In his Washington Post column today, Charles Krauthammer delivers a solemn lecture on how terribly inappropriate it is to exploit tragedies like the Virginia Tech shootings to make a political point. The headline on the Post's front page for Krauthammer's column is "Using Grief for Political Gain," and Krauthammer begins:
What can be said about the Virginia Tech massacre? Very little. What should be said? Even less.
The lives of 32 innocents, chosen randomly and without purpose, are extinguished most brutally by a deeply disturbed gunman. With an event such as this, consisting of nothing but suffering and tragedy, the only important questions are those of theodicy, of divine justice. Unfortunately, in today's supercharged political atmosphere, there is the inevitable rush to get ideological mileage out of the carnage.
Krauthammer concludes with the same point:
Perhaps in the spirit of Obama's much-heralded post-ideological politics we can agree to observe a decent interval of respectful silence before turning ineffable evil and unfathomable grief into political fodder.
Very moving. Very elevated and moral. Good people do not use human tragedies to make political points -- certainly not without waiting "to observe a decent interval of respectful silence."
On Wednesday -- less than 48 hours after the shootings -- the same Charles Krauthammer went on Fox News to explain why the Virginia Tech shootings and the killer's "manifesto" are connected to Al Jazeera, the Palestinians and other Muslim Enemies who dominate Krauthammer's political agenda:
KRAUTHAMMER: What you can say, just -- not as a psychiatrist, but as somebody who's lived through the a past seven or eight years, is that if you look at that picture, it draws its inspiration from the manifestos, the iconic photographs of the Islamic suicide bombers over the last half decade in Palestine, in Iraq and elsewhere.
That's what they end up leaving behind, either on al Jazeera or Palestinian TV. And he, it seems, as if his inspiration for leaving the message behind in that way, might have been this kind of suicide attack, which, of course, his was. And he did leave the return address return "Ismail Ax." "Ismail Ax." I suspect it has some more to do with Islamic terror and the inspiration than it does with the opening line of Moby Dick.
What can one even say about a person this dishonest? While many individuals on both sides of the gun control issue quickly sought to depict these shootings as evidence of the rightness of their views, at least that issue has a clear connection to this incident.
But I don't think that anyone exploited these shootings as crassly or as manipulatively -- or as quickly -- as Krauthammer did in order to link it to their own personal political agenda transparently remote from the actual incident. Is there a single individual anywhere who exploited these shootings more shamelessly for political gain than the person who ran on television before any facts were known to blame it on Al Jazeera, the Palestinians and the whole slew of Arab enemies that have long been his primary obsession?
I really always wonder in such cases -- when Krauthammer went to write his column sternly lecturing all of us about how wrong it is to try to use the VT shootings to make political points, does he (a) somehow block out of his brain that, the very day before, he engaged in that exact behavior more extremely than virtually anyone else on the planet, or, does he (b) realize that he is stridently condemning the very behavior he engaged in most flamboyantly but proceed with the lecture anyway?
Shouldn't the most minimal amounts of shame and basic self-awareness (if nothing else) prevent such transparent dishonesty? Then again, Krauthammer is one of our most revered pundits, with perches in the Post, Time Magazine, and Fox News. So why should he believe there is anything wrong with rank dishonesty of this sort? He has been lavishly rewarded for it.
Even in the Post column itself today, sandwiched between the opening paragraph and the conclusion -- both of which solemnly condemn political exploitation of these shootings -- is one paragraph after the next in which Krauthammer does exactly that.
First he notes that "stricter [gun] controls could also keep guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens using them in self-defense." Then he proceeds to blame the shootings on our refusal to lock up huge numbers of individuals whom we deem in advance to be "crazy" (a policy Krauthammer says is a "humane decision, but with the inevitable consequence that some who really need quarantine are allowed to roam the streets").
Then he spends the next several paragraphs attacking Barack Obama's speech on the Virginia Tech shootings by citing the selected excerpts churned out earlier this week by The Politico's Ben Smith and Matt Drudge. You see, according to Charles "The-Palestinians-and-Al-Jazeera-Inspired-the-VT-Shooter" Krauthammer, "it is simply dismaying that a serious presidential candidate should use [the shootings] as the ideological frame for his set-piece issues."
Among our media stars, few pundits command as much respect and admiration as Charles Krauthammer does. And behavior like this -- which is far from new for him -- does absolutely nothing to change that in any way.