Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mama Grizzly Strikes Back

by Michael Kaplan

“Our exceptional nation, so vibrant with ideas and the passionate exchange and debate of ideas, is a light to the rest of the world. Congresswoman Giffords and her constituents were exercising their right to exchange ideas that day, to celebrate our Republic’s core values and peacefully assemble to petition our government. It’s inexcusable and incomprehensible why a single evil man took the lives of peaceful citizens that day.”

Having kept her silence for several days, Sarah Palin has finally responded to the outrageous charges made by many voices on the left, that she is responsible for the tragedy in Tucson. Presented by Palin as an address to the nation, it was an eloquent assertion of American exceptionalism, the values and wisdom of the American people, and the strength of the democratic process. In contrast to the petty vindictiveness and over the top hysteria of her critics, Palin comes across as a stateswoman, a worthy heir to Andrew Jackson and Ronald Reagan. Here is the video she posted on Facebook, where you can also find the text of her statement.

While most of her statement celebrated America’s enduring values and expressed sorrow and condolences for the victims and their families, Palin reserved her harshest words for those who used the Tucson massacre as a pretext to demonize their political opponents. “After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event.” Partisan rhetoric can become quite heated during an election campaign. That’s the way it’s always been in American politics, going all the way back to George Washington’s second administration. One might not like the outcome of an election, “But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”

The liberal pundits who’ve led the charge against Palin, and Jacksonian conservatives in general, are too numerous keep count of. There’s Paul Krugman of course, and Michael Tomasky of Democracy Journal in the UK Guardian. Michael Daly in the New York Daily News declared that “Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ blood is on Sarah Palin’s hands,” because of a Palin-sponsored campaign ad that used a crosshairs image to target Gifford’s district. But I’m particularly disappointed in Andrew Sullivan, whose work I’ve always enjoyed and admired. In the aftermath of 9/11, he wrote a brilliant essay on why the war on terror is really a religious war. Tragically, he has now descended into the wilder realms of Palin Derangement Syndrome. Sullivan was especially outraged at Palin’s use of the term “blood libel.” In overheated language, Sullivan accuses Palin of “equating critics of extreme rhetoric of being the equivalent of Nazis or medieval anti-Semites.” He goes on: “We know this much right now: Palin does not possess the self-awareness, responsibility or composure to respond to crises like this with grace. This messageeven at a time of national crisiswas a base-rousing rallying cry, perpetuating her own victimhood and alleged bloodthirstiness of her opponents.”

This was not what Sarah Palin was doing. She was standing up for the honor of all Jacksonian conservatives, as well as her own, by not letting the outrageous accusations of Sullivan et al., go unanswered. She was standing up for Gabrielle Giffords, Christina Taylor Green, and the other victims of Jared Lee Loughner by not letting them become pawns in an ideological vendetta. She was ensuring that responsibility for this crime would not be diverted from where it belonged: with the deranged psychopath, Jared Lee Loughner, who needed no political incitement to commit his dastardly deeds. She was standing up for the honor of the American people and America’s exceptional culture and institutions of liberty.

Yet Sullivan’s own claims to righteousness ring false. Much of his recent commentary has been devoted to the demonization of Sarah Palin, and indeed of all Jacksonian conservatives as purveyors of hatred, xenophobia, and violence. If that’s not a blood libel, I don’t know what is. Alan Dershowitz is no conservative and certainly not a political supporter of Sarah Palin. But he does know something about Jewish history. In a statement Dershowitz defended Palin’s use of the word “blood libel.” Though the blood libel originated as a false accusation against the Jewish people, the concept has taken on a broader meaning. “There is nothing improper and certainly nothing anti-Semitic in Sarah Palin using the term to characterize what she reasonably believes are false accusations that her words or images may have caused a mentally disturbed individual to kill and maim.” I’m sure Dershowitz’s clarification will not change Andrew Sullivan’s mind, or those of other liberal progressive pundits, as to Palin’s culpability in these tragic events.

