Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Out of the Crosshairs

After more than a week of witnessing Sarah Palin standing in the crosshairs of the crazed, dispirited, and opportunistic elements in the left wing of America's political commentariat, Democrat and former mayor of New York City Ed Koch has finally had enough.  Though no special fan of Palin or of her politics, Koch declares her the winner in this round.  He writes a classy, respectful and clear-eyed column defending Palin (and, thereby, his own American understanding of the proper way to conduct politics) against those of his own particular political persuasion who think that persuasion in politics can be or should be achieved by careless lies and manipulations.  The cynical "whatever works" crowd in American political debate has more in common with the Loughner's of this world than do those they would have you believe are too extreme for polite society.  Polite society worthy of America does not freak out whenever a strong and differing opinion is voiced or a counter opinion of equally strong vintage is offered in reply.

Of course, Koch is not writing this to do any favors for Palin--nor should he concern himself with that task.  He's writing this to bring the silly whippersnappers among his own crowd back into check as a respected and elder statesman ought to do.  Good for him and good for the Democrats if they listen to him. Good for America if we mind the generic advice he offers regarding fair (but still spirited) argumentation.  The bi-partisan politics of "freaking out" strikes me as something more dangerous to our liberties these days than heated rhetoric about "crosshairs" and "blood libels." 
Categories > Politics

Discussions - 6 Comments

The motive behind the post-Tucson hysteria is not hard to grasp: Leftists are still smarting from last November's drubbing by the voters, and feeling desperate for any handhold they can grasp to claw their way "back into the game."

The Giffords shooting seemed made to order, as it could (or so they thought) be so easily dovetailed into the longstanding leftist smear about how conservatives are supposedly hateful, cruel fascists given to "mean-spirited" rhetoric that is indistinguishable from incitement to violence.

The reality that none of this had anything to do with the actual facts of the case scarcely registered . . . except with the public, and a president whose heart may be on the left but who also knows how to read polls (oops).

I write this as one who commends the president for his speech (even if his motives involved an element of calculation, as motives so often do) and who does not want to see Sarah Palin run for president.

I see that two 15 year old students were injured yesterday when a 9mm gun in the backpack of a 17 year old student went off.

Where is the outrage? Ought not the leftist types be screaming about how the 17 year old was motivated to bring the gun to school because of right-wing imagery, hate, fascism and, well, George W. Bush?

Oh ... nobody was killed (thankfully). Therefore, the event has no exploitative value for the leftists.

And it's California, not Arizona. California is leftist utopia. Arizona is the hate-filled SB-1070 state. They dare not be seen casting a wary eye towards California lest the unwashed start to realize what a grand failed liberal experiment that has become.

Oh ... and by the way ... yesterday on I-19 to the south of Tucson there was a traffic fatality. No wailing, no candle-light vigils, nothing.

Life has, apparently, relative merit based on the events of death and the political value of the death. The whole "cars are dangerous" meme was played out decades ago. Sarah Palin is a more contemporary darkness.

Julie, you once suggested I c omment more often. So, here goes:

Your rhetoric in this post offers an example of the kind of thing many find "uncivil" in our disc ourse on politics:

The cynical "whatever works" crowd in American political debate has more in common with the Loughner's of this world than do . . . .

Surely nobody not yet diagnosed with a psychopathologic illness can be said to have ANYTHING "in common with the Loughners of this world"?

If conservatives resent that their more stridently worded criticisms of the current administration's policies are being called responsible for the actions of a madman, then they should be extra careful not to turn that same tactic around, and liken pragmatism, cynicism (or any other characteristic they use to dexcribe liberals) to the same psychopathology.

Thanks for commenting, Ellen.

I am not surprised to see you pick up on that comment as it was one that I had considered striking as I wrote the post. Your noting it may suggest that I should have second guessed myself and taken it out. But as I wrote it, considered it, and reconsidered it, I used it deliberately--though maybe not, apparently, as clearly as I imagined.

Cynicism of the kind I described is not, of course, limited to liberals or even descriptive of all liberals. It's a character issue. I was trying to compare the willfulness or the "will to power" of a Loughner (a will that HE expressed in violence to people) to that of those who scorn the truth and seek only to advance their cause through a violence to the truth. Obviously, in the object of their violence is an important difference. But knowingly accepting lies, slander, and character assassination for argument does a kind of violence to the truth that makes the comparison work on the level of metaphor. It is certainly true that this kind of action has "more in common" logically with Loughner's action than does the use of metaphors such as "target" or "crosshairs" in political speech. And the hysteria that marks their outcry might be said to be similar to a mental illness--though I make no claims to expertise in that arena.

Well, I am no expert on psychiatry either, and I'm mostly a lay observer of politics. If I know anything, it's a little about word-smithing and rhetoric. No, the comparison was not clear to me, and I'm afraid it still is not. We just can't speak of any action as having "'more in common' logically with Loughner's action" because Loughner was acting outside of any logic.

Which leads me to another rant: to complain about the liberal (in the non-political sense of "excessive") use of the adjective "cynical" to describe people whose politics we don't like. The word has almost ceased to have meaning. I read it and my eyes start to glaze over. Let try some new words: how about "insincere"? "basely calculating"? "lacking in all conviction" "nihilistic"? I think the latter was what you were getting at when you threw in the Loughner comparison?

I still like the word "cynical" though I am open to the charge of overuse and the words you suggest as alternatives also work. If you were my editor, I would not object to the edit.

As to the "logic" of Loughner . . . I don't know if I'm willing to say that he had none. I mean that "I don't know" sincerely. Perhaps he didn't have logic but it's probably fair to say that neither of us really knows enough to make that claim. I know I don't. It might also have been a kind of twisted logic that moved him--and barring clear evidence that he is simply sick--I'd rather assume that. Twisted logic is still, unfortunately, a form of logic. There is a logical conclusion that follows from a twisted premise. And there can also be an element of evil in it. Loughner's evil intent had a far more evil conclusion than those who make reckless or calculating charges. But the intent of those who--in that basely calculating fashion--seek to engage in character assassination (a metaphor that I think is apt) for the purpose of advancing their own agenda, DOES have more in common with Loughner's evil motives THAN DOES the spirited use of words like "blood libel" or "crosshairs." I did not say that Loughner and these calculating folks are the same. I only said that the charge that using "crosshairs" IS the same or is responsible for Loughner more resembles the charge than the likes of folks like Palin--whatever one may say of her judgment.

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