- The Washington Times - Monday, January 10, 2011

True to Rahm’s Rule of never letting a good crisis go to waste, liberal pundits and Democratic politicians are consciously exploiting Saturday’s tragic shooting in Tucson for political gain. At a time when the country should be coming together calmly to make sense of something awful, the left has exploded in a shameful display of divisive grandstanding.

The days since the shooting have witnessed a parade of amateur psychologists rendering premature diagnoses on shooter Jared Lee Loughner’s motives, focusing their blame on Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, the Tea Party movement and a purported rising climate of hate and divisiveness. Yet no facts have emerged lending any credence to this story line. The evidence to date shows Mr. Loughner as a pot-smoking, alcoholic, nihilistic social misfit. His known fringe-type social and political views include atheism, the belief that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were an inside job, and a disposition that people generally cannot apprehend reality. No reasonable person could connect these incoherent views with conservative thought, though leftists are trying their hardest.

Liberals contend that conservative voices have contributed to a growing climate of hatred and division in American politics. On Sunday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, waxed about the good old days when the big three news networks dominated the news cycle, “and they saw their job as to inform us of the facts and we would make a conclusion.” Of course, this alleged golden age also produced assassins Lee Harvey Oswald, Sirhan Sirhan, James Earl Ray and Squeaky Fromme, among others. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann declaimed rhetoric that “has devolved and descended, past the ugly and past the threatening and past the fantastic and into the imminently murderous.” Despite such hysteria, this “climate of hatred” argument has no empirical backing. Federal data show that so-called hate crimes have declined from 4.0 incidents per 100,000 people in 1995 to 2.4 in 2009, a 40 percent drop. Facts like that spoil the “right wing hate speech” narrative, so liberal pundits simply ignore the facts.

The same commentators inveighing against the allegedly violent undertones emanating from the right have been silent about imagery invoked by Democrats. In 2004, the Democratic Leadership Committee published a map entitled “Targeting Strategy” with bull’s-eyes on states they considered to be “behind enemy lines.” In 2009, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina told Senate Democrats facing lively town hall meetings, “If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard.” Last October, Vice President Joe Biden told a rally in Minnesota, “If I hear one more Republican tell me about balancing the budget, I am going to strangle them.”

President Obama frequently uses violent imagery, such as “I don’t want to quell anger. I think people are right to be angry. I’m angry!”; “I want you to argue with [your neighbors] and get in their face!”; “We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends;” and “We are going to have just hand-to-hand combat up here on Capitol Hill.” In June 2008, while on the campaign trail, then-Sen. Barack Obama paraphrased a line from the movie “The Untouchables”: “If [Republicans] bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” As the movie script says, “That’s the Chicago way.”

The political agenda at work is the long-time liberal objective of imposing controls on political speech on television, radio and the Internet. The subtext of the liberal argument is that the American people cannot be trusted to engage in a rational debate of public policy, but must have their choices limited by government lest violence ensue. To the contrary, the First Amendment must never be truncated because of the actions of a single deranged individual.