Blame Righty: A Condensed History
I agree with President Obama. When it comes to politicizing random violence, he and his supporters have been "far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than" they do. Recognition is the first step toward reconciliation. It's time to recognize the poisonous pervasiveness of the Blame Righty meme.
For the past two years, Democratic officials, liberal activists and journalists have jumped to libelous conclusions about individual shooting sprees committed by mentally unstable loners with incoherent delusions all over the ideological map. The White House now pledges to swear off "pointing fingers or assigning blame." Alas, the Obama administration's political and media foot soldiers have proved themselves incapable of such restraint.
In April 2009, a disgruntled, unemployed loser shot and killed three Pittsburgh police officers in a horrifying bloodbath. The gunman, Richard Poplawski, was a dropout from the Marines who threw a food tray at a drill sergeant and had beaten his girlfriend. Was this deranged shooter who pulled the trigger to blame? Nope. Despite evidence that Poplawski's homicidal, racist tendencies manifested themselves years before Obama took office, lefty publications asserted that the real culprit of the spree was the "heated, apocalyptic rhetoric of the anti-Obama forces" (according to mainstream liberal Atlantic Monthly pundit Andrew Sullivan), along with Fox News and Glenn Beck (according to mainstream liberal journalist Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly online).
That same month, a sick, evil man named Jiverly Voong ambushed an immigration center in Binghamton, N.Y. Recently fired from his job, Voong murdered 13 people, critically wounded four others and then committed suicide. The instant psychologists of the left knew nothing about the disgruntled man of Vietnamese descent and undetermined political affiliation. But within hours of the shooting, liberal mega-website Huffington Post commenters had overwhelmingly convicted GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, the National Rifle Association, Fox News, Lou Dobbs and yours truly. Liberal radio host Alan Colmes pointed his finger at the "huge anti-immigrant backlash in this country" -- never mind that tens of millions of legal immigrants and naturalized citizens have coped with hardship, overcome racism and embraced assimilation without going bloody bonkers.
In June 2009, a depraved, elderly anti-Semite named James von Brunn gunned down a security guard at the Holocaust Museum in D.C. Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent and lefty Center for American Progress think-tank fellow Matthew Yglesias immediately invoked the Obama administration's report on right-wing extremism, leading to a wider chorus of condemnations against the tea party, talk radio and the entire GOP. The truth? Von Brunn was an unstable, equal-opportunity hater and 9/11 Truther conspiracy loon who bashed Jews and Christians, George W. Bush and Fox News, and had also threatened the conservative Weekly Standard magazine.
In late August 2009, as lawmakers faced citizen revolts at health care town halls nationwide, the Colorado Democratic Party decried a window-smashing vandalism attack at its Denver headquarters. State Democratic Party Chair Pat Waak singled out tea party activists and blamed "people opposed to health care" for the attack. The perpetrator, Maurice Schwenkler, turned out to be a far-left transgender activist/single-payer anarchist who had worked for a labor union-tied political committee and canvassed for a Democratic candidate.
In September 2009, Bill Sparkman, a federal U.S. Census worker, was found dead in a secluded rural Kentucky cemetery with the word "Fed" scrawled on his chest with a rope around his neck. The Atlantic Monthly's Andrew Sullivan rushed to indict "Southern populist terrorism, whipped up by the GOP and its Fox and talk radio cohorts" in an online magazine post titled "No Suicide," which decried the "Kentucky lynching." Liberal author Richard Benjamin blamed "anti-government" bile. New York magazine fingered conservative talk radio giant Rush Limbaugh, "conservative media personalities, websites and even members of Congress." So, who killed Bill Sparkman? Bill Sparkman. He killed himself and deliberately manufactured a hate crime hoax as part of an insurance scam to benefit his surviving son.
In February 2010, ticking time-bomb professor Amy Bishop gunned down three of her colleagues at University of Alabama-Huntsville, and suicide pilot Joseph Andrew Stack flew a stolen small plane into an Austin, Texas, office complex that contained an Internal Revenue Service office. Mainstream journalists from Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart to Time magazine reporter Hilary Hylton leaped forward to tie the crimes to tea party rhetoric. Never mind that Bishop was an Obama-worshiping academic with a lifelong history of violence or that Stack was another Bush-hater outraged about everything from George W. Bush to the American medical system to the evils of capitalism to the city of Austin, the Catholic Church and airlines.
