Wednesday, January 12, 2011

They Still Don't Get It

Just as Americans keep asking what happened last weekend and what we can do to stop the madness, the "mad hatters" of the "tea party" continue to be more preoccupied with gaining some sort of "political advantage" after this.

"ZOMG, Obama's approval is up again! We can't allow that. Let's nip that in the bud!"

"Clarabelle Dopenik." That's what one wit on the popular conservative Web site called Clarence Dupnik, the Pima County, Arizona sheriff who turns 75 this week. Elected continuously since 1980, he is the public face of the investigation into the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and 19 others. He is also, according to bloggers on that site, "an incompetent unhinged sonofabitch" and "a jerk" "using this tragedy for baseless, cheap political shots."

Sheriff Dupnik's crime was decrying

"the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.... When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government -- the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on this country is getting to be outrageous, and unfortunately Arizona has become sort of the capital.... People tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech, but it's not without consequences."

The problem with Sheriff Dupnik's calling out vitriol, blogged one conservative, was that it was actually "calling out Rush, Glen[n], Sean and Fox!!!!!" Dupnik was, wrote another, "inciting violence accusing Rush, tea parties, Palin, and Republicans of bigotry and murder."

What threatened the right the most was losing control of the national political narrative. Until the slayings in the Safeway parking lot, the master story had been the triumphant G.O.P. sweeping into Congress to repeal "the job-killing health care bill." But as of Saturday, the new story connected the dots between the inflammatory rhetoric of McCain/Palin events in 2008, the ugly confrontations at congressional town halls in the summer of 2009, the "lock and load" cackling of the 2010 campaign - and the cultural climate of the Tucson murders. Within the space of a few hours, the story had been transformed from a revenge narrative (Obama brought low) to a soul-searching meta-narrative: How has our society come to this season in hell, and what must be done to heal us?

So now Sharron Angle tries to rewrite history.

Former Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle has spoken out against the shootings in Tucson this weekend that included Rep. Gabrielle Giffords -- who remains in critical condition after being shot in the head -- saying that "expanding the context of the attack to blame and to infringe upon the people's Constitutional liberties is both dangerous and ignorant."

Angle has been repeatedly mentioned by the media in the wake of the shootings, for her comments during the campaign: "People are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying, my goodness, what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you, the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."

Politico reports that Angle now says that "the irresponsible assignment of blame to me, Sarah Palin or the TEA Party movement by commentators and elected officials puts all who gather to redress grievances in danger." [...]

She continued: "Finger-pointing towards political figures is an audience-rating game and contradicts the facts as they are known - that the shooter was obsessed with his twisted plans long before the TEA Party movement began."

Angle added that the shooting "is a horrifying and senseless tragedy, and should be condemned as a single act of violence by a single unstable individual" and that she has "consistently called for reasonable political dialogue on policy issues to encourage civil political education and debate."

And Sarah Palin is joining her in doing the same... And making sure we know that SHE is somehow the real victim here.

After nearly a week of silence and waves of bad press, Sarah Palin finally speaks. To Facebook.

Since journalists and pundits are manufacturing "blood libel," the former Alaskan governer must want to speak directly to the people. However, as The Guardian points out, she probably could've picked a better phrase to describe the media's unified attack against her use of violent rhetoric -- most notably putting Giffords in the crosshairs on a campaign poster distributed before the shootings.

"Blood libel" according to Wikipedia:

"Blood libel (also blood accusation) refers to a false accusation or claim that religious minorities, almost always Jews, murder children to use their blood in certain aspects of their religious rituals and holidays. Historically, these claims have–alongside those of well poisoning and host desecration–been a major theme in European persecution of Jews."

Also, Gabrielle Giffords is Jewish. Oh dear.

