Assigning Blame: Footsoldiers and Generals of Extremism

It’s like clockwork. Every time some tragedy occurs, the finger-pointing begins. But this time, there’s a chance for real change, and we should take it, and avoid distractions along the way.

Following Saturday’s shooting in Arizona, the debate has settled (as it should) not on assigning blame for the actual shooting, but on the political climate that makes this tragedy not an unexpected disaster, but something for which many of us have been, well, holding our breath.

The blame for that climate unequivocally lies on one side of the political spectrum. The right. Not all of you guys. No, certainly not, and I mean that earnestly. But visible elements of the conservative movement have cultivated, and shown no real interest in restraining or atoning for, a very real and growing extremist movement, one that’s in constant danger of co-opting, or at least subsuming, the mainstream conservative message. Yesterday, we noted a few of the more egregious examples (e.g., Bachmann’s “Second Amendment remedies”), but Glenn Beck’s conversation with Sarah Palin, described yesterday, makes the point:

Sarah, as you know, peace is always the answer. I know you are feeling the same heat, if not much more on this. I want you to know you have my support. But please look into protection for your family. An attempt on you could bring the republic down.

This dramatizing of politics, suffusing each moment with some millennial importance, matched with concomitant warnings of and exhortations to violence, is dangerous. At the least, it is irresponsible. And now is precisely the time to say so.

There’s no real answer to this account. At least, in its frenzied, over-reactive defense, the right has made none, choosing to deflect blame by making a story out of whatever tacky thing Markos Moulitsas says, and assembling every out of line tweet, blog post, and campaign sign by every Democratic-leaning operative since 2000 (this task, as always, dutifully discharged by Michelle Malkin [no link]) to give the illusion that incivility is equally balanced.

But none of this meets our central thesis. Neither a Code Pink protester (nor your run-of-the-mill tea partier, for that matter) is the equivalent of a sitting congresswoman, a former vice presidential candidate, and the first-through-third most listened to talk radio hosts in the nation. Grassroots extremism is one thing, and no-one can be called to task for it. Coordinated top-down demagoguery, built to derail the national discourse and supplant it with conspiracy theories, distortions, hysteria, and threats, is quite another. Who can look at a “BUSH = HITLER” sign, then at Sarah Palin claiming Barack Obama will kill her baby, and expect them to have equal effects on public discourse? This is a farce.

We need to have a serious discussion about political morality in this country. If this tragedy provides the opening, then at least something good will have come from it. But by actively hindering a necessary, cathartic discourse, Republicans and conservatives alike will do nothing but ensure that the next time tragedy strikes, they may not be as easily able to avoid direct blame. At the least, they’ll forfeit whatever seriousness and moral authority the movement ever had.

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87 comments

  1. Sadly nothing will likely come of this. Because the attempt has successfully been made to equate Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann with various random bloggers (sorry markos but in this one you don’t count much more than me).

    I really do not know what it will take to make us wake up in this country.

  2. It’s really sad. And remarkable that the right gets away with this.

  3. Can you confirm that any of the mass killings (including this one) were the result of a sane person being turned to violence by political rhetoric?

  4. Do you think that’s the point?

  5. This comment seems to imply that:

    “…the political climate that makes this tragedy not an unexpected disaster..”

    You direct inference is that you expected this climate to cause mass killings. Since you’re making this statement in the wake of a mass killing you seem to be linking the two. So, can you back up that assertion?

  6. Oklahoma City?

  7. I have no idea what you are talking about mentioning OKC other than it was another example of someone who was insane killing a lot of people.

    Unless you can demonstrate that conservative political discourse has actually caused someone to go insane and kill people your entire premise is flawed.

    And I just have to say for the record, and I hope other commentors will agree with me, that the exploitation of this incident to score political points is shameful.

  8. Did you miss the entire first paragraph?

    Following Saturday’s shooting in Arizona, the debate has settled (as it should) not on assigning blame for the actual shooting, but on the political climate that makes this tragedy not an unexpected disaster, but something for which many of us have been, well, holding our breath.

