- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 13, 2011


The tragedy cycle is just about complete. It only took a week for the Arizona shootings to morph from stark violence to brand name, political vehicle, culture forum and dramatic press tableau — complete with a memorial service that sanitized grief while marketing instant national “healing” and commemorative T-shirts. There was also a certain undercurrent of “blame America first.” Though President Obama’s speech during the event won warm bipartisan accolades, there was still an overall take-away message: behavioral failings, political incivility, talk radio and gun laws are to blame for wounds and death, not the shooter.

Yeah, well. Multiple polls found that sensible Americans do not buy that idea; Gallup, in fact, found that 53 percent of respondents said the partisan blame game was “an attempt to make conservatives look bad.” Close to three-fourths agreed that gun laws had nothing to do with the shootings. And it is also interesting that Rush Limbaugh — among the most vilified in recent days — was the one left to fret publicly that the long-term, visceral pain felt by families of the fallen was being overlooked, diminished and co-opted by nimble opportunists.


Political theater could overshadow President Obama’s big State of the Union address on Jan. 25. Democrats now propose that the parties get cozy and sit together in the House chamber during the big speech as a sign of civility. Aww. That would end a 200-year-old tradition. Eww.

Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado proposed the gesture, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs are among those who give their blessing to furniture diplomacy. Note to Republicans: beware of tacks. And whoopie cushions.


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is fond of releasing his megacaches of classified documents on weekends. If his habits hold true, an expose based on 504 embassy cables and centered on Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. — parent company to Fox News — could be in the making. We’ll see. Things are mighty curious in Wiki-world, meanwhile.

Mr. Assange claims he knows little about U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, now in solitary confinement in the Quantico Marine Corps brig, accused of leaking diplomatic material to WikiLeaks in the first place. The Australian hacker, under house arrest himself, is also convinced that the U.S. has plans for the soldier.

“I’d never heard his name before it was published in the press,” Mr. Assange assures the New Statesman in an interview published Friday, adding, “Cracking Bradley Manning is the first step. The aim clearly is to break him and force a confession that he somehow conspired with me to harm the national security of the United States.”


“57 percent-32 percent. The lefties’ vicious attacks after the Giffords tragedy have BACKFIRED.” (A new bumpersticker by Zazzle.com, using CBS News poll numbers revealing majorities say conservatives were not to blame for the wounding of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Democrat)


Maybe the U.S. government could improve its sagging image among Americans by shelling out $3 million for a 30-second Super Bowl spot, or even sponsor the halftime show. That is the theory, at least, among elite advertising moguls, says an upcoming Harper’s magazine, on newsstands Jan. 20. Among other things, the marketers envision Comedy Central fake newsman Stephen Colbert in a big production number with members of Congress, Supreme Court justices and Oprah Winfrey. But alas, politics have taken their toll on the federal image.

“The number-one marketing challenge the government has is that its primary communications outlet is political campaigning,” observes Mark Fitzloff, a creative director at Wieden & Kennedy, a global ad agency.

Few citizens want any frou-frou on Uncle Sam, the ad men warn. Any governmental image overhauls need to follow the model set by the U.S. military, which is exquisitely sensitive to the patriotic and heroic virtues of its outreach.

“No one wants a silly Army,” says Perry Fair, a creative director at Grey Group, a New York agency. “No one wants a silly government.”


Attention, parents-of-the-bride, and pleasantly surprised grooms: 89 percent of American brides now want smaller weddings, 80 percent want a wedding with 50 guests or fewer, 69 percent would “never” be on a wedding reality-TV show, 66 percent would consider a family member or friend to deliver their vows, 32 percent say saving money for a house is their “top priority,” 25 percent no longer want to “wear white” at their wedding.

From a David’s Bridal survey of 501 brides-to-be, conducted in November and released Friday.


• 47 percent of U.S. voters say the Arizona shootings will bring “no change” in how opposing politicians speak to each other.

• 52 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats agree.

• 34 percent overall say the events will “moderate the rhetoric,” but only in the short term.

• 22 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats agree.

• 12 percent overall say there is “nothing wrong” with the way politicians currently speak to their opponents.

• 3 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of Republicans agree.

• 4 percent overall say the Arizona violence “is a wake-up call and a turning point” for politicians to treat one another with respect.

• 2 percent of Republicans and 8 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Zogby Interactive Poll of 4,043 likely voters conducted Jan. 11 to 13.

Tipline always open at [email protected]. Follow the column at twitter.com/harperbulletin.

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