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Palin, Paranoia, and Political Assassination

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I don’t know if I want to, or can, add anything that’s not already been said in the din following Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting. The act alone is jarring, though not altogether surprising—the tide of this Time Magazine article from a few months back has done nothing if not escalate.

But in the paranoic, partisan backlash that’s already occurred—dotting Facebook walls, churning HuffPo and RedState articles, turning up the bleat of talk radio ever-more—it seems as if there needs to be a measure of calm, a measure of reminder. Obama had it, when he forewent any political points in his immediate address. So did Gov. Jan Brewer. So have almost all politicians in the wake of this tragedy; Boehner, the tear-jerk, has even maintained his composure.

But barking dogs rarely lie. The media feasts on conspiracies, and since Sarah Palin had once placed the crosshairs on Giffords district, ipso facto, this hunter-cum-politician placed this little nugget of assassination in Loughner’s head. If most of the blogosphere is to be believed, her mantras of “reload!” and “second amendment first!” and “tik ar jawbs! tik ar guns!” pushed this nut over the edge and onto that stage. Which is a farce. There’s no proof that Loughner—a once-described “left wing” “pot head”—ever read or gave two cents as to what Palin or the rest of the Tea Party gun-toters said. There’s no evidence that he ever followed a single militant strain of the right. Hell, his YouTube videos instead painted him as caricature of a Ron Paul supporter—a pre-Tea Party, gold-standard-does-it kind of guy. And yet the calls for Paul’s head have been negligible.

To blame Palin or any others before a full investigation is conducted is cheap, and to pepper her wall with vitriol and accusations is misguided and myopic. But that’s not to say that those who accuse Palin and her ilk are wrong. Because, indeed, all it takes is for the least among us, that lowest common denominator, to view those words at face value. Loughner was a lone wolf in the sense of his derangement and abject hostility to anyone and anything of higher power. But that does not negate the reality that someday, one of us will look at these words and find meaning. The constant slew of guns and bullets and “Tiller the Baby Killer” will froth the pot until something, somewhere, spills, a moment in which the entire rhetoric becomes culpable.

Palin, Beck, and all the Second Amenders should look at this shooting not as a creation but as a harbinger. They could have wrought this. And now they must respond—not with condolence or mea culpa, but with veritable, measurable scaling back of what have become issues and phrases and terms too heady and martial for the common good. They must forestall any desire to bust out the ammunition and talk about taking out future opponents. They must be sedulously aware of their words and the brew they constantly stir, the cortege that chomp at their every word, and while they do not need to apologize, they need to change before any other Loughner—or McVeigh—awakes.

Of course, this probably won’t happen. Palin, to the chagrin of opponents and supporters alike, has never backed down. Her greatest trait is her sick ability to paint herself into the victim’s role—which this opportunity will present in spades. With myriads pointing their fingers at her, she can, if she wishes, wrap herself in that all-too-familiar portrait of the left’s smear campaign, of their innate hostility toward all things Tea Party. She’ll be able to prolong the conversation about her guilt/non-guilt, all the while deflecting the conversation from actual depth and turning it, yet again, toward her. (Christ, I can’t believe that this issue—a political assassination in Tuscon, Arizona—is coming back to her.)

A while back, for shits-and-giggles, I wrote a letter to a small-town newspaper in Arizona calling for calmness in the face of ratcheting anti-left, anti-Muslim, anti-logical rhetoric. I could send that letter again, and wouldn’t need to change a word; Arizona, “Tombstone,” hasn’t budged a bit. But I would add a plea to the other side of the political spectrum to breathe, wait, and put your energy toward effective response; say, strengthening gun restrictions, or introducing monitored marijuana usage, instead of pot-shotting those on the other side. Conflating coincidence with causality will not affect anything. Nor, try as we might, will strangling Sarah Palin’s Wall.