  9. Yes – and I quoted it above but I still have no idea what that means. Are you even reading my comments? Are you drunk?

  10. HAHA. Sure, why not. I guess I just don’t see where you’re going awry. But, here:

    • Pervasive, extremist, violent rhetoric exists on the right wing.
    • It did not cause this incident.
    • But it could cause another.
    • Separately and without regard to causation, it is a dangerous and irresponsible way to practice politics.

    Apparently coding HTML and practicing law drunk,

    ACG

    1. So conservative rhetoric had absolutely nothing to do with this incident and caused no other similar incident in recent US history and yet now is the time to talk about how the Right should tone things down because maybe, just maybe, they will turn a sane person insane in the future?

      Really?

    2. Point four saves all of the above on its own. Doesn’t it? Are you happy with how the right’s demagogues have coopted the national debate? Do you think people like Bachmann, Palin, Beck, etc., are good role models, good thought leaders, deserving of the large role they play? And if not, why won’t you say so? Because you shouldn’t? Because it would entail some cognitive dissonance? That’s really not good enough.

      Next, the notion that inflammatory rhetoric can cause violence, and should be the subject of private restraint, is really not that far afield at all. It’s been a staple of law and politics for years, and forms a basic expectation of decency. But if you really need an example of how what starts with words can end with guns, why not the Civil War? Why not the McCarthy era?

      1. The point isn’t whether or not the political discourse should be toned down. The point is that you are linking two unrelated things (political discourse and a mass murder) as a means of exploiting a tragedy for political gain. Since you can’t demonstrate political discourse is linked to this shooting you shouldn’t be inferring that they are.

        Also, the Civil War…really? You’re contending that if only Southerners and Northerners had talked more civil to each other we could have avoided war?

      2. So your thesis is that, because violent rhetoric hasn’t translated to violent action in a situation clearly attributable to the American right, it never will, and talking about killing the President, open revolt, toting guns to anti-Obama rallies, etc., is totally cool, and not worrying at all. Right?

        1. My thesis is that in the last 100 years you would be hard-pressed to find one example of a sane person who becomes insane and resorts to violence based on political discourse. So, no, I don’t think it’s very likely.

          And even if it was a very real possibility and I agreed with you 100% that we should pressure political figures to chill out…it STILL has nothing to do with the shooting and AZ and you’ve still failed to provide a reaon why they should be linked.

          1. The use of violence is not necessarily in itself a sign of insanity. So there’s still the risk that a sane, but politically extreme person would be inspired to resort to violence.

            1. You’re right, it’s probably a poor choice of words. I would revise that to say that no mentally stable person is going to become unstable because of political rhetoric. Because of Ames’ blogging, maybe.

        2. This is an opportunity for constructive dialogue. You’d deny that… why?

          This is exactly what I’m talking about, too. You’re changing the question, and insisting on an impossible quantum of proof, just to avoid admitting that the poisonous state of political discourse in this country is perpetuated by elements of the right and irresponsible.

          1. And 9/11 was an opportunity for regime change in Iraq…fair linkage?

          2. And seriously Ames – we’re all smart folks around here. Don’t play us for fools. You have ZERO interest in ‘constructive dialogue’. If you did your opening salvo wouldn’t be, “The blame for that climate unequivocally lies on one side of the political spectrum. The right.”

          3. Do you imagine it lies elsewhere? I’m just calling a spade a spade. Only one side of the political spectrum is, right now, persistently extremist, uncivil, and violent, all the way up to and including its leadership. Period. That’s just *true.* I’d welcome respectful debate and clash on the issues. You’ve seen that desire every day on this blog. The fact is the Republican Party has never been willing to give it, while this site’s been operational.

            And an excuse to start a war is, umm, pretty different than an excuse to raise the level of public discourse. Only one results in people dying, see?

            1. So you admit that really the two things have nothing in common and instead you are using this as an ‘excuse’ (your word, not mine)to cover a completely different topic. That’s opportunism Ames. I don’t think that’s unusual for you but certainly I hoped for better in the wake of six murders.

              As for civil discourse, have you had luck in the past with persuading someone to come around to your line of thinking when you start the conversation by blaming everything on them?