In May 2010, liberal New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to preemptively pin the Times Square bombing attempt on "someone with a political agenda that doesn't like the health care bill or something." The culprit was unrepentant Muslim jihadist Faisal Shahzad.
In August 2010, Democratic supporters of Missouri Rep. Russ Carnahan blamed a "firebombing" at the congressman's St. Louis office on tea party suspects. The real perpetrator? Disgruntled progressive activist Chris Powers, who was enraged over a paycheck dispute.
President Obama wisely counseled the nation this week at the Tucson massacre memorial that "bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath." But as the progressive left's smear-stained recent history shows, criminalizing conservatism is a hard habit to break.
Blood Libel? Oy Vey
Wasn't it moving to see progressive tweetdom and punditry unite in the defense of Jewry -- in the Middle Ages? As a member of this most oppressed minority, I personally want to thank you.
After all, how dare she? The media are so sick and tired of Sarah Palin's shtick (that's one of the words we use in private) that they created a stampede to Wikipedia to quickly figure out just how divisive this "blood libel" thing, whatever it means, could be to American discourse.
Now, just for the record, we Jews haven't been using the blood of gentile kids for our baking needs in at least a couple of decades, but in historical terms, blood libel refers to false accusations that Jews were murdering children to use their blood in religious rituals -- and an excuse for anti-Semitism. It was heavily utilized in the Middle Ages by some Christians and, with a few modifications, is a regular smear in the Muslim world today.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of Israel antagonists at J Street (an outfit that USA Today accidentally referred to as "a political organization for Jews and supporters of Israel"), spoke for hundreds when he claimed that "the term 'blood libel' brings back painful echoes of a very dark time in our communal history when Jews were falsely accused of committing heinous deeds" and demanded that Palin "retract her comment, apologize and make a less inflammatory choice of words."
Really? Memory? Inflammatory? Painful echoes? Jews, well, we can be offended like it's 1257. If blood libel is really a distasteful parallel, it is only because we have intimately familiarized ourselves with the idea through a History channel documentary about the crusades.
And if our institutional memories make us so thin-skinned, there are far more tangible reminders of genocide when we hop into our fancy German cars (which we do a lot, because we're in charge of everything). Or it is certainly as offensive as the heinous deeds of Sarah Palin, which include, among many other transgressions, talking.
And as Jim Geraghty of National Review helpfully noted, the term "blood libel" has been used many times by pundits and journalists from both sides of the ideological divide, including the esteemed Frank Rich of The New York Times, over the years.
Liberal Alan Dershowitz, as sensitive as they come to anti-Semitism (both real and imagined), said in a statement that "there is nothing improper and certainly nothing anti-Semitic in Sarah Palin using the term to characterize what she reasonably believes are false accusations that her words or images may have caused a mentally disturbed individual to kill and maim. The fact that two of the victims are Jewish is utterly irrelevant to the propriety of using this widely used term."
Now, feel free to be annoyed or enraged by Palin or her views. Feel free to question whether she had any idea what a blood libel was before this week. But this kind of indignation over an analogy is infantilizing what were once serious sensitivities.
Perhaps if self-proclaimed spokespeople for Jews everywhere like J Street focused on genuine anti-Semitism around the world, their little partisan cabaret would be more plausible.
Blood libel is the fiction-laden, anti-Israel Goldstone Report. Blood libel is the flotilla incident near Gaza. Blood libel is the Egyptian state media's peddling the idea that shark attacks were the handiwork of Jews and other state-run Arab media's blaming AIDS on Zionists. There are plenty of genuine things to get offended about in the world if you're Jewish.
Elected Officials Flunk Constitution Quiz
When the Republican House leadership decided to start the 112th Congress with a reading of the U.S. Constitution, the decision raised complaints in some quarters that it was little more than a political stunt. The New York Times even called it a "presumptuous and self-righteous act."
