Thirty years ago, when a mentally unstable man shot and nearly killed the then-incumbent president of the United States, there was no speculation about the amped up level of political discourse. No one sought to pin the blame on left-wingers upset by Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory in the fall elections and the Republican (near-)sweep in contested Senate races. They weren’t speculating that the heated level of anti-Reagan rhetoric may have spurred his shooter to act.
Yet more than forty-seven years after John F. Kennedy was assassinated by a Communist sympathizer, conspiracy theories abound about the Democrat’s death. The theorists have no evidence to go on, just some shadow of a penumbra on a grassy knoll.
We are seeing the same thing yet again this weekend. Within moments of the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), left-wing bloggers and pundits just knew that conservatives, particularly Tea Party protesters and their idol Sarah Palin (and probably also Christine O’Donnell for good measure) just had to be involved, well, because they had to be, because you see, they’re guilty of revving up crowds with inflammatory rhetoric. “Progressives,” Donald Douglas observed, “started laying blame before even a fraction of the facts were known.” (He wasn’t the only one to observe as much; at Pajamas, Ed Driscoll has a round-up of commentary about those who leapt to similar conclusions.)
Only problem is is that, well, the nutjob who shot the Congresswoman and murdered six innocent individuals, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge (appointed by a Republican president) doesn’t seem to have identified with the Tea Party movement or have followed Sarah Palin’s web posts. Even the New York Times acknowledges as much. That paper even reports that the shooter was “left wing” and “quite liberal”, but most of all that he was “troubled,” his recent behavior offering “hints of alienation.” Dr. Sanity believes he “was likely suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.” (Read the whole thing for her explanation, via Instapundit.)
So, like the man