            2. Haha cute. No. Outbreaks of violence are a time to talk about the causes of outbreaks of violence, past present and future.

              I’m not blaming you. Is that your whole thing with this? I very clearly carved out the good guys, and I had you in mind when I did this, from the parts of your broader intellectual movement disproportionately responsible for this toxic atmosphere. I’m giving you a chance to say what I expect to be true, that you’re better than them, and you’re not taking it. I’m not saying you’re identical to the bad guys: I’m saying bad guys exist, and positive elements of conservatism could and should check them. Why won’t you rise to the challenge?

              1. So far you haven’t ben able to prove that political discourse has caused violence in the past or present. Now we’re talking about the future… can we add flying cars into that discussion?

                How can I rise to the challenge with mediocre blog traffic, no media attention and no ability to influence legislation? By your criteria I am very tiny cog in the big, bad, GOP machine.

                And if you want to ‘carve out exceptions’ try not to use broad words like ‘the Right’.

              2. Every little bit counts. Change starts with the smallest person saying, “I’m tired of this #&*%&.” Smallscale traffic is an even worse excuse!

                1. Then I’m sure you’ll contribute towards civil political discourse by writing a post condemning burning Palin in effigy in 2008. And maybe you could try to make it a post where you don’t give a backhanded endorsement to the feeling of relief felt by Democrats in 2008.

    3. Why are these guys the only two?

      [JOE] SCARBOROUGH: I am just saying though, I mean, God, you’ve worked for two presidents. Would you not be in there if you were working for Sarah Palin right now, saying, go out and say it had nothing to do with this shooting, but you understand that it was irresponsible, and you’re going to be more careful moving forward. Wouldn’t you give her that advice if you were her aide?

      PAT [BUCHANAN]: Well, I certainly would. I would give everybody the advice to tone down the rhetoric and get away from military and the armed metaphors and things that a lot of us have used in campaigns, especially at a time like this. You know, I sure would Joe.

      1. I liked Frum’s response, which is what I can agree with.

        “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.”

        1. Let’s supose the exact same incident happened but a US Congresswoman was not involved. Just 6 average people murdered at a mall. Would it still be logical to have this conversation?

          The point remains that this involuntary ‘debate’ wasn’t started organically. It was hoisted on the blogosphere and the media by the Left. There is no linkage between conservative political rhetoric and this shooting but yet here we are talking about it. The necessity of the debate is irrelevant. What’s much more important in my mind is the political opportunism that the Left has exhibited by linking two unrelated things in an attempt to make the Right look bad.

    4. And hey! The National Review agrees with me!

      I would like to be able to say that the real reason to ratchet down the rhetoric is to bring it more in line with reality, not because it leads to murder. Yet, again, I recognize that for most people, their rhetoric is their reality. Nevertheless, it can’t hurt to scrutinize our speech for its conformity to the truth.

      1. Those are both good examples Ames – but they STILL don’t explain why you are linking the shooting to poltical rhetoric.

  11. As I argued in the other thread, I think this debate about rhetorics is unhelpful at best, because it obscures the real debate that should be taking place: Why didn’t that man get the help he obviously needed before something like this could happen?

    1. I agree with you (again) 100% Lanfranc. Instead of being able to discuss the mental health failure here conservatives are expending a lot of energy trying to defend themselves from political opportunism.

      It’s unfortunate that the system failed both him and the victims. As someone else wrote earlier today on another blog, mental health policy still seems to be in the dark ages.

    2. I’m probably just posting this to be somewhat incendiary to Mike’s point.

      “First you rile up psychotics with inflammatory language about tyranny, betrayal, and taking back the country. Then you make easy for them to get guns. But if you really want trouble, you should also make it hard for them to get treatment for mental illness. I don’t know if Loughner had health insurance, but he falls into a pool of people who often go uninsured—not young enough to be covered by parents, not old enough for Medicare, not poor enough for Medicaid.” http://www.slate.com/id/2280711/

  12. I don’t disagree with that; in fact, I think that’s probably one of the policy lessons to come out of it all. But also my thing.