That might be true, if you could be sure that elected officials actually know something about the Constitution. But it turns out that many don't. In fact, elected officials tend to know even less about key provisions of the Constitution than the general public.
For five years now, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute has been conducting a national survey to gauge the quality of civic education in the country. We've surveyed more than 30,000 Americans, most of them college students, but also a random sample of adults from all educational and demographic backgrounds.
Included in the adult sample was a small subset of Americans (165 in all) who, when asked, identified themselves as having been "successfully elected to government office at least once in their life" -- which can include federal, state or local offices.
The survey asks 33 basic civics questions, many taken from other nationally recognized instruments like the U.S. Citizenship Exam. It also asks 10 questions related to the U.S. Constitution. So what did we find? Well, to put it simply, the results are not pretty.
Elected officials at many levels of government, not just the federal government, swear an oath to "uphold and protect" the U.S. Constitution. But those elected officials who took the test scored an average 5 percentage points lower than the national average (49 percent vs. 54 percent), with ordinary citizens outscoring these elected officials on each constitutional question. Examples:
* Only 49 percent of elected officials could name all three branches of government, compared with 50 percent of the general public.
* Only 46 percent knew that Congress, not the president, has the power to declare war -- 54 percent of the general public knows that.
* Just 15 percent answered correctly that the phrase "wall of separation" appears in Thomas Jefferson's letters -- not in the U.S. Constitution -- compared with 19 percent of the general public.
* And only 57 percent of those who've held elective office know what the Electoral College does, while 66 percent of the public got that answer right. (Of elected officials, 20 percent thought the Electoral College was a school for "training those aspiring for higher political office.")
Overall, our sample of elected officials averaged a failing 44 percent on the entire 33-question test, 5 percentage points lower than the national average of 49 percent.
The fact that our elected representatives know even less about America's history and institutions than the typical citizen (who doesn't know much either) is troubling indeed, but perhaps helps explain the lack of constitutional discipline often displayed by our political class at every level of our system.
When elected officials take an oath "to protect and defend the Constitution," shouldn't they know what they are swearing to?
Above is one of the most famous campaign posters from the Democratic party. It is from the 1866 Pennsylvania gubernatorial race. Hiester Clymer (D) versus James White Geary (R) suggests that a vote for Clymer is for the white man while a vote for Geary is for the ‘negro’
An interesting comparison with the Tucson shootings: "On this week's Townhall.com Weekend Journal, Dennis Prager takes listeners back to August 2010, when a black man in Manchester, Connecticut murdered 8 whites and told the 911 operator that he wished he could have killed more. Of course, the media was silent, few in America heard about this massacre, and there were no fingers pointed at liberals, Democrats or the MSM for their consistent race-baiting "vitriol" of blame whitey rhetoric. No doubt that if there were any dots to connect between an assassin and the daily media/political drum beat it would have been from this horrible event."
MSNBC Marches Ahead With Its Own Set of Facts: "Here’s a graphic MSNBC was using yesterday in its coverage of the Tucson shootings [above]. It’s a powerful image. I saw it at the gym on a number of muted televisions, and it stuck with me. It’s also complete bullshit. There is zero evidence that political rhetoric had any influence on Jared Loughner. In fact, there’s increasing evidence that he had no interest in politics at all. So does the truth simply not matter at MSNBC? This is just an egregious assault on reality."
The Decline of Courtesy: "The Wall Street Journal's Eric Felten writes about "Courtesy's Sad Substitute" -- specifically, "hypercorrectitude," as illustrated by the silence vigilantes on Amtrak's "Quiet Cars." The phenomenon Felten diagnoses is the same one that has come to govern sexual contact between young people at politically correct places like universities. In part because of the erosion of universally-understood standards for proper behavior between the sexes, the whole concept of "sexual harassment" came into being. And once that happened, "hypercorrectitude" took over, to such an absurd extent that, at some universities, specific verbal consent is required before each distinct act of a sexual nature that transpires between two people."
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)