Giffords, Palin and the blame game

A debate erupts over what the Tucson shooting does -- and doesn't -- mean

Ethan Sherwood Strauss
January 10, 2011 12:26AM (UTC)

The Gabrielle Giffords tragedy is not an opinion vacuum -- though some pundits are proceeding with extreme caution. Some progressive voices are pointing to rhetoric from the right over the past few years that, in their view, may have  encouraged the violence in Arizona. Conservatives are responding by arguing against "politicizing" Tucson. Here's a rundown of some of the most forceful commentary from the past 24 hours:

Paul Krugman of the New York Times urges politicians to take a stand against hate:


You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate. And it’s long past time for the GOP’s leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers.

James Fallows of the Atlantic points out how violent rhetoric leads to violent actions:

We don't know why the Tucson killer did what he did. If he is like Sirhan, we'll never "understand." But we know that it has been a time of extreme, implicitly violent political rhetoric and imagery, including SarahPac's famous bulls-eye map of 20 Congressional targets to be removed -- including Rep. Giffords. It is legitimate to discuss whether there is a connection between that tone and actual outbursts of violence, whatever the motivations of this killer turn out to be. At a minimum, it will be harder for anyone to talk -- on rallies, on cable TV, in ads -- about "eliminating" opponents, or to bring rifles to political meetings, or to say "don't retreat, reload."

Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos has been mindcasting via Twitter:

If Palin's crosshair effort was excusable, why has her PAC scrubbed her site of that page?

David Weigel of Slate reminds us of some context in the gun control debate:

Last year, some Republican politicians used Second Amendment references (remember Sharron Angle and "second Amendment remedies" if Harry Reid didn't lose) and revolutionary talk to express how angry they were about the state of their country. They strongly and vehemently rejected the charge, from Democrats, that they were encouraging an atmosphere of violence -- especially in the week after the health care vote. When Giffords's opponent held a fundraiser and pitched it as "help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office, shoot a fully automatic M-16 with Jesse Kelly," Democrats saw the specter of violence, and Republicans saw political posturing.

Stephen Stromberg from the Washington Post invokes anarchy in his conclusions:


A friend and former Capitol Hill aide called me Saturday afternoon with fury in his voice as he described what every liberal -- and probably many others -- in America is currently thinking: This is the consequence of the right's sometimes martial anti-government rhetoric. This is the Second Amendment remedy.

This is all premature, and it demonstrates the capacity of instant news to imply conclusions in the absence of facts.

Matt Lewis of Politics Daily provides a sobering take on Palin's now famous cross hairs:

A few personal observations...

First, it is sad to see folks immediately politicize such a tragedy. If your first response to such an event is to think of Sarah Palin, something is wrong.

Like it or not, the sort of rhetoric and imagery employed by Palin's PAC is not terribly unusual. Politicians constantly talk about "targeting" voters -- does anyone think they want to shoot them? Political consultants tell politicians to "hunt where the ducks are," but they certainly don't mean to shoot voters. Ironically, Moulitsas has also previously urged his readers to "target" Giffords and put a "bulls eye" on her district because she "sold out the Constitution..."

Palin aide Rebecca Mansour waxes defensive in an interview with Tammy Bruce:

We have nothing whatsoever to do with this. We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights. It was simply cross-hairs like you'd see on maps… [It was] a surveyor's symbol.

John Guardiano of the Daily Caller suggests that a fellow pundit's tweeting disingenuously:


The reprehensible Matthew Yglesias of the Center for American Progress has rushed forward to try and politicize this event in a despicable attempt to score cheap political points for the far Left.

Disgustingly, Yglesias blames Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann for creating a political climate in which “violent rhetoric and imagery” apparently incite people to murder.

David Frum rips GOP's heated rhetoric but absolves it from blame in this particular instance: 

Again: this talk did not cause this crime. But this crime should summon us to some reflection on this talk. Better: This crime should summon us to a quiet collective resolution to cease this kind of talk and to cease to indulge those who engage in it.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss

MORE FROM Ethan Sherwood Strauss

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Gabrielle Giffords Republican Party Tea Parties The Republican Takeover

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