  13. But wouldn’t it be better to focus on that which actually happened, and its causes, rather than something which may or may not happen in the indeterminate future?

    1. I don’t think they’re exclusive. I expect policymakers will take up that challenge, but if there’s a chance to realign national politics, that’s something worth doing, because it implies substantive success down the line.

      1. And by ‘re-align national politics’ you mean, “Get the GOP to talk nicer about liberals,”…right?

      2. I’m not really so worried about niceness. I’m worried about *actual threats* that if ballots don’t work, bullets will. Which have happened. Regularly. For a few years now.

    2. Lanfranc – I was Googling other mass killings in the US earlier today. It’s hard to find any real rhyme or reason in causation. Simply, they were all clearly mentally unstable. The question then becomes, as you have pointed out, prevention. Giving the facts as we know them now, where do you think the system broke down? Do you think this have been as likely under European law?

      1. That’s hard to say, not least because I’m not too familiar with how the system works in the US (or I guess it even differs among the states).

        What would most likely have happened around here is that once the police became aware of his situation, they would have contacted his general practitioner and the local psychiatric centre. They would have evaluated his case and probably had him committed to a hospital, compulsorily if necessary. These things work somewhat more smoothly here, since there’s only one system and no insurance or anything involved.

        That’s not to say our systems are perefect, though. Lots of patients fall through the cracks, and there was even a similar case a few years ago when the Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh was killed by an unstable person. It is difficult to predict these things.

        1. There’s also a lot of people that completely drop off the radar OR mask the symptoms really well. This guy seems to have exhibited some red flags but I don’t know that any of them were enough to justify his commital under American law.

  14. As others have pointed out elsewhere, it’s perfectly possible that the shooter was both mentally unstable *and* encouraged by the violent political rhetoric used by the right wing. Schizophrenics do not exist in a vacuum.

    Conservatives have been openly talking about how Obama is deliberately hurting the country, how “2nd Amandnent” solutions are the answer, and making veiled threats of violence for years now. Why are they shocked and horrified by this shooting?

    1. I assume it’s because the two subjects have nothing to do with one another…

      1. Sharron Angle’s Second Amendment solution was, what? Distract legislators with cute kittens and puppies while Tea Party activists sneak into Congress and sit down in the seats, thereby taking over?

        Gosh, I guess I just misunderstood what everyone was talking about.

        1. So Angle’s speeches caused the shooting in AZ?

          1. I don’t know how you can say that one persons words “cause” another persons actions in the sense of cause and effect.

            Are you really saying that the radio broadcasters that called Tutsis “cockroaches” that needed to be “eliminated” during the Rwandan genocide bear no responsibility for their words? After all, they committed no act of violence themselves.

            I do know that if this had been a shooting in a mall with no political context, but in an environment where right-wing media personalities had been talking about how people that shopped at the mall were deliberately trying to destroy the American economy and had conservative pundits been talking about how they should go down to the mall and start shooting shoppers, we’d still be having this same discussion.

      2. Angle’s Constitution substitutes an amendment about hugging for the one we know as the Second, clearly.

  15. Changing the question –> avoiding the issue. Again. Did you think Angle’s comment was on the level?

    1. I think some of what Angle said was unfortunate. Do you think it caused the shooting in AZ?

  16. And of course AMes – I’m sure you will condemn incidents like this one, right?

  17. I’m pulling my response down here. Yes, of course. Well, now this event is untimely. But the post right after this one is me saying, “HuffPo crossed a line and realized it, good for them.” Did you see that one yet?

    1. So are the HuffPost piece and the Palin effigy (not to mention all the Bush burning from 2000-2008) symptoms of a violent and extremist Left?

  18. See supra the entire post. A bunch of campaign workers are not, together, Sarah Palin. And we all know HuffPo is crazy. Set it against The Corner, say, and it “knocks out.” And, HuffPo apologized. Sarah Palin’s doubled down.

    1. Don’t minimize campaign workers Ames. After all, “…Change starts with the smallest person.” Certainly they are representative of larger liberalism…no?