Daniel Henninger, writing in The Wall Street Journal, finds a core assumption of the liberal progressive worldview in these attempts to link the Tucson massacre to conservatives, the Tea Party, and Sarah Palin. For progressives, they are all part of the same dark reactionary force that seeks to return America to its racist, sexist, homophobic, violence filled past. “The divide between this strain of the American left and its conservative opponents is about more than politics and policy. It goes back a long way, it is deep, and it will never be bridged. It is cultural, and it explains more than anything the ‘intensity’ that exists now between these two competing camps.” Henninger traces the source of this progressive narrative to historian Richard Hofsatdter’s classic 1964 essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” Jacksonian conservatives in this reading are not just mistaken in their politics and policy prescriptions; they are products of a psychological disorder. “By this mental geography,” Henninger observes, “the John Birch Society and the tea party are cut from the same backwoods cloth.” This is the lens through which Andrew Sullivan, Paul Krugman, et al. look at Jacksonian America. And what they see is their worst nightmare of boobus americanus run amok.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Nothing Palin could have said—except perhaps a confession that she instructed Jared Lee Loughner to pick up his gun and shoot—would have satisfied Sullivan or any critics of the liberal progressive persuasion. For these critics, Jacksonian conservative politics are by definition illegitimate, a product of Hofstadter’s paranoid style. Any articulation of Jacksonian ideas and perspectives is thus hate speech and incitement to violence. For ultimately what liberal progressive elites object to most is the persistence of Jacksonian America and its traditional values of rugged individualism, God, flag, honor, and country. Sarah Palin, as the public figure who currently embodies Jacksonian America, will always drive progressive pundits into paroxysms of rage. Dick Morris believes that Palin would have been better served by simply condemning the killings and denouncing violence in our society, while not responding directly to her critics attacks. By letting herself become an anti-liberal battering ram, Palin is coming down to her critics’ level. Like President Obama, Governor Palin, as a stateswoman, needs to stay above the worst of mudslinging and let her allies and supporters in the conservative media do her fighting for her. Morris does have a point. But still there are times, and I believe this was one of them, when the level of the accusations hurled against her are so toxic and so malicious, that Palin herself has to personally refute them.

Though they are on opposite sides of the political aisle, Sarah Palin and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords have much in common. Giffords’s district in Arizona has a rich Jacksonian frontier heritage, much like Palin’s Alaska; it includes Tombstone and the O.K. Corral where the famous 1881 gunfight took place. Giffords herself is a “Blue Dog” Jacksonian Democrat. Before entering politics she was a small business owner and she is a strong supporter of Second Amendment gun rights. Even though she opposed Arizona’s controversial anti-illegal immigration law, Giffords has stood up against the Justice Department’s attempts to interfere in her state’s affairs. Both Palin and Giffords are married to very Jacksonian men who appreciate strong women: Todd Palin, the “first dude” of Alaska, and Mark Kelly, an astronaut, a “top gun” graduate of the U. S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point on my native Long Island, who is scheduled to command the final space shuttle mission. As I’ve learned more about Gabrielle Giffords in the aftermath of this tragedy, I’ve come to admire her greatly. I sincerely hope and pray that she beats the odds and recovers fully from her injuries and resumes her place in Congress.

Donald Taylor, a professor of public policy at Duke University, and a liberal, believes that the Tucson tragedy makes it imperative for both sides to stop the politics of demonization.

I think the essence of the progressive/liberal hubris is that we think we are smarter than everyone else. Instead of listening, and then trying to be persuasive and make the case, we are tempted to construct a defense mechanism that says that if you dont quickly adopt my view it is just because you don’t understand. If only the country was filled with those as smart as me. . . .
I think the essence of the conservative hubris is the belief that conservatives are more moral/noble/patriotic than others. They are tempted to write off those who disagree with them as being unworthy of America because they think we dont love it enough. If only the country was filled with those as good as me. . . .
At their heart, both sources of hubris say that people with different views are illegitimate in one way or another. Someone who is illegitimate is not worth talking to, respecting, listening to, understanding, or even debating reasonably. Certainly not worthy of compromising with to solve the huge problems facing our nation.
But those of us who value civil discourse, who can engage in political and ideological combat without demonizing our opponents, still recognizing them as human beings and Americans, can take heart from Sarah Palin’s message:

America must be stronger than the evil we saw displayed last week. We are better than the mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy. We will come out of this stronger and more united in our desire to peacefully engage in the great debates of our time, to respectfully embrace our differences in a positive manner, and to unite in the knowledge that, though our ideas may be different, we must all strive for a better future for our country. May God bless America.