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About Casey Michel

  • Clavos

    Most of our debt increment was induced by the Bush extravagances…


    In its Monthly Budget Review for fiscal year 2010 published last October, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had this to say:

    CBO estimates that the federal budget deficit was slightly less than $1.3 trillion in fiscal year 2010 and $125 billion less than the shortfall recorded in 2009. The 2010 deficit was equal to 8.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), CBO estimates, down from 10.0 percent in 2009 (based on the most current estimate of GDP). The 2010 deficit was the second-highest shortfall, and 2009 the highest, since 1945, relative to the size of the economy. (emphasis added)

    The stimulus package alone has cost more than the Iraq war, yet it failed to even ameliorate, much less end, the recession.

    Not only is Obama spending more, he’s throwing it uselessly down a rabbit hole.

  • Boeke

    Belief has nothing to do with it, and I don’t care what you thought of Bush.

  • Zedd


    Your liberal bretheren spend less than your “conservative” ones. I would be asking myself what camp I’m on and why. That is the important point.

  • Jerry

    No evidence? OK.

    Pertaining to Bush’s spending, I vigorously opposed it during his second term, including the war. I’m just not holding my breath that my liberal brethren will have such an epiphany as I.

    Believe what you want.

  • Boeke

    Jerry presents a premise that is not in evidence:

    “I wonder if all that “Yes we can” chanting is what convinced millions of Americans to be willing to accrue a national debt that will loom for decades to come.”

    Most of our debt increment was induced by the Bush extravagances, such as tax gifts to the super-rich and expensive wars, and the yearly deficit increment was due to Bush taking his costs for vast government expansion and wars “off the books”, i.e., into the future, i.e., unrecognized debt.

    Obamas healthcare reform promised to save 100s of billions but the opposition is fighting it mightily.

  • Jerry

    Glenn States:
    “Why? Anyone who’s ever dealt with crowd control – or any preacher, for that matter – knows the power and influence the speaker has on the crowd. Once the crowd is riled up, when a man in that crowd decides to take things too far, it IS at least in part the fault of those who so influenced him”.

    I wonder if all that “Yes we can” chanting is what convinced millions of Americans to be willing to accrue a national debt that will loom for decades to come.

  • Baronius

    Clavos – It’s more accurate to say that it’s impossible for anyone to change any long-held or strongly-held belief on someone else’s schedule. No wonder so many of us get frustrated on these pages. We’re all working on each other over some ideological point or other, and we never see any results. We can’t tell how much impact these discussions might be having. Personally, I hope that Ruvy and Rose switch belief systems at the same moment because it would amuse me.

  • Clavos

    Point well taken, Irene.

  • Clavos, I see. Come to think of it, it may be more often the case that the “johnny-come-lately” adherent to a particular belief is least willing to consider other points of view, precisely BECAUSE he chose, rather than inherited, this new belief. It looks too much like a move backwards to something he considered distasteful enough to abandon in the first place.

  • Clavos

    Sorry, Irene, I wasn’t clear. I meant it’s impossible to get a faithist to admit he/she’s wrong about his/her faith, since by Zedd’s definition, they usually have grown up believing in god.

  • No, changing the “and” to “and/or” isn’t going to do the trick, I’m afraid. Changing the “,and concurrently, to God” into “and oftentimes, concurrently, to God.”

    As far as the article goes, one could’ve wished that the spirit of bipartisanship had lasted a little longer, but the divide is too deep for it to have been genuine anyway. Something more fundamental than a toning down of rhetoric will need to occur before a genuine spirit of bipartisanship arrives and stays.

    Maybe it’ll take a spirit of tripartisanship.

  • To avoid offending sensibilities, we can change the “and” in the last line to “and/or.”

  • Clavos, I’d disagree that its impossible, or even all that rare, for a person of faith to own up to being mistaken. For the Christian, for instance, the goal of a life of faith is “growing up” so that he sees people, and life in general, the way Jesus sees them. Naturally, that process involves recognizing that one was wrong about some things. I believe there are people of many faiths, as well as atheists (or, the non-superstitious, if that’s what they prefer to be called these days), who throughout their lifetimes are becoming more responsive to the dictates of their consciences, and concurrently, to God.