  19. My actual thoughts:
    Incidents such as these bring up several valid conversation and debatable conversations about Gun laws, mental illness, and yes I’m sorry, whether violent political discourse has an affect in our society. Because I do think, when people on a daily basis talk and threaten government officials explicitly with guns (and not vodoo curses of effigies), it may normalize that behavior for some.

    When something bad happens in our society, it’s kind of our job to look into it and try to figure out how, if possible, we could prevent this. It doesn’t mean there is one right answer, it doesn’t mean that there are not multiple factors, but we should talk about all the things that led to this.

    Now, what people are essentially saying in response to the shooting is: “Hey everyone, let’s just try to be polite”, it isn’t that objectionable Mike.

    And I personally do think there has been too much finger pointing in general. Because it makes conservatives and somewhat yourself,react defensively. Where many conservatives now say, “NO FUCK YOU I WON”T BE POLITE, STOP BLAMING ME, IT”S NOT MY PROBLEM, OMG YOU DID SOMETHING SIMILAR THIS ONE TIME, IF I WANT TO TALK ABOUT KILLING PEOPLE GOD DAMN RIGHT I WILL”

    And the whole effort of trying to better the discourse is down the drain.

    What I’ve said in one of my few blog posts, is in actuality, let’s just forget about blaming everyone. Right or left.

    Let’s just go ahead and say, everyone cool it. Across the board. Whether you burning effigies of Palin or shooting m-16’s in the air. For the sake of decorum and not just not hating each other, to be able to work together and get stuff done. It might makes things a little better. And if it doesn’t affect anything? So what?! I still think there are benefits to a more rational and reasonable discourse.

    1. I think a debate about gun rights or mental health issues is appropriate in the wake of the AZ shootings. In another time a debate on political discourse would also be appropriate. The problem is that debating THAT topic at THIS time is not responsible but opportunism. The issues aren’t linked. This killing was not motivated by political discourse. To hold these discussions in unison is about trying to create an artificial linkage in the minds of the public.

      On a micro level, Ames knows what he is doing. He knows that A did not lead to B but instead he would rather focus on B because it gives him an opportunity to blame everything on the Right.

    2. Hooray for summaries that prove me right!!!

      I disclaimed a link between A and B. And explained why it’s appropriate to discuss A regardless of the lack of linkage. But you seem incapable of discussing A, except to point out pitifully tiny instances of left wing hysteria which, when asked, I gleefully identify as also unacceptable. Your unwillingness to engage in A speaks volumes.

      1. I’m unwilling to discuss the tone of political discourse in the context of a post that also covers the AZ shootings. The linkage is implied and a NYU graduate should be smart enough to see that. If you want to edit this post to cover one topic or the other, we can discuss ad nauseum. So long as they are linked I am not going to play your game Ames. Your politics are painfully transparent.

      2. So you won’t discuss a matter of national concern until I apologize for impliedly hurting your feelings?

        1. You’ve already admitted there is no linkage between the two. We also both know your linkage was a deliberate attempt to score cheap political points. If you want to debate this ‘important matter of national security’ then start a clean post and i’ll be happy to join in. Otherwise I have no interest Ames.

  20. Grassroots extremism is one thing, and no-one can be called to task for it. Coordinated top-down demagoguery, built to derail the national discourse and supplant it with conspiracy theories, distortions, hysteria, and threats, is quite another.

    Isn’t grassroots extremism a sign that the national discourse has already been supplanted with conspiracy theories, distortions, hysteria, and threats to such a degree that coordinated top-down efforts are unnecessary for one side? I think you’re minimizing something you shouldn’t be.

    And oneiroi, burning people in effigy has a long and venerable history in this country and worldwide. Shooting guns in the air is just being criminally reckless (here in Virginia, there’s even a Class 1 Misdemeanor, Reckless Handling of Firearms, that covers it specifically – and that’s if you luck out and nobody gets hurt by your endangering them).

    1. I mean, in the first part of what I said, I did try to differentiate the symbolism versus active threat.

      I’d much rather someone symbolically burning my image on my front lawn, than someone waving a gun around saying, “Oh, I might possibly want to come in your house and use this on you because I disagree with you”.

