January 11th, 2011
Victor Davis Hanson, The Washington Times
Very few Americans are fans of both The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf, as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, the purported Tucson killer, apparently was. Fewer still post on the Internet fears about “brainwashing,” “mind control,” and “conscience dreaming”; have long records of public disruption and aberrant behavior; were expelled from community college; or were rejected summarily for military service.
No matter. Almost immediately following Mr. Loughner’s cowardly killing of six and wounding of 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, pundits and some public figures rushed to locate his rampage, together with his paranoid rantings about government control, within the larger landscape of right-wing politics – especially the rhetoric of the Tea Party and Sarah Palin.
Apparently, we are supposed to believe that Mr. Loughner’s unhinged rants about the “government” indict those who express reasonable reservations about the size of government as veritable accessories to mass murder. The three worst offenders were Paul Daly of the New York Daily News, who claimed just that in an essay with the raging headline “The blood of Congresswoman Giffords was on Sarah Palin’s hands”; the ubiquitous Paul Krugman, who connected Mr. Loughner to the supposedly Republican-created “climate of hate”; and Andrew Sullivan, who thought he saw yet another avenue through which to further his own blind antipathy toward Mrs. Palin and “the Palin forces.” In their warped syllogism, the Tea Party unquestionably creates hatred; a congresswomen was shot out of hatred; ergo, the Tea Party and/or the Republican Party all but pulled the trigger…
There is much talk that Mrs. Palin’s “cross hairs” ad pushed Mr. Loughner over the edge. But if sloppy use of gun metaphors can drive anyone to shoot congressional representatives, think what we are up against when the president of the United States invokes violent imagery to galvanize his supporters. What are we to make of President Obama’s warning of “hand-to-hand combat” if the Republicans take over or of his comment that one of his supporters could “tear [Sean Hannity] up” or his “Untouchables” boast that “if they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun” or his advice to supporters of his presidential campaign to argue with Republicans and independents and “get in their face”?
Why would a president boast about figuring out “whose ass to kick” or, in a climate of fear about terrorism, call his opponents “hostage takers”? In a post-Sept. 11 world, is it prudent for the commander in chief to say of his political opponents, “Here’s the problem: It’s almost like they’ve got – they’ve got a bomb strapped to them and they’ve got their hand on the trigger. You don’t want them to blow up”? What about, “But you’ve got to kind of talk to them, ease that finger off the trigger”?
Also, in a political twofer, Mr. Obama once not only evoked gun imagery, but did so in a context of relegating Republicans to second-class citizenry: “We can’t have special interests sitting shotgun. We gotta have middle class families up in front. We don’t mind the Republicans joining us. They can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back.”