Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Never Let a Crisis go to Waste

“Never let a serious crisis go to waste…it’s an opportunity to do things you couldn’t do before.” — Rahm Emanuel, former Chief of Staff to President Barak Obama.

I will never forget the TV image of an FBI agent holding a rifle above his head and calling it “the Mauser” that had been found in the Texas School Book Depository soon after President John f. Kennedy had been shot on November 22, 1963. Soon after Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry corrected the agents claim and identified the rifle as an Italian made Carcano rifle. Thus began the fog of that began clouding the evidence and facts that would forever haunt the events of that day.

Soon after Kennedy’s death the media, especially the TV news, began pushing out facts based on opinions. At the time of his assassination Kennedy was falling in the polls and had made this trip to Texas to heal the discord within the Democrat party. There was a great deal of animosity and heated political rhetoric directed at Kennedy. The media immediately jumped on this and began pointing towards “the climate of hate” as the motive for the assassination. They had no facts to support this but that did not prevent the talking heads like Walter Cronkite from making up his own set of facts. No one wanted to look at Oswald’s ties with the Communist Party and his life in the Soviet Union. Eventfully the facts began to surface, but the media has already set a tone that would create years of conspiracy theories.

On November 5, 2009 Nidal Malik Hasan, a U.S. Army major serving as a psychiatrist, shot 45 soldiers and civilians at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 and wounding 32. Hasan, a Muslim and professed “Soldier of Allah” and disciple Yemen-based cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who quickly declared Hasan a hero. We were cautioned by the media not to label Hasan a terrorist or jihadist as we did not have enough information to do so and that we should not blame Muslims for the deaths of the 13 innocent victims. The left wing media refused to call Hasan a terrorist.

On Saturday, January 8th a lone gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, walked into a community meeting in a Tucson shopping mall and began firing his Glock 40 pistol. Before he was subdued by bystanders 6 people were dead and 13 were wounded, some critically. Among the dead were 9-year-old third-grader Christina-Taylor Green, a federal judge, John Roll, and a congressional aide. Green had two personal connections to Major League Baseball; she was a daughter of Los Angeles Dodgers scout John Green and a granddaughter of former Philadelphia Phillies manager Dallas Green. The most seriously wounded was Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), the wife of a NASA astronaut. Giffords, a two term Congresswoman representing the 8th district in Arizona, is alive today due to heroic first aid administered by one of her interns and the world class medical care she received at the University of Arizona Medical Center trauma center. Her lead doctor is Peter Rhee, a military trained trauma expert with experience in Iraq.

It did not take long for the left wing media to claim that the carnage was the product not merely of the tortured mind and trigger-happy fingers of the alleged shooter, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner. Rather, many on the American Left said the horror could be traced to the malign influence of American conservatives; members of the Tea Party; right-wing pundits Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck; former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin; and Fox News.

Without any basis in fact or the appearance of any viable evidence this was the narrative of culpability spun in the immediate aftermath of the shootings by some leading liberal commentators and Democratic politicians — despite warnings from religious leaders, lawyers, academics, ethicists, reporters and historians that such a rush to judgment only further deepens the partisan divide in America, and further poisons its discourse.

Within minutes after the attempted assassination of Giffords — indeed, at a point when it was still erroneously believed in many quarters that she was dead, and the identity of her shooter was not publicly known -- some commentators, absent any credible evidence, were already busily laying blame for the atrocity in political terms. Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman blogged at 3:22 p.m. ET Saturday: "We don't have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was."

Krugman, in his blog post on the Times website, went on to mention Giffords' presence last year on Palin's "infamous crosshairs list." This was a map, disseminated by Palin's political action committee, SarahPAC, denoting the districts of 20 vulnerable House Democrats with images of crosshairs overlaid on each. The map was accompanied by a caption saying: IT'S TIME TO TAKE A STAND. Giffords herself, during her narrow campaign victory over a Tea Party-backed opponent last year, had complained about this choice of imagery, telling MSNBC: "The way that (Palin) has it depicted, the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district ...When people do that, they've gotta realize there are consequences to that action."

Unnoted by Giffords then, or Krugman now, is the routine use of similar language and imagery by both parties in a culture obsessed with "battleground" states. Indeed, a nearly identical map, included in a Democratic Leadership Committee publication in 2004, featured nine bulls eyes over regions where Republican candidates were considered vulnerable that year, and was accompanied by a caption reading: TARGETING STRATEGY. A smaller caption, beneath the bulls-eyes, read: BEHIND ENEMY LINES. The map illustrated an article on campaign strategy by Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute.

There was a bullseye superimposed of Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts in the New York  Times prior to last Saturday’s NFL wildcard playoff game with the New York Jets. Did hat mean that someone should assassinate the Colts quarterback, or was it just a metaphor for a sack?