  21. Here’s a couple of cases where inflammatory rhetoric has, at the least, influenced would-be assassins’ choice of targets:

    Jim Adkisson, the Knoxville Church shooter in 2009 called his actions a “symbolic killing”… of “every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg’s book…”

    Then there’s Byron Williams, who decided after listening to Glenn Beck’s crazy conspiracy theorizing that it would be a great idea to shoot up the Tides Foundation in Oakland.

    Contra Mike, it’s not whether right-wing bombast and bullshit will make stable people go crazy that’s relevant; what’s relevant is whether right-wing bombast and bullshit will make crazy people go shoot other people. And that at least has, demonstrably, happened.

    1. Erik – as Ross Douthat put it, “We can’t allow political discourse to be held hostage by schizophrenics.”

      1. Do you really think Glenn Beck’s hysterical rants, or Goldberg’s list of the 100 most dangerous liberals in America, counts as “discourse”?

        If so, then I will have to disagree with the execrable Douthat in this instance; I think that the only political discourse worth having is one open to intellectually honest dialog between multiple parties, some of whom may disagree with others.

    2. Nor can we let schizophrenia provide a basis to defend that which is otherwise indefensible.

      1. Ames, i’m curious, other than the fact that it possibly intimidates liberals, what actual harm is done by harsh rhetoric? You haven’t demonstrated that it causes murders, so then what are the negative effects?

        1. what actual harm is done by harsh rhetoric? You haven’t demonstrated that it causes murders

          Well, given that “harsh rhetoric” (which, by the way, is quite the euphemism for the vitriolic gibberings that recently characterize the popularized Right) caused at least in part the Knoxville shootings, and the Tiller murder, and what would have been a massacre at the Tides foundation, there’s that. But suppose this weren’t the case.

          so then what are the negative effects?

          One: You can’t argue with someone who believes that the gummint is gonna kill their babies and harvest their organs and also make Granny sign up for a Soylent Green FEMA camp. Two… actually, that’s pretty much enough, isn’t it?

        2. I’m kind of wondering what you’re looking for.

          So first off, anyone who goes it alone, kills innocents, is insane. I agree. Your Loughner & Timothy McVeigh. Even if they physically did what some conservatives reference, revolution, second amendment solutions to problems. Maybe they could play video games and get the same idea in their heads, you’re right. So I guess, the question is, when could it be done and not just be the work of a crazy person?

          If it’s a group of people acting violently and not killing innocents? So the anti-government Christian militia group that was planning to kill policemen to start a revolution? I mean, police are not strictly civilians and it’s a group of people and not a single gunman. Was that a group that was “legitimately” riled up to revolution because that’s where the political discourse is? I don’t know but…

          Please tell me if I’m wrong, and that America is exempt from doing this stuff, I really hope so. Because every example in history I’ve ever seen, violence, coups, revolution, all begins with a mounting of a group who feels wronged and disenfranchised, who arms themselves, talk about unseating the current government, and begin acting in that way. That’s what conservatives threaten. I’m not saying that we should outlaw the things they say, or that this is their path, but how do you expect Democrats and liberals to react? What do you want? Especially if they think their supposed greievances are partly contrived and exaggerated. Why shouldn’t liberals be condemning it out of a real fear that bad things could happen?

          1. I don’t think that Timothy McVigh was insane, in the pathological sense. It’s one thing to grab a gun and go out and shoot some people, but planning and building a bomb on the scale of Oklahoma City requires a level of coherence that a truly mentally ill person probably couldn’t muster.

      2. Are we about to debate whether incivility and violent rhetoric is bad?

        1. Soon as you get that new post going. We can also cover the shadiness of trying to link random acts of psychopathic violence with the political discourse of a specific party.