Really, Sarah? Really, Sharron? So everything is all hunky dory and coming up rainbows because Palin never actually took out a pistol to duel with Joe Biden during the 2008 Vice Presidential Debate? And it's obvious that Angle has always been about "reasonable political dialogue on policy issues" because she didn't actually take out her "best friends, Smith and Wesson" when she was debating Harry Reid last fall?

Give me a break!

Leo Gerard has a good point here.

[... I]t's difficult to directly link violent political rhetoric like Sarah Palin's illustration showing gun sight cross hairs on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' Arizona district to the shattering of Giffords' office door after her vote for health insurance reform last March or Jared L. Loughner's shooting spree last weekend that left six dead and Giffords and 13 others wounded.

What is clear, however, is that vile and threatening communication that becomes so repetitive that it's routine has the effect of sanctioning an atmosphere of violence.

Conservatives are yammering that they're not the only ones who engage in brutal rhetoric. That's true. But in a contest for production of violent words and images, Republicans would, to use their words, "kill" the Democrats.

The Department of Homeland Security concluded in an April 2009 internal report that right-wing extremism, with a growing potential for violence, was on the rise. That was followed last spring by Capitol security officials reporting a tripling of threats against members of Congress -- almost all from opponents of health care reform -- in other words, from Republicans, right-wingers or people influenced by GOP TV and radio front men who personally profit from the hostile climate they generate.

I remember that report. And I remember the teabaggers whining about how that report was trying to "criminalize politics". So that report was ignored... And this happened...

"Read what Jefferson said about the 'tree of liberty'. It's coming."

"It's time to water the tree of liberty."

This isn't even about health care any more with these radical righties. For them, it's all about racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia... To sum it up in one word, hate. And how sick are the GOP & sick care industry to actually use this thinly veiled hate to rile up these people and encourage them to start violence!

I actually don't mind debating the merits of universal health care with rational conservatives that want to talk about the economics of health care. Where are they? Has today's Republican leadership scared them all out of the party? Are the GOP, the HMOs, and the pharmaceutical companies so afraid of rational discussion of health care that they have to resort to this?

Violence should NOT be condoned, and xenophobia should not be celebrated. If the GOP wants to debate us on health care, then I encourage it. I'm not afraid or making good arguments, and I know many more progressives who feel the same. However, I am afraid of this "teabagger/birther/deather" cult, fully funded by the GOP and the sick care industry, becoming increasingly violent.

I wrote that back in August 2009. And I was already starting to fear what would eventually bear fruit in January 2011. And for Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, and others to blithely ignore the consequences of "politics" turning violent is nothing short of horrifying.

Maybe we need to pay more attention to Gabrielle Giffords herself, and to outgoing Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R).

The friendly email Republican Trey Grayson got from Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) last Friday night, congratulating him on a new job, came amid a flood of similar messages. The Kentucky Secretary of State, and erstwhile Senate candidate, recently accepted a position as director of Harvard University's Institute of Politics. It was only the next day that Giffords' message took on a particular significance.

"After you get settled, I would love to talk about what we can do to promote centrism and moderation," Giffords wrote. "I am one of only 12 Dems left in a GOP district (the only woman) and think that we need to figure out how to tone our rhetoric and partisanship down."

On Saturday, Giffords was shot in the head at an event in Tucson, by a gunman who killed six and wounded 13 others. Giffords miraculously survived, but remains in critical condition. As the national conversation turned to what role, if any, violent political rhetoric played in the shooting, Grayson's office released Giffords' email.

"If we could honor Gabby, honor other victims, by having this conversation, and actually doing it, it's a way to honor them," Grayson told TPM in a phone interview.

Grayson, who said he was "really disturbed by how it immediately became political on both sides" after the shooting, said he and Giffords spoke often about the need for more civil discourse. Friday's message was just the latest dispatch in a years-long back and forth of texts and emails.

"We want to have good Republicans and want to have good Democrats," he said, citing the close relationship between the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as an example. "If we would show that a little more publicly, maybe, maybe that would help."

I hope we can learn and we can stop repeating these scary mistakes.

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