Skip to comments.A decade later, blaming GOP for radicalism is harder
Posted on 01/16/2011 4:32:32 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
"No one wants the country to suffer another catastrophe," Time's Mark Halperin wrote after the 2010 midterms -- while saying disaster was just what President Obama needed. He was hardly alone in this theory: Something similar occurred to President Clinton's adviser Mark Penn.
"President Clinton reconnected with Oklahoma," he said to Chris Matthews. "Obama needs a similar kind of ... yeah." To some on the left, when your typical paranoid loner, Jared Loughner, shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, R-Ariz., outside a Safeway in Tucson, wounding 13 people and killing six, it seemed the "kind of ... yeah" moment had come.
Now seemed the time to uncork the Clinton magic, and link the grim deed to political rivals. "They need to deftly and forcefully pin this on the Tea Partiers, just like the Clinton White House deftly pinned the Oklahoma City bombing on the militia and anti-government people," one "veteran Democrat" told Politico.
Deftly or not, they were certainly trying. But there were six reasons this didn't work out.
-- Obama isn't Clinton, and their situations are wholly reversed.
In 1995, Clinton divided the country on purpose by linking the right wing to violence; in 2011, the country was so inflamed by the time that Obama said anything that he saw his task, quite correctly, as calming things down.
Clinton distanced himself from a demonized right; Obama distanced himself from a hysterical left, which claimed, before the blood dried in Tucson, that Sarah Palin had it on her hands.
Clinton claimed talk radio moved killers to violence; Obama told his base, and the world, it did not. His base, said James Taranto, left him no choice except to act decently. And so, unlike Clinton, he did.
-- House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, isn't Newt Gingrich; but a much smaller target, and more accessible man.
He is, as Obama discovered, quite hard to demonize. The GOP was not institutionally connected to some of the victims of the bombing in Oklahoma, and was easy to isolate.
Boehner is the institutional leader of the branch of the government that was attacked through the assault on Giffords; and has shared the formal response with the president.
You can't say he and his team are anti-government when they are government, and visibly grieving. This part of the playbook is gone.
-- This mass killer is really a lunatic. With the bombing at Oklahoma City, the killers really were anti-government, and it was possible to draw a line between that position and people who wanted, non-violently, to merely pare government down.
In this case, however, not a shred of a scintilla of evidence connects the "thoughts" of the killer to any conceivable party or creed. On the scale of assassins, he belongs to the mad, not political, end: with John Hinckley, who shot President Reagan, with Mark David Chapman, who murdered John Lennon, with Dennis Sweeney, who shot former Rep. Allard K. Lowenstein, because he thought sinister forces were controlling his thoughts through his teeth.
Loughner made death threats to people other than Giffords, and so unnerved students at a class he took recently that they thought he resembled the Virginia Tech shooter. His fixation with Giffords dates to 2007, before the Tea Party or Palin were famous.
An independent, he didn't vote in the 2010 midterms. A friend said his main social aim appeared to be "chaos." Political parties often produce chaos, but seldom on purpose. Political linkage appears a lost cause.
-- Kettle and Pot: In 1995, when Clinton blamed Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Party's forebears for creating a "climate of violence," the Internet was only a gleam in the eye of the sitting vice president, and no strong response had been possible.
In 2011, the first attacks on Palin and her "target map" for the midterms had barely been made before Glenn Reynolds and others were up with pages of links to similar maps made by Democrats, incendiary remarks made by Democrats, and calls to (metaphorical) violence issued by liberal bloggers and TV and radio hosts.
Between 1995 and 2011 also lay eight years of Bush hatred, of books, films, and blogs urging the president's murder, of pleas for the return of Lee Harvey Oswald, of Palin hanging in effigy from a West Hollywood mansion on Halloween in 2008.
As a result, this putative link of the right wing with violence that saved Clinton after his '94 wipeout was met and turned back in 2011 by counter-resistance. Days later, polls showed that by a 53-32 split, the public did not think the attack was political, or caused by the right wing's obscene provocations.
Obama would notice. The GOP had been saved by the Web.
-- We know now that Clinton had planned his response to the bombing for clearly political ends.
He linked dissent to endorsements of bloodshed, conflated opposition with "hate," and attempts to reduce the size of the government with attempts to destroy it. Votes were set up to embarrass Republicans.
"There's nothing patriotic about hating your country, or pretending you can love your country but despise your government," he said. Soon after, his pollster wrote in a strategy paper, "Temporary gain: boost in ratings. ... Permanent possible gain: sets up Extremist issue vs. Republicans."
-- Then there's the infamous Wellstone memorial, in which the tribute to the late senator, his wife, daughter, and staffers was turned into a political rally, with Republicans hissed at, Democrats cheered, pleas made to people to win the election, and a plea from the stage to one politician to alter his vote on an upcoming issue as a tribute to his late friend.
Given the scope of their loss, Wellstone's sons and close friends can be forgiven their excess, but the same is not true of the Democrats who campaigned in effect on emotional blackmail.
Twice within memory -- in 1995 and 2002 -- Democrats tried to use shock, grief, and loss for political profit.
The public remembers. That dog may not hunt again.
Which is why the Left is looking to get control of the Internet via their phony, "net neutrality" movement. They have lost control of the message and will do anything to get it back. The GOP had better move briskly to make sure this doesn't happen.