a weekly blog for all interested in professional communications issues

Monday, January 10, 2011

Arizona tragedy a political game changer

It is risky to make political predictions at the best of times. So it is too early to say if the tragedy in Tucson over the weekend will end Sarah Palin’s political ambitions, or anyone else’s for that matter.

But it is probably safe to say the attempted assassination of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of six others on Saturday will force Americans to take a long look at what has happened to their political culture.

The media of course didn’t wait long to blame right wingers – Palin in particular – for using such inflammatory rhetoric against liberals and Democrats that a disturbed young man would be incited to shoot the Congresswoman in the head and kill six others.

They were especially hard on Palin because her political action committee published a map last year with the cross hairs of a rifle marking the Congressional districts of 20 Democrats, including that of Giffords. Palin also once uttered the words to supporters, ``Don’t retreat. Reload.’’

Palin likely lent some credence to those allegations by her reaction on Monday. She sent one of her aides out to deny the map had anything to do with the shootings rather than do it herself. She also e-mailed her sorrow for the shootings to right-wing commentator Glenn Beck on Fox News.

Her seclusion will be interpreted by most people as cowardice. Indeed, her reaction could cost her more political capital than the map.

Beck, meantime, tried to imply Palin was in danger of being assassinated by liberals. He also accused the left of using a terrible tragedy to score cheap political points. (Actually, Beck’s behavior on Fox was cheap.)

But even though both right wingers acted like they were guilty as hell, it is important to remember both sides are responsible for the current political climate.

“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.

Barak Obama used those words to supporters in Philadelphia in 2008.

Americans need to clean up their political debate by all sides just as they need to inject some sanity into their gun laws. Canadians need to ensure politics here doesn’t become more Americanized than it already has.


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