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Which Path Will Our Nation Choose In Dealing With The Arizona Shooting?

Posted on January 11 2011 11:59 am

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There are grown up and constructive reactions to the tragic Arizona shooting. And then there are the puerile and destructive reactions.

So far, President Obama has chosen the high road, and shown grace and dignity in this time of sorrow. Let’s hope that he goes tomorrow to the memorial service for the fallen in Arizona with the intent to help heal the hearts of the mourners. He should continue to condemn violence, and lay the blame where it belongs. The alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, is neither a right-wingnut or a left-wingnut. He is just a complete non-partisan nutjob. And the president should remind us all that a nutjob’s violence is not an excuse to suppress free speech and robust debate which, in a free society, are intended to replace violence as a means to resolve differences.

Unfortunately, some members of Obama’s party have taken the low road. They are exploiting the tragedy for political purposes.

For example, Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, a Democratic leader in the Senate, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that “toxic rhetoric” created the climate for the shooting. By the way, wasn’t this the same Senator who had to apologize for comparing the treatment of the prisoners at the U. S. military base at Guantanamo as equivalent to the behavior of Nazis and their concentration camps, the Soviet gulags and Cambodia’s Pol Pot?

Some Democrats insist that bringing back the so-called Fairness Doctrine to impose government regulation of ‘balanced’ content on radio and TV is the answer.

Rep. Robert Brady (D-Penn.) wants to go even further. He reportedly plans to introduce legislation that would make it a federal crime to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a federal official or member of Congress. As an example of the kind of rhetoric that he wants to shut down, Brady pointed to the map posted on one of Sarah Palin websites targeting with cross-hairs 20 congressional districts that voted for Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election but had Democratic members who voted in favor of health care reform:

The rhetoric is just ramped up so negatively, so high, that we have got to shut this down.

The divide between a puerile, exploitative reaction and a mature, constructive reaction to the Arizona tragedy is most evident in the media.

Left-wing New York Times columnist and economist Paul Krugman is a case-in-point, as I discussed in my post yesterday

The left-wing website Daily Kos, which went after Sarah Palin for the Arizona shooting, hypocritically tried to cover up its own tracks by deleting a diary about Rep. Gabrielle Giffords entitled “”My Congresswoman Voted Against Pelosi, Now She’s Dead To Me.”

Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas has also tried to whitewash his post back in 2008 that listed Giffords’ district among those on Daily Kos’ “target list” because she didn’t vote its way on a particular issue. The post noted that

Not all of these people will get or even deserve primaries, but this vote certainly puts a bulls eye on their district.  

To my surprise, however, Time Magazine‘s Joe Klein (while taking his usual shot at Glenn Beck) was mature enough in this instance not to blatantly politicize the tragedy and to acknowledge in his post on the Swampland blog site that

Jared Lee Loughner is mentally ill, most likely a paranoid schizophrenic

Back to the travelers on the low road, MSNBC has had a field day exploiting the shooting. Keith Olbermann went completely off the deep end as usual. Chris Matthews singled out Sarah Palin and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann for blame:

Sarah Palin using gun play language, crosshairs and gun loading, Bachmann out there with her kind of talk.

In contrast, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer showed some journalistic class when, in reporting on the shooting, he pointed out there was no evidence that Jared Lee Loughner was in any way a Sarah Palin fan who would have seen her SarahPAC target ad.

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly also behaved like a responsible journalist. She questioned Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, the Arizona lawman leading his state’s investigation into the shooting, about the sheriff’s recent comments concerning what he saw as the “vitriol” in political and media discourse that had contributed to the incident.

Kelly asked Sheriff Dupnik what basis he had for asserting that the suspect was motivated by heated political rhetoric from radio and television:

I want to ask you about that because that’s something you’ve mentioned the past couple of days, and I just want to ask you whether there is anything you’ve uncovered in your investigation so far that suggests this suspected killer was listening to radio or watching television.

Dupnik was like a deer caught in the headlights.

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