        2. Lanfranc and I already started that debate on your post yesterday.

  22. A friend of mine posted this last night and I think it is the most accurate analysis I have read in quiet some time.

    http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blog/2011/01/11/be-the-change-you-want-to-see/

    An exerpt:

    “The “debate over debate” that has arisen in the wake of the tragic assassination attempt of Congresswoman Giffords in Arizona on Saturday, which left 6 dead, including a 9 year old girl, a federal judge, and a bride-to-be has been, and sadly continues to be, perhaps the most childish and depressing debate I’ve seen in my nearly four years as a blogger. The victims, rather than being remembered and honored, are being used as cudgels and footballs to prove a point about how the other teams are more evil than one’s own team.

    But then those clues turned out to be wrong. The narrative initially put forth by Teams Blue and Purple, however, changed only slightly. For the most part – albeit with some definite exceptions – they backed away from suggesting that Team Red’s prior bad acts inspired and directly caused this horror. But they only retreated so far as to say – without any direct evidence – that the killings could be blamed on the “rhetorical climate,” which of course was primarily in their view a function of Team Red; somehow they failed to see how this was indistinguishable from blaming Team Red for the tragedy. They demanded that Team Red put an end to its ways even as they largely or half-heartedly declined to acknowledge their own role in creating the “rhetorical climate.” In the alternative, they insisted that this attack was simply an example of what could happen if Team Red didn’t change the “rhetorical climate,” ignoring of course their own contributions to that climate and placing the responsibility for correcting that climate solely on Team Red.

    Meanwhile, six people lay dead, including a 9 year old girl who just wanted to see how democracy worked. Two incredibly brave parents stand grieving and harboring no desire to blame anyone, and interested only in remembering their daughter with respect and adoration.

    If we in fact are interested in improving the quality of tone and debate in this country, then we have to first commit to improving the quality of our own individual tone and debate rather than demanding that everyone else first do the same, and definitely rather than demanding that everyone else accept blame for everything they’ve done in the past.

    Let us focus instead on honoring, remembering, and respecting the victims of this unspeakable act. Let us not dishonor them by pretending that it is we who were and are the real victims.”

    I’m going to take Mark’s advice and move on past the insanity of the last couple of days. There are appropriate and relevant discussions to have and there are manufactured and pointless discussions that have replaced them. I choose the former.

  23. One can accept a need to fix a larger, related problem even if it had no bearing on a present tragedy. In fact, choosing to do so is the essence of personal responsibility.

    For example, regardless of whether the Bush Administration should have seen 9/11 coming, right after 9/11 was an appropriate time to re-examine the intelligence community, and make sure they didn’t miss the next attack. Tragedies force unrelated failures to the forefront, in a desire to prevent their re-occurrence. I can’t apologize for Kos, etc., for trying to directly blame the attack on Palin or the climate of hate her like have created, but I can insist that his ignorance doesn’t estop me me from asking whether right-wing extremism poses a larger problem.

    1. Intelligence failures DID lead to 9/1 so it was logical to examine the entire security apparatus. Political rhetoric had nothing to do with the shootings in AZ so discussing them is opportunism and an exploitation of a tragedy for political gain. It’s amazing that you keep pretending not to see the difference.

      Let’s try it this way: A conversation about the political rhetoric in this country would be just as productive 6 weeks from now. Why can’t it wait? Can you quantify what harm would be done by squashing it now in favor of discussing it later?

  24. And when people talked about covering intelligence failures in the wake of 9/11, the White House struggled mightily to avoid the blame for them, saying, in part, that it would be “tacky.” I love that you guys are so tired of the necessity of political correctness, but demand the punctilio of it whenever necessary to cover your own behinds.

    It strikes me that six weeks worth of harm would be done in six weeks, by which time another issue will have consumed the news cycle, making this less of a priority. Let me put it another way. One summer, working for a big Texas firm, I sublet a friend’s new house in Houston. Since we were the first to live in the house, my friends and I offered to handle hooking up the cable, utilities, etc. The utilities were fine. Comcast Houston, however, refused to come hook up our service on a succession of scheduled dates, spanning three weeks, because it was raining outside, or about to rain.

    Ever been to Houston in the summer? It’s always raining, or about to rain. See what I’m getting at?

