Did we have to have an assassination attempt on an articulate, moderate Democratic Congresswoman to alert the country and its leadership and the media to the fact that our political rhetoric has gotten out of control? The killing spree that took place at a casual political event in Tuscon, Arizona on Saturday was so outrageous, so hateful and, once the targeted Congresswoman Giffords was hit, so randomly lethal that we have been forced to take notice. Nineteen others were hit and some were killed, including a nine-year old child, whose only problem was that she was interested in meeting her Congresswoman.
Do you remember the venom and vituperation thrown at Hillary when she said in an interview on the Today Show in 1998 that there was a vast right-wing conspiracy? [Here] Of course, she was talking in the context of the Lewinsky scandal, but what intelligent observer today would honestly deny that she was correct, even prescient, when we analyze the last mid-term Congressional election and the millions of self-interested corporate dollars thrown into the GOP campaigns? Most of that election money went to demonize Democrats and Obama’s signature political achievement, the Health Care Act.
In the next few weeks we can expect brave words, soaring rhetoric and promises to dampen down extremist political speech. Republican leaders who have been concerned about the Palin Factor in their party, will probably take this opportunity to try to toss her under the bus. (What a juicy sacrificial lamb! What the heck--her tv show’s ratings have plummeted.)
I bet that there will be some blame thrown by the right-wing punditry at their favorite canard, the "Liberal Press." (Say “it” enough times and folks are sure to believe.)
Let us hope that the predicted self-flagellation will lead to some more temperate political speech. But until Congress takes a serious look at ameliorating the effects of Citizens United v. FEC, the "vast right-wing conspiracy" will continue to move the country to Milton Friedman and the Koch Brothers favorite neo-liberal dream state.
In the meantime, we shall continue to think of Saturday's slain and injured victims. One victim was a federal judge who had stopped by to say hello to Gabby. Some were members of Gabby’s staff and others were her constituents whose only fault was they were interested in meeting their Congresswoman. For that interest, some citizens lost their lives.
We are reading about moments of heroism--a woman who, though injured herself, attacked and distracted the shooter so that others could tackle him, the two men who held the gunman down until law enforcement could arrive or the man who died while shielding his wife from the attacker. She survived but took bullet wounds to her legs.
I am certain there are other courageous acts that always accompany such tragedies. We don’t know about them but they will be etched into the memories of those people who were witnesses to this obscenity.
No, I don’t think this particular slaughter was the result of a specific and huge conspiracy, but it was a result of a continued planned campaign to frighten and enrage voters from coast to coast.
In the next weeks there will be lots of talk about toning down the political rhetoric, but things will not change until some leaders from both parties join together and agree on some campaign rules and finance changes. Wouldn’t it be splendid if John McCain found his old inner self--the one that had fought for campaign finance reform?
Who can now claim that Hillary wasn’t completely correct back in 1998?...