respectfully ask for you to support this bill," Kifowit said.

She spoke of her desire to fatally poison Breen's family, but Kifowit, obviously, meant it in the nicest way.

After becoming the target of criticism for her remarks, Kifowit first insisted that her words were misinterpreted, although they were recorded both in writing and audio. Then she issued an insincere apology for what she called her "poor choice of words" during what she called a "serious discussion" of pending legislation.

Kifowit may be sorry she said what she said, but only because her comments were widely publicized and not at all well-received. She clearly meant what she said.

But her faux apology was equally ill-advised.

Kifowit was not engaging in a "serious" discussion. Breen's comments were serious and directed solely at the issue of the state's liability.

Apparently unable to meet that argument, Kifowit did what speakers often do when they lack an intelligent response to a reasoned argument — they lash out by engaging in personal attacks or emotional appeals.

That — not Kifowit's death wish for Breen's family — was the real revelation from the controversial debate. She's unequipped for the responsibilities that go with her job as a member of the Illinois House.

So are many of her colleagues, showing once again that Illinois isn't in the mess it is because the General Assembly is run by geniuses.

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