    1. Oh give it a rest Ames with the chicken little nonsense Ames. No harm is going to be done if this issue is tabled.

      But anyway, I’m talking about right here on this blog, not on the national stage. If Democrats want to continue to play politics with a national tragedy that’s their choice. What YOU do is YOUR choice. I suggested giving it 6 weeks. That’s February 23, 2011. You can write the post today and WordPress will let you schedule it for that day. I’ll be happy to particpate then. You can all hold me to my word on that. But I’m not going to do it right now. That’s all I have to say on the issue.

      In the meantime, if you want to discuss more relevant topics like mental health issues, which I know very little about, or gun rights which I know a whole lot about, I’ll be happy to have that conversation.

  25. “We can talk about it later.”

    Ah, the essence of responsibility and service.

  26. “One of the great ironies of the Tucson shootings is that the initial call for everyone in America to simply talk more civilly to one another has mainly resulted in everyone in America becoming angrier and crazier.” http://www.slate.com/id/2280694/pagenum/all/

    1. It shouldn’t really be considered ironic. The calls came from the Left and were a snap reaction to the shooting of a Democrat Congresswoman. There was an assumption made that this was politically motivated and the ‘rhetoric’ of the Right was immediately blamed. Conservatives (predictably) reacted to being accused of instigating murder by going on the defense and getting pissed off.

      If we look at the root cause analysis it was the rush to blame. Have any Democrats come out and apologized for that? Not that I have heard about.

      Here’s the deal: A lot of democrats smell blood in the water. that’s why people like Ames are pressing so hard to have this discussion RIGHT NOW because they don’t want to lose the initiative. If they dropped it, the heat would die down. Then maybe we could discuss it a bit more rationally. Instead they keep pushing their agenda and then when we refuse to particpate they say it’s a symptom of how unwilling we are to change our ways. tell me though, who in the hell would want to have a ‘discussion’ over the political discourse when all the blame has already been laid at their feet?

    2. I’m going to just keep posting quotes I guess.

      “If there does come a day when the rhetoric gets so intense and so specifically threatening that someone takes it literally and commits a terrible act that is clearly based on that rhetoric, then and only then partisans on both sides can dial it back one notch. But until that day, ladies and gentlemen, my right to be angry is more important than anyone else’s right to not live in fear.”

      STEPHEN COLBERT, on The Colbert Report.

      Sounds really familiar. If people could stop being so defensive, stop making it about you, and we all agree as human beings to act like human beings, and not make it about OMG I”M A VICTIM…then we could discuss this more rationally.

    3. When I started down this road, my initial reaction was, how can I reach my goal, without creating divisiveness? How can I say, yes, let’s be cool to each other, because in actuality, our differences are not that much, and we can get along, even if it isn’t much to ask for. I can say, hey, let’s not call each other Marxist Stalinist, and not threaten to overturn the government, and reference violent overthrows. And I’ll say, hey, we won’t do anything too crazy whenever Republican get back into power. A call for reasonability!

      But you’re right, I’ll give up and say, FORGET EM. I don’t owe you anything.

      I want Obama to start talking about how all conservaives are traitors, and reference shady stuff about labeling conservatives terrorists. I mean, it’s all rhetoric, so what does it matter.

      Thanks for trying to ruin my optimism. I don’t have anything invested in my country, so…that’s cool .As long as liberals win and are right, it’s all good.

      1. AS I said MULTIPLE times – I think a discussion over the tone of political discourse is important and worthy. But it won’t be productive in this moment. What you have a situation where one side has said, “We think you caused these murders AND you are 100% to blame for the nasty political discourse in this country…now let’s talk.”

        YOUR goal was to not create divisiveness and i applaud that – but unfortunately a lot of your friends on the Left have no such interest.

        So I ask again, forget the rest of the country for a moment, in the micro-world of this blog, with all of us who have debated issues for a couple of years now, why not wait 6 weeks? Why not have that discussion when the heat has died down? Why is it so damn important that we have that discussion RIGHT NOW?

  27. […] etc., and the media’s relative silence, compared to their heightened interest in recent overwrought Republican zealotry. Why the double standard, he […]

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