Everyone's all aflush with talk of Sarah Palin's invocation of "blood libel," so this section of her prepared statement probably isn't getting the attention it deserves:
President Reagan said, "We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions." Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.
I agree! While I don't think there's any harm in having a discussion about how the existence of toxic discourse creates an environment given to terrible crimes, such as this weekend's mass murder in Tucson, Arizona, I certainly agree that it's wrong to assign criminal culpability to anyone other than the perpetrators of criminal acts. If others want to use the occasion to ponder our moral responsibility, that's a sign of our strength and thoughtfulness, not a sign of our guilt. If we all become slightly better people for the experience, so much the better.
That said, I'm mildly surprised to see Palin endorsing these ideas. Not that I don't welcome it! Indeed, "acts of monstrous criminality" do "stand on their own," and there's no reason whatsoever to impugn the character of anyone outside of those acts, especially anyone who's a "law-abiding citizen" just "respectfully exercising" their "First Amendment rights" to freely exercise their religious faith or speak or peaceably assemble or publish or petition their government for redress of their grievances.
But if that's the case, why was Sarah Palin so opposed to the law-abiding citizens of New York City who maybe wanted to freely exercise their religious faith and maybe play some basketball and foster interfaith activities in Lower Manhattan? Chalk it up to a self-refudiation, I guess. Anyway, got to celebrate it! (I'm still going to let John Dickerson have his say about the whole "blood libel" thing, though.)