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Tucson Shooting Tragedy: Why It's Foolish To Blame Sarah Palin, Political Rhetoric, Or A Lack Of Gun Laws For Jared Loughner


It began within minutes of Saturday's horrifying shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, even before the gunman, Jared Lee Loughner was identified. The left and much of the mainstream media quickly wrote the narrative: Right wing political rhetoric is to blame for the Tucson shooting.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and other left wing media darlings like Paul Krugman claimed heated political rhetoric created a climate of hate.

Typical of the accusations made by the Left, Democracy Now, wrote:

"How many other people? How many other demented people are out there? It looks like Palin, Beck, Sharron Angle and the rest got their first target. Their wish for Second Amendment activism has been fulfilled — senseless hatred leading to murder, lunatic fringe anarchism, subscribed to by John Boehner, mainstream rebels with vengeance for all, even nine-year-old girls."

Palin to Blame?

Here is more rationalization made by the Left (such as Keith Olbermann) - Sarahsarah palin crosshairs Palin was responsible for the Tucson shooting because she posted a map with crosshairs targeting the Congresswoman and now the Congresswoman had been shot. The connection couldn't be clearer.

Indeed, last March, the former Alaska governor posted a map on her Facebook page with crosshair targets representing 20 Democratic lawmakers she was singling out for defeat after they voted for President Obama's health care plan. One of them was Giffords. Palin, also tweeted, "Don't retreat, RELOAD!"

The use of the crosshairs is typical of the “politics is a game of war” mentality that politicians often embrace. Even Democratic strategist, Bob Beckel admits that he has used similar symbols.  Beckel says it is "unfair" and "unhelpful" to go after Sarah Palin for her "crosshairs" map because many on the left have made similar images.

Echoing Beckel's assessment, the Democratic Leadership Council published a map similar to Palin's in 2004 that targeted key races with the caption: "BEHIND ENEMY LINES."

In response to these allegations, Palin said "irresponsible" news pundits created a "Blood libel” by attempting to draw a connection between Palin's campaign rhetoric and the Tucson shootings.

Palin added more fuel to an already raging fire. Blood libel has an ugly historical context. Blood libel is the centuries-old anti-Semitic myth that Jews use the blood of Christian children for rituals such as baking unleavened bread during Passover. It was used to justify persecution of Jews.

So was she wrong to use this phrase? No, according to Rabbi Boteach, who said that Sarah Palin has every right to use it. The expression may be used whenever an amorphous mass is collectively accused of being murderers or accessories to murder.

A Distorted Mind To Blame

One week after the shooting, it's not merely enough to have an opinion on Jared Loughner's actions, we need to have a stance on Sarah Palin's potential influence on the event, on her use of the phrase "blood libel," on Arizona gun laws and their possible reformation.

With so many voices shouting, the core issue — whether Loughner was cognizant of his actions or whether he is mentally ill — is left in the dust.

In an interview with "Good Morning America" earlier this week, Loughner's high school friend Zach Osler sobbed tears of regret over not being able to intervene before the tragedy. During his breakdown, Osler insisted that Loughner did not watch TV. "He disliked the news. He didn't listen to political radio. He didn't take sides. He wasn't on the left. He wasn't on the right," Osler pleaded.


Based on Loghner’s own writings and his Youtube clips, evidence shows that he is a schizophrenic, someone that was completely wrapped up in his delusional world of lucid dreams and government mind control. It appears that Loughner’s warped mind could barely process, let alone act upon, right wing rhetoric.

Thus, is it fair to put Sarah Palin in the cross hairs of her own cross hairs? Should federal prosecutors subpoena four rockers from Dallas (Drowning Pool) for writing a song with repetition of the phrase "Let the bodies hit the floor" — a song that Loughner used to soundtrack one of his YouTube videos? Moreover, should YouTube have censored the whole video, which depicts a hooded figure burning an American flag?

History’s Lessons

The claim that political rhetoric caused the Tucson shootings advocated by Paul Krugman and other liberals seems even more ridiculous when one examines politician assassinations in historical context.

No American with a memory can honestly suggest that today's political divisions count as more toxic than 10 years ago -- when a majority of Democrats questioned President George W. Bush's very legitimacy as president, or the late '90s when Republicans mobilized a determined effort to drive President Bill Clinton from office through impeachment.

Moreover, where is the evidence that bitter political divisions produce murder?

The national murder rate has fallen precipitously in precisely the period (the administrations of Clinton, Bush and Obama) associated with ferocious partisan warfare and even (in 1995, the beginning of the plunge) an unprecedented government shutdown.

Nor did other past periods of nasty debate produce assassinations. The McCarthy era resounded with charges of treason, espionage, disloyalty, demagoguery and cover-ups, but no major shootings of public figures.

Even earlier, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams battled each other in 1800 in what many historians consider the nastiest, most divisive presidential battle in all of American history, but well-armed Americans attempted no assassination of a president until more than a quarter century later (when a delusional loser named Richard Lawrence -- sound familiar? -- tried to kill Andrew Jackson). Also, Lawrence, just like Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner, was forcibly subdued and beaten to the ground.

In 1884, Republican presidential candidate James G. Blaine and Democratic nominee Grover Cleveland fought through an epic orgy of mudslinging featuring charges (true, as it turned out) of an illegitimate daughter and financial corruption; neither individual nor any members of their administration faced crazed shooters.

Indeed, political killings often occur in relatively placid political climates of consensus -- as with the assassinations of two popular young centrist presidents, James A. Garfield (1881) and John F. Kennedy (1963), following close elections in 1880 and 1960 when the major candidates (all of them widely admired war heroes) largely agreed on issues.

Despite the current attempts to blame partisanship and polarization for a (nonexistent) "rising tide of violence," the evidence of history is clear: Fierce rhetoric doesn't cause shootings, any more than moderate, consensus politics guarantees safety for our public figures.

What is amazing about the Tucson shooting is how rare such attempts are in the United States. It marked only the fifth assassination attempt on a politician serving in Congress. Giffords was one of nine members of the legislative body who have been the victim of such violence while representing constituents. Giffords is the first woman to have an attempt made on her life while in Congress.

The official records of the House of Representatives mark four other times in which Congressmen were severely hurt or killed by violence. These facts hardly suggest a rising tide of violence upon our legislators.

The People Speak Out

Even the American people understand what the partisan left refuse to do.  In a recent Quinnipiac poll, 23 percent blame the shooting on the mental health system, while 15 percent say it was due to heated political rhetoric and 9 percent attribute the tragedy to lax gun control. [...]

"Americans seem to be rejecting the blame game for the Arizona shooting. By far, the largest number thinks this tragedy could not have been prevented," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Although a bare majority of voters say political rhetoric might drive unstable people to violence, less than one in seven blame it for the Arizona incident.'

Even if the media refuses to let go of the notion that our current political climate acts as a catalyst for violence, hopefully our politicians will. The Tucson shooting could not have been prevented by more gun control restrictions, laws forbidding people to threaten lawmakers, or any other regulations. Sometimes senseless violence is random, and unavoidable.

Contact Erik Uliasz at euliasz@philly2philly.com