  • Clavos

    Absolutely! You’re right, it’s impossible to get a Democrat to own up, and faithists? — forget it!

  • Zedd


    I think you combined my two posts into one. The first post was about the loyalty that a lot of Republicans have to the party even when they have clearly become ineffective and quite frankly destructive.

    My point is that, once a person has identified themselves with a particular camp or ideology for a large part of their lives, its really difficult to admit that they were mistaken. Surely you cant argue against that.

  • Clavos

    I didn’t respond to your point Glenn, because you don’t have one; even Obama and the democratic leadership have acknowledged that Limbaugh, Beck and Palin’s pontifications had nothing to do with the incident.

    You take yourself much too seriously, Glenn — you and Zedd.

  • Clavos

    So Clav and the rest will hang on. They’ve spent too much time believing. Without this, what’s left?

    Too much time believing indeed, Zedd. I started out with the John Birch Society back in the late 50s, when I was in my teens.

    Oh, and in all that time I’ve never listened to as much as ten minutes of Limbaugh OR Beck — or any other “pundit” or newsman — on radio or TV.

    I don’t pay any attention to the broadcasting or cable types — only print, and only selectively at that. The rest have nothing I’m interested in, they don’t fit in with my misanthropy.

  • Zedd

    I’d never listened to more than 10 mins of Limbaugh. The other day I tried, really tried and I couldn’t get over how evident it is that he is either really high or drunk or high and drunk. Of course he may also be mentally ill but what was certain is no one could be that much of a liar without there being something really wrong. He would have to numb himself somehow. His ramblings were sad. In 8 minutes the poor man had me blushing to the point of near blindness. I was alone in my car and didn’t know where to look. The poor guy is clearly in trouble. He is CLEARLY unraveling in front of the nation and people listen to him, use him to feed their own desire to have someone to hate (for what ever reason). Those who agree with him need to hate the other guys. Those that dont agree with him need to hate him and his followers. The solid news outlets need him because he makes them look more serious and professional (especially since their standards have lessened).

    It was sad and scary. I didn’t make it to 10 minutes. I felt sad. This poor man who is clearly in trouble -no one behaves like that who is okay. His strangely slurring speech and his disconnected thoughts along with the paranoia and the out right lies…. It was like watching someone at the edge of a cliff while eating popcorn and waiting for what’s next.

    We really cant be upset at him. We should be afraid for him.

  • Zedd


    I think the biggest factor at work is pride. So many people who weren’t engaged in much of anything else other watching sports found relevance and believed themselves to be politically engaged by bandwagoning, first Reagan, then Newt, it went down hill from there… Limbaugh, Beck and now Palin (mix in the “Moral Majority” wackos in that timeline intermittently). For certain people, they believed the warm and fuzzies and the disdain they felt for THE LIBERALS made them civically engaged and relevant. They didn’t see the smoke and mirrors and the simple implementation of propaganda. They are now too invested and of course human nature disallows one to easily admit being WRONG and more-so being a fool.

    So Clav and the rest will hang on. They’ve spent too much time believing. Without this, what’s left?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Again, instead of addressing the point that I made, you simply ridiculed the comment itself.

    But it really does go back to my previous article – no matter how wrong America’s most influential conservative pundits and politicians may be, conservatives will defend them and/or attack those who point out what they do wrong. Why? Because no matter how wrong they are, they’re still “one of you” and liberals – no matter how right they may be – are NOT “one of you”.

    That’s why you didn’t post a single serious word denouncing what Glenn Beck said. You might now, but only because of my reply to you – your opportunity to stand against what is clearly very wrong…has passed.

  • Clavos

    Oh wow, did Beck really say that, Glenn???

    Woo hoo! If he’s gonna do that I gotta do it too!

    Wow, I gotta figger out who I’m gonna target; I wonder who us redneck, ignorant, hillbilly, red state conservative…oh wait, sorry! I know once you say conservative all them other pejoratives (bad words, Glenn) are redundant (repetitive and unnecessary — sorta like Irv’s writing, Glenn).

