- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 11, 2011

POST-TUCSON

Sensible America has spoken. The nation does not think “harsh political tone” had anything to do with Saturday’s deadly shootings in Arizona, where a Democratic lawmaker was severely injured, this according to a nimble CBS News survey revealing that 57 percent of respondents agreed that rhetoric and the terrible events were unrelated. About a third felt there was a connection. Naturally, there’s a partisan divide: 69 percent of Republicans don’t equate the two, compared with 49 percent of Democrats.

“It’s clear that liberals’ desperate attempts to pin this attack on conservatives have been failing,” observes Philip Klein of the American Spectator. “This is largely a result of the fact that a) there has been no evidence to support such a link and b) conservatives did a good job pushing back against the left-wing effort to exploit this tragedy.”

By nature, politics remains a noisy contact sport. The show must go on, even as Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee prepares to ban state officials from “ratings driven” talk radio and Rep. James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, parses the balance of free speech and caustic rhetoric. Life goes on, too: Investigators sort out terrible details, doctors tend to the injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and people of good will pray for the recovery of the Arizona Democrat, for the dead and the injured.

Meanwhile, the ever narcissistic press continues hand-wringing over “vitriol,” the tragedy and its possible “role” in it. Note to journalists: It’s not about you all the time, and please consult the Pew Research Center’s “State of the Media 2007” report recommending that an ingrained “argument culture” in news coverage should yield to an “answer culture.” Also consider forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner’s advice on covering “an attention seeking crime.” To curb copycat acts, journalists should portray shooters as “losers and perverts,” he told ABC News - and thus lessen the lure of potential fame and notoriety.

THE EVENT

“Together We Thrive: Tucson and Arizona”

(The formal White House title for the public memorial service for the Arizona shooting victims on Wednesday, to be attended by President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, Republican Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl and Democratic Rep. Raul M. Grijalva; the event includes “a Native-American blessing, a moment of silence, a poetry reading and presentation of a chain of messages from the public.”)

BUMPER PATROL

“Fire Boehner.” (Bumper sticker spotted in Bethesda, Md., “on a black Mercedes,” says the Beltway reader who saw it.)

THE T-WORD

In the excruciatingly hypersensitive media environment that continues to foment following the Arizona shootings, “target” is, uh, a loaded term - thanks to ramped-up controversy over Sarah Palin’s use of rifle-sight graphics in a 2010 voter-outreach campaign. One waggish Power Line reader suggested Target Corp. should change its name to “Unicorn Corp.” or “Teddy Bear Inc.”

But legislation looms. Democrats Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York hope to ban high-capacity ammunition clips. Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, plans to introduce a bill that makes it illegal to knowingly carry a gun within 1,000 feet of certain government officials.

But once again, certain American sensibilities prevail.

“Gallup trends on gun control show that Americans have grown less supportive of strengthening gun laws in the United States over the last two decades, notwithstanding a number of tragic gun attacks during that period,” say Gallup analysts Frank Newport and Lydia Saad in a new analysis that tracks public opinion during years that included the Columbine shootings, the “D.C. sniper” attacks and the Virginia Tech massacre.

“The percentage in favor of making the laws governing the sale of firearms ‘more strict’ fell from 78 percent in 1990 to 62 percent in 1995 and 51 percent in 2007. In the most recent reading, Gallup in 2010 found 44 percent in favor of stricter laws. In fact, in 2009 and again last year, the slight majority said gun laws should either remain the same or be made less strict,” the researchers add.

FAT POLICE

Yes, it’s come to this.

The Library of Congress’ Science, Technology and Business Division and Weight Watchers plan to convene an “expert panel to discuss dieting and weight loss practices spanning more than 150 years to find lessons to address the 21st-century obesity epidemic, which is fueling the nation’s healthcare costs.”

Dieting in 1860? The mind reels. Incidentally, next Wednesday’s event - “Weight Loss Through the Ages: Where We’ve Been, What We’ve Learned and Where We’re Going” - comes with lunch.

POLL DU JOUR

- 52 percent of U.S. voters are not concerned that those who are opposed to President Obama’s policies “will resort to violence.”

- 45 percent are “at least somewhat likely” to be concerned.

- 19 percent are not at all concerned.

- 63 percent of Democrats are concerned that Mr. Obama’s opponents could be violent.

- 67 percent of Republicans and 54 percent of unaffiliated voters do not have any concerns about potential violence.

- 53 percent of voters overall were concerned about violence following the passage of health care reform, in a similar poll conducted March 25-26, 2010.

Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted Jan. 9-10.

Hyperbole and quiet asides to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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