The political dust has settled and facts have begun to emerge about the evil and/or mentally disturbed Jared Loughner, the 22-year-old man who sits behind bars charged with shooting to death six people and wounding 14 others in Tucson, Arizona.
In the days since the tragedy a great deal more information about the man who apparently pulled the trigger allows us to understand far more about this than we did within the first few hours. It’s appropriate to look back at those who acted like vultures, picking at the bones of an American tragedy way before they had any information to allow them to offer a reasoned assessment of what transpired on that Saturday morning.
Even as Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was on her way into surgery, struggling for her life after a nine-millimeter bullet ripped through her brain, the nation’s political vultures looked for ways to lay blame for the shootings on their political enemies.
Inside of 48 hours the left and several willing accomplices in the mainstream media tried to make the argument that Jared Loughner was influenced, if not inspired, by conservative talk radio, Sarah Palin, a “climate of bigotry and hate,” the Tea Party, or “mean-spirited” immigration laws.
From thousands of miles away in Abu Dhabi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was briefed by her staff about the Arizona shootings and, with no evidence to support the contention, linked Loughner to political extremism. She said “Look, we have extremists in my country. A wonderful, brave young woman congress member, Congresswoman Giffords, was shot in our country.” Lacking any facts that the shooter was motivated by political beliefs of any kind, this nation’s Secretary of State made the politically-loaded assessment that the killer was motivated by political extremism.
But the die was cast. From CNN to The New York Times and beyond, there was an attempt to connect political conservatives and conservative politics to Loughner’s murderous rampage – damn the facts, full speed ahead.
The New York Times went to print with an editorial that featured this headline: “Bloodshed and Invective in Arizona.” The editorial claimed that Loughner “… is very much a part of a widespread squall of fear, anger and intolerance that has produced violent threats … and infected the political mainstream with violent imagery.”
This controversial opinion by the Times may provide the groundwork for a spirited cocktail party debate over the level and tenor of the nation’s political discourse, but what the hell did any of this have to do with the specific acts of a deranged man who had no discernable political ties.
But as radio talk host Larry Elder is fond of saying of those who seek to score political points no matter what, facts can be like Kryptonite to Superman. Even as evidence mounted that Loughner was “mentally troubled,” “scary,” “a loner” and “non-political” the talking-heads continued to hammer home their talking points.
Clarence Dupnik, the Sheriff of Arizona’s Pima County – the guy responsible for investigating Loughner’s actions – called a press conference to lambast his state and link Loughner’s rampage to an “atmosphere of hatred and bigotry.” He condemned Arizona as “… a Mecca for prejudice.” Dupnik in the past had called the Tea Party movement a bunch of “bigots” and declared Arizona’s new immigration law “racist.” When pressed, this lawman admitted that his opinions about what motivated the killer were based on not one single fact.
Then The New York Times’ columnist, economist Paul Krugman weighed in. He pulled evidence from nowhere to argue that Loughner was connected to a conservative-created “climate of hate.” Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic magazine writer, connected imaginary dots leading to Sarah Palin – the political figure he endlessly obsesses over. However, the prize for irresponsible journalism goes to The New York Daily News writer Paul Daley. His essay was titled “The blood of Congresswoman Giffords was on Sarah Palin’s hands.”
Meanwhile, over at The New Republic, David Greenberg wrote a piece that teased readers with the sly question, since Congresswoman Giffords is Jewish, “was this an anti-Semitic attack?” Having planted this nasty little seed, Greenberg then back-tracked, saying “There is no significant evidence to conclude as such.” No significant evidence? How about no evidence at all!
So what do we know about the alleged killer.
We know that his deranged mind was a fan of both The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf and he appears to have dabbled in satanic beliefs – investigating law enforcement officers apparently discovered some sort of odd satanic alter in his back yard.
An ex-friend of Loughner’s, Zach Osler, appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America and told the host “He did not watch TV. He disliked the news. He didn’t listen to political radio. He didn’t take sides. He wasn’t on the left. He wasn’t on the right.”
Since this contradicted the pre-conceived script, none of this mattered. For this nation’s political vultures, bone-headed and ideological efforts to generate a near-political panic had logic - as well as a momentum - all its own.
As people lay dead – including a nine-year-old girl, with others wounded and bleeding, and with a courageous and well-liked Democratic member of Congress on her way into an operating room, political opportunists gambled that this crisis could be used for political gain.
Rahm Emanuel once said “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”
Some took what he said far too seriously and after the ugly bloodletting in Arizona, seized on the possibility that they could use this horrific event to shut up their political opponents.