© 2011 Michael Kaplan


  1. Michael,

    As you follow my blog, I'm sure you can sense my outrage as to the events of the last 6 days. The shooting in itself was reprehensible. however, even I wasn't prepared for the response from the Left.

    You have put out a brilliant essay! Thankfully, it seems a majority of the people in this case are looking back to our founding principles and are in fact against this deplorable media frenzy to place blame on the common American.

    We have witnessed one of the most shameful displays of media and leftist bias in our history. Not only the vilification of Sarah Palin, but in this case a slam against the very core of this country.

    And the saddest part of all is that the so called liberals, the so called party of tolerance, want to silence anyone who they disagree with."

    Out and out lies were used and quoted by major news organizations to openly slander the majority of Americans, none of which could be substantiated! These people knew this! Don't anyone out there pretend for one moment they didn't! It goes back to the media NOT DOING THEIR JOBS! Forget the hard left bias for a second. These people did not check their facts. They did not confirm! Instead, they marched lock step to the talking points of the radical left and gleefully reported it as fact! Then when caught in the lie, they apologize, citing BS like they were misled, etc. No different than the Dan Rather story slandering President Bush. Unsubstantiated and unconfirmed, they report it as fact anyway! WHY!

    Easy one here. The Big Lie! Tell it enough until the people believe it. Until it in fact becomes fact!

    Repeat from an earlier post! Who made the following quotes? "How fortunate for governments that people they administer don't think. The broad masses of a population are more amendable to the appeal of Rhetoric than any other force. Make the lie Big. Make it Simple, and eventually they will believe it." The answer: ADOLF HITLER . We better not get out of the way or it will be too late" Lies, Lies and more Lies!

    And what do so called reporters politicians and other leftist hacks get once they’re caught (in this case, the shameful slander against Conservatives as to this shooting)? NOTHING, other than a pat on the back from the left for vilifying an opponent enough to cause them harm!

    As we all know, Cronkite proved to be pretty much to the left as to his personal beliefs. Did anyone really know it who watched him over the years as he anchored the news? I certainly didn't. The man appeared to be fair and unbiased, well prepared and all of his stories were fact based. He reported the news! Cronkite and Murrow have got to be rolling in their graves every time one of these morons is referred to as a journalist! What an insult to their memories!


  2. Joe,

    I share your outrage at the way the liberal media is using the tragedy is Tucson to demonize conservatives and push their own political agenda. Loughner's friend Zach Osler told Good Morning America that politics played no part in Loughner's crime. "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." Rush mentioned this on his show. Loughner is not a right-wing wacko, nor is he a left-wing wacko. He's just a wacko.

    I think it was the Pima County sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, who opened the door to these accusations against Sarah Palin, Rush, and the Tea Party. If a law enforcement official can imply that a madman was incited by conservative political speech, it was easy for the media to pick up the ball and run with it. You're right that the sheriff is jeopardizing the investigation and he should resign.

    At least the MSM no longer have a monopoly on news and information. There are so many sources to turn to now, and it's so much easier for falsehoods to be exposed. Thank God for the Internet! You point out a number of the sources that you turn to for information. That's what all Americans need to do now to keep themselves informed and aware as citizens. So its really great that you've taught your grandchildren to love reading. As someone who loves books, I'm saddened to see that many of my students don't like to read.

    For now, my prayers are going out to Congresswoman Giffords and all the victims of this atrocity and their families. Even though they're on opposite sides of the aisle, I think Gabrielle Giffords and Sarah Palin have a lot in common. I'm hoping that she makes a miraculous recovery and can resume her place in Congress.