Krugman's blog post on Saturday linked "the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc." to "the violence I fear we're going to see in the months and years ahead," and added: "Violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate." Yet in all of the grammatically hobbled writings and statements that Loughner posted on the Internet — in which, ironically, one of his chief obsessions was others' poor grammar — the failed student and awkward loner made not a single reference to talk-radio or the TV hosts Krugman cited, to the health care debate or the Tea Party, to Sarah Palin or Fox News. He posted that two of his favorite books were Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto. He also proclaimed he was an atheist, belonged to no political party, had been staking Giffords since 2007 (long before there was a Tea Party or notoriety of Sarah Palin and worshiped a backyard shrine composed of candles, a skull and dried-up oranges.  Once again we have the fog of facts and evidence getting in the way of the truth

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, a Democrat, also found a political element in Saturday's bloodshed. Dupnik argued that the "vitriol" of the country's harshly polarized political climate was partly to blame, arguing that unbalanced individuals are uniquely "susceptible" to vitriol. Dupnik added, in an interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly: "We see one party trying to block the attempts of another party to make this a better country." Asked by Kelly if he had any evidence Loughner was in any way influenced by political "vitriol," Dupnik offered none. "That's my opinion, period," he said. All Dupnik needed was a Carcano rifle to hold over his head to make his idiocy complete. This was about the dumbest statement from a law enforcement officer I have seen since President Richard Nikon proclaimed Charles Manson guilty of murder.

As the chief law enforcement officer of Pima County Dupnik not only sounded like a political hack, he also gave Loughner’s defense attorney Judy Clarke plenty of ammunition for her defense of the accused shooter.

Dupnik should clean his own house before blaming his political competitors for the shooting. Loughner had been reported to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department at least 5 times as a disturbed person. When called about this the department responded not to be concerned and that he had been checked out. Also there was no police presence at the site of the community meeting, something that should have been provided by the Sheriff.

Liberals may be making the wild stretch of blaming Sarah Palin for Saturday's shooting of Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, but one of the Internet's most popular progressive activist sites targeted Giffords for electoral defeat in 2008 in much the same way as Palin's "cross-hairs" map did in 2010 — with Daily Kos founder and publisher Markos Moulitsas even using the term "bull's-eye."

On the day of the shooting, the website reproduced screen grabs of Moulitsas' posting, noting that "Daily Kos targeted Gabrielle Giffords with a 'bulls-eye' back in June of 2008."

Moulitsas was incensed at Giffords and 104 other House Democrats he accused of having just "sold out the Constitution" by voting for amending and enhancing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The legislative revision retroactively protected telecommunications companies from being sued for facilitating government monitoring of suspected terrorists' phone calls and e-mails.

Probably the only one to give a rational comment on the shooting was the father of Christiana Green. John Green, father of 9-year-old, the youngest victim in Saturday's Tucson massacre, was trying his best to hold it together in his interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly. But he was amazingly straightforward when he said; “Let's not use this senseless violence as a reflexive excuse to crack down on the freedoms this nation enjoys, he said. Let's not misinterpret what really happened in front of that Safeway Grocery store around 10 a.m. Saturday morning, and conjure motives for political capital.”

No one has lost more than John Green. But there he was, hours after his "princess" was murdered, along with five other people, trying to help a nation as it struggled to understand the senseless. There he was trying to be a voice of reason.

There he was fighting off the cold shock of reality to provide a perspective. There he was doing a darn fine job of it, too.

Too bad the same can't be said for so many others. Never has the degree of sweeping and instant public access been greater for the loud, the uninformed and the dangerously ignorant. The smoke had barely cleared in Tucson before the airwaves and the blogosphere were flooded with voices providing instant analysis about the slaughter:

People who had never heard of Jared Lee Loughner were suddenly everywhere, explaining him, his likely political philosophy, his emotional temperament and his brand of hatred: He is a rightwing extremist.

He is a violent disciple of the far right.

He snapped and went on a killing spree because of the toxic political environment in Arizona and the rest of the nation.

He snapped and went on a killing spree because he hates liberals.

He's a bigot.

It was inevitable. He killed because the right in Arizona has been stoking the fires of heated anger and rage successfully in this state.

Here's what appears to have happened in Tucson Arizona Saturday morning. A deranged man took a concealed, semi-automatic weapon to a political event and tried to kill Giffords and anyone standing close to her. It was a shooting – much like the shooting in Panama City, Fla. last month, where a deranged man tried to kill members of that city's school board before taking his own life.

We don't know whether Loughner was out to change the world. We don't know whether he was trying to make a political statement. We don't know if he was striking a blow against liberalism.

What is apparent is that an unsupervised, drug-abusing nut with a gun decided to try and kill a member of Congress.

Why were so many people in a sprint to make Loughner a pawn in this nation's political and cultural war of ideas? Why were so many people in a race to get out ahead of the facts before they knew how to pronounce the man's name?

Why were so many pundits and political operatives, unwilling to pause long enough to consider what John Green offered hours after losing his 9-year-old daughter?

Maybe this simply was a random, senseless, non-political act.

In America, random, senseless, non-political acts of violence are too often a price of our freedom.

You can read a cogent article by George Will by clicking here.

No comments:

Post a Comment