While Sarah Palin bemoaned the state of public discourse as it flew from sorrow and mourning to finger-pointing, the nation itself grabbed a popcorn bucket and sat back while she attempted a curious, teleprompted defense. Some commentators are questioning what effect her bloody awful choice of words will have on the likely 2012 presidential run. With such a wide open field of candidates and no clear front runner for the Republican ticket, it’s worth taking a look at the other nomination hunters and their comments on the Arizona shooting.
As of now, Palin stands alone in terms of both controversy and technical proficiency, her “blood libel” comments on Vimeo shining far brighter than former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s remarks in a recent radio interview or former Mass. Governor Mitt Romey’s brief press release.
Why compare what the possible contenders are saying to the public? Well, says Minnesota blogger Eric Black, “at the moment, it’s huge, and has morphed into the question of whether right-wing crazy talk can or should be blamed for creating an environment in which mentally unstable individuals will start killing people.” Not saying it can or should, but a roundup of discourse defenses (or lack thereof) is definitely worth seeing.
Mitt Romney’s January 8 web statement was to the point — condolence, condemnation — and lacked any of the accusations made by his political competitors or the critics who have so fiercely dissected them since Saturday’s shootings. A wise choice, it would seem, although his lack of face time in the national media so far may come back to haunt him, especially considering what Tim Pawlenty has been up to.
New Gingrich must have by now seen Sarah’s Palin’s stake raise on Vimeo, but as of yet has elected to check rather than meet it. As a Monday guest of the Don Wade and Roma radio show, Gingrich avoided a messy situation by reiterating accusations against those on the political left. He was quoted by ThinkProgress in asking: “What is it on the left that makes it impossible for them to tell the truth either about radical Islamists or about nuts? And what is it about the left that requires them to smear conservatives with no evidence at all?” Words altogether biting enough to satisfy the party fact checkers come 2012, yet bare of anything as specifically eyebrow-raising as what Palin had earlier espoused.
Mike Huckabee also took to the radio, specifically his radio show “The Huckabee Report,” where he labeled the alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner as a “whack job nut maggot,” according to the Daily Kos. He scores points not only for an Urban Dictionary-style insult mash-up, but for the two heartfelt tweets displayed on his website’s front page. Both ask his followers to join him in prayer for the dead and wounded. Hopefully he personally tweeted them.
Perhaps the best position heading into February 2011 and the traditional declare-your-candidacy time of year is Tim Pawlenty. While not exactly a household name a la Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney, Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, has been making television studio rounds and sat down on Wednesday with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Mediaite reported that he straddled the harmful discourse debate, saying, “All of us could benefit from a more thoughtful discussion, but we don’t want to chill or deter people’s passion or enthusiasm for their positions.” Pawlenty was on a scheduled media tour after his autobiography hit the bookshelves, and will see the opportunity in front of the cameras as a valuable one as the lenses fall on prominent Republicans.
While we’re on the theme, it should be noted that while possible candidate and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has not yet made any public statements, he commented by phone to the Wall Street Journal that the fault lies not in the state or the school, but with Loughner’s parents, friends and neighbors.
Perhaps Savage Love readers have something to say about that.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 17, 2011