Contemptible as the act was, we have no quarrel with a sentence of probation for two years and community service of 200 hours, instead of time in jail, for the man who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of assault on a congressman for throwing a cup of water at U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, at a restaurant in Fort Dodge last year.

Because King wasn’t injured, the man had committed no crimes before the incident, he wishes to apologize to King for what he did, and he likely will face employment challenges as a result of this criminal conviction, probation and community service strike us as sufficient punishment.

Proper pursuit of a criminal case against this individual to its conclusion sends all the right messages to the public. To disagree with or dislike an elected leader at any level of government is fine, of course, but this act clearly crossed a line and deserved involvement of the criminal justice system.

In a broader sense, the incident offers important reminders for the emotional political times in which we live.

First, we all should recognize and support – indeed, celebrate – the right of Americans to make their voices heard by those who represent them and to protest their government, but we also should understand civility and safety speak to the need for reasonable boundaries. Even in those places where feedback or protest is appropriate – places where elected officials conduct the people’s business, like capitols and public office buildings, and at scheduled public events at which they appear – limits on public behavior must exist.

Second, public officials are – like anyone – entitled to uninterrupted time of their own, both in their home and away from their home. Like when they are eating a meal in a restaurant.

Sioux City Journal