Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

« Previous Post | Opinion L.A. Home | Next Post »

The conversation about Sarah Palin's official post-Arizona statement: She really messed this one up

January 12, 2011 | 11:43 am

The day after the Tucson massacre, Sarah Palin aide Rebecca Mansour joined Tammy Bruce's radio program to discuss that infamous "cross-hairs map."  First of all, they were surveyor symbols, Mansour said. And second, the map wasn’t even designed in-house. (As if that makes the Palin camp any less responsible for the map it commissioned, which Palin herself then promoted on her Facebook page.)

Of course, Palin had nothing to do with Saturday's horrific turn of events, and even if you don't like her, it's hard not to feel bad that she's been unfairly connected to Tucson. Still, it did initiate a discussion that was long overdue about the general state of our political discourse: Is it responsible to have a political conversation that's charged with so many violent metaphors? And has it helped create a culture of overreacting?

Palin's response to that: Nope, I'm not changing. "Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions. And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere."

Predictably, she also deflected any heat over her "reload" rhetoric by pointing a finger at the media for "manufactur[ing] a blood libel that serves only to incite the hatred and violence that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible."

In using "blood libel," a term rooted in anti-Semitism, however, she created a bigger mess for herself. Quoting from James Oliphant's Los Angeles Times article, Sarah Palin's charge of 'blood libel' spurs outcry from Jewish leaders

"Instead of dialing down the rhetoric at this difficult moment, Sarah Palin chose to accuse others trying to sort out the meaning of this tragedy of somehow engaging in a 'blood libel' against her and others," said David Harris, president of the National Democratic Jewish Council, in a statement. "This is of course a particularly heinous term for American Jews, given that the repeated fiction of blood libels are directly responsible for the murder of so many Jews across centuries -- and given that blood libels are so directly intertwined with deeply ingrained anti-Semitism around the globe, even today."

Even conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg is with us on this one. Blogging for NRO, he said:

"I should have said this a few days ago, when my friend Glenn Reynolds introduced the term to this debate. But I think that the use of this particular term in this context isn't ideal. Historically, the term is almost invariably used to describe anti-Semitic myths about how Jews use blood -- usually from children -- in their rituals. I agree entirely with Glenn’s, and now Palin"s, larger point. But I’m not sure either of them intended to redefine the phrase, or that they should have."

Here's what she could have said, so well put by the Washington Post's Ezra Klein:  

Imagine if Palin had come out and said, "My initial response was to defend the fact that I had never condoned such violence, and never would. But the fact is, if I in any way contributed to an unhealthy political climate, I have to be more careful and deliberate in my public language rather than merely sharpen my defenses." That would've been leadership: It would have made her critics look small, and it would've made her look big. Those who doubted whether Palin could rise to an occasion that called for more than sharp partisanship would've been silenced.

What do you make of Palin's remarks? Do you give her video a thumbs-up, as Ed Morrissey did over on Hot Air? Or were you offended by her statement?


The Gabrielle Giffords conversation continues: Looking for meaning in Tucson

More on vitriol and violence

Two gay heroes thwart assassinations -- what a difference 35 years make

Shooting from the lip in reaction to Gabrielle Giffords tragedy

The exploitive rhetoric of tragedy

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Comments ()