Krugman at 4 AM — Democracy in the Crosshairs

January 10, 2011

In the wake of Saturday’s Tucson shooting, it’s hard to find any kind of humor in the horror that’s been coming from the right side of the political aisle the last couple of years — the Safeway slaughter an incident indicating a mangled/reversed ‘put your action where your mouth is‘ kind of event.
When you place someone in the ‘cross-hairs,’ or ‘bulls-eye,’ then call for that someone to be ‘removed’, and it happens in a nasty, violent way, don’t get high-and-mighty when people call you an enabling asshole.
Or worse, claim the ‘cross-hairs’ are “surveyor’s symbols — WTF

(Illustration found here).

And in a move that would make Karl Rove proud, Sen. Lamar Alexander, a bogus GOPer from Tennessee, told CNN on Sunday that it was the media’s fault for bringing up all the right-wing hate talk and Sarah Palin’s infamous cross-hairs map.
From Think Progress:

Crowley: Was it over the line, sort of specifically, since it’s now being talked about everywhere, with Sarah Palin’s web ads about people that she would like to see targeted for political defeat.
Alexander: Well, Candy, I think you’re responsible, by bringing this up, of doing the very thing you’re trying to condemn.
You’re making and implying a direct connection between Sarah Palin and what happened.
You’re picking out a particular incident.
Well, I think the way to get away from it is for you not to be talking about it.

Well, Lamar, what should we be talking about — maybe how to reload a 9mm Glock.
And of that noted firearm, Gail Collins, via a post this morning in the New York Times, takes a look at the notorious Glock and an previous similar incident at a 2009 Gabby Giffords political event:

In 2009, Gabrielle Giffords was holding a “Congress on Your Corner” meeting at a Safeway supermarket in her district when a protester, who was waving a sign that said “Don’t Tread on Me,” waved a little too strenuously.
The pistol he was carrying under his armpit fell out of his holster.
“It bounced. That concerned me,” Rudy Ruiz, the father of one of Giffords’s college interns at the time, told me then.
He had been at the event and had gotten a larger vision than he had anticipated of what a career in politics entailed. “I just thought, ‘What would happen if it had gone off? Could my daughter have gotten hurt?’ ”
Giffords brushed off the incident.
“When you represent a district — the home of the O.K. Corral and Tombstone, the town too tough to die — nothing’s a surprise,” she said.
At the time, it struck me as an interesting attempt to meld crisis control with a promotion of local tourist attractions.

Today, the amazing thing about the reaction to the Giffords shooting is that virtually all the discussion about how to prevent a recurrence has been focusing on improving the tone of our political discourse. That would certainly be great.
But you do not hear much about the fact that Jared Loughner came to Giffords’s sweet gathering with a semiautomatic weapon that he was able to buy legally because the law restricting their sale expired in 2004 and Congress did not have the guts to face up to the National Rifle Association and extend it.

Loughner’s gun, a 9-millimeter Glock, is extremely easy to fire over and over, and it can carry a 30-bullet clip. It is “not suited for hunting or personal protection,” said Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign.
“What it’s good for is killing and injuring a lot of people quickly.”

According to a Web site selling the Glock: The main advantage of the GLOCK “Safe Action” system is that is has no external safeties. Because of this, the user can fully concentrate on the tactical tasks required whilst being in a stress situation and does not need to think about any safeties to be deactivated.
The operative words there are “tactical tasks.”
Just another item to take to the neighborhood Safeway to score some foodstuffs.

Paul Krugman, an economist most of the time, has a pointed post this morning in the NYT about the climate of national hate that has swelled the last two years:

It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled.
But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.
Last spring reported on a surge in threats against members of Congress, which were already up by 300 percent.
A number of the people making those threats had a history of mental illness — but something about the current state of America has been causing far more disturbed people than before to act out their illness by threatening, or actually engaging in, political violence.
And there’s not much question what has changed.
As Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff responsible for dealing with the Arizona shootings, put it, it’s “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.”
The vast majority of those who listen to that toxic rhetoric stop short of actual violence, but some, inevitably, cross that line.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening: the purveyors of hate have been treated with respect, even deference, by the G.O.P. establishment.
As David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, has put it, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.”
So will the Arizona massacre make our discourse less toxic?
It’s really up to G.O.P. leaders.
Will they accept the reality of what’s happening to America, and take a stand against eliminationist rhetoric?
Or will they try to dismiss the massacre as the mere act of a deranged individual, and go on as before?

The future, all around, doesn’t look too rosy — more Glocks on the block?.

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