    Lessee now, a Democrat of course, but man or woman? Dagnabit! This is hard! I’m so glad I got Rush and Beck and O’Reilly and all them other good Christian Amurricans to show me the way!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And for those who’ve heard that the DailyKos put up an article with a bullseye with Gabrielle Gifford – that’s NOT true. It was a photoshopped image that even fooled the Washington Post (who didn’t do their homework to verify it first).

  • Glenn Contrarian

    The shooter wasn’t a right-wing lunatic (nor a left-wing lunatic as many on the Right would have us believe) – but anyone who thinks the guy wasn’t influenced by Palin/Beck/Limbaugh must be some kind of naive idealist, willingly or no.

    Why? Anyone who’s ever dealt with crowd control – or any preacher, for that matter – knows the power and influence the speaker has on the crowd. Once the crowd is riled up, when a man in that crowd decides to take things too far, it IS at least in part the fault of those who so influenced him.

    You’ll find Glenn Beck on any list of the top five influential conservative in the country. Here’s something he said:

    “Hang on, let me just tell you what I’m thinking. I’m thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I’m wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out — is this wrong? I stopped wearing my What Would Jesus — band — Do, and I’ve lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, “Yeah, I’d kill Michael Moore,” and then I’d see the little band: What Would Jesus Do? And then I’d realize, “Oh, you wouldn’t kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn’t choke him to death.” And you know, well, I’m not sure.”

    Any person who thinks this kind of language doesn’t influence the lunatics is as I stated above, a naive idealist. IT DOES.

  • Arch Conservative

    It’s truly sad that the left sees the Giffords shooting as an opportunity to revive their agenda after the world class drubbing the experienced at the polls last November.

    Withing hours of the shooting leftists were crawling out of the woodwork not to discuss Giffords and celebrate her life but attack Sarah Palin.

    The same media outlets that urged and warned us to wait for all of the facts and not assume motive following the Fort Hood shooting were in full bore political attack mode. As Giffords lay in an Arizona hospital fighting for her life the liberal jetset, still wincing from the November beating of their agenda, was furiously trying to find a way to make the shooting the fault of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. They must have surmised that everyone else in the nation,like themselves, was suffering from amnesia when regard to the daily violent, vitriolic rhetoric coming from the left during the Bush administration.

    This spectacle is nothing but pure, calculated political opportunism. It’s ugly and it’s not going to have the desired affect that people like Paul Krugman, Keith Olbermann, and your average daily Kos contributor, (who frankly don’t give a damn about Giffords and are secretly hoping that she’d die because it would after all be for the “greater good”) are hoping it will have.

  • Misery loves company and tragedy means ratings. The public relations kids working for the media millionaires mentioned have been busy little people keeping the public eye sore. Ratings will go up as the bloviators of hate become beneficiaries of the Tucson tragedy.

    As I have pointed out elsewhere, the SarahPac was hard at work yesterday cranking out its public relations mop job insisting, among other things, that the cross hairs on the target map came from the US Geological Survey.

    Soon enough Ms. Palin will be fed lines to repeat that incriminate the liberal lame stream media, you watch. It would be a lot different if the victims had been Muslims, Mexicans or Safeway shoppers.

  • I wouldn’t count on such as Beck or Limbaugh to tone down their rhetoric. If anything, it’s only going to embolden them by virtue of, as you say, conflating “coincidence with causality.” For Chrissake, they’re in the entertainment business and the Yankee dollar is king. Palin’s political ambitions are just about shut, but that ain’t going to stop her either. Soon enough, she’ll revert to her old persona, manufactured or not. It’s the only thing she knows.

    You’re right about one thing, though. Considering our political climate, this event, apart from speculating on direct causation, is a harbinger.

  • Wink Wink

    Proverbs 6:12-14

    12 A troublemaker and a villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth,
    13 who winks maliciously with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers,
    14 who plots evil with deceit in his heart— he always stirs up conflict.

    Proverbs 10:9-11

    9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.
    10 Whoever winks maliciously causes grief, and a chattering fool comes to ruin.
    11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.