It took three days, but Sarah Palin has directly responded to accusations that her incendiary political rhetoric was partly responsible for the deadly shooting rampage in Tucson that killed six and wounded fourteen people, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. With her usual dose of arrogance, sarcasm and defiance, the ever-caustic Palin issued a video statement Wednesday, which included the following:
"Like many, I've spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. 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... Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them... If you don't like a person's vision for the country, you're free to debate that vision. If you don't like their ideas, you're free to propose better ideas... 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 that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible... No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent. And we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good."
Does Palin really think she's contributed to a political discourse based on "peaceful dissent?" Is she so arrogant and/or in denial of her own "irresponsible statements" and actions? Does she not truly understand that what is "reprehensible" is to call for "reloading" and to use rifle crosshairs over an opponent's name and then with righteous indignation scoff at the widespread criticism after that individual, and nineteen others, are shot in an assassination attempt? Is she so clueless as to not see any connection, and any responsibility therefore, however indirect, to her words and actions?
Even in this video she resorts to using the centuries-old highly anti-Semitic phrase "blood libel", which is a false accusation that Jews murder Christian children to use their blood as part of various religious rituals and holidays. One has to seriously question Palin's overall judgment, and note her obvious inability to understand the raw insensitivity of her own words.
To be sure, Jared Loughner did not go to that parking lot Saturday with Palin's inflammatory rhetoric as his driver. He very likely never heard any of her speeches or seen her website. So to blame her directly is nothing more than partisan vitriol, no matter how much some may dislike her or condemn those words and actions. Yes, she and others like Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh indeed contribute to the toxicity that consumes Washington politics these days, and that situation is no doubt worsening. But there is a much bigger issue here, and one which Palin is guilty of.
While a shocked nation mourns the loss of so many vibrant people, including a 9-year-old girl, and while it attempts to debate and reconcile why it happened and what measures can be taken to prevent a recurrence, Palin continues to feed the toxic beast. She squandered a major opportunity to not just repair her own image but to help heal a nation. In this video statement, what would it have cost her (and to the contrary she'd likely have much to gain) to say something conciliatory and uniting like she recognizes that words and actions may sometimes be deemed offensive and irresponsible to some people and that now, especially in the wake of the Tucson shooting, she understands the need for everyone, including herself, to demonstrate greater sensitivity and be much more judicious in choosing the words and images to punctuate political points? Wouldn't this have been a more thoughtful and prudent strategy? Would people not be rallying behind her instead of continuing to criticize her?
Palin could've used the Tucson tragedy as a mechanism to chart a new, more effective course for herself. Instead, her message to America is, 'My toxic rhetoric is here to stay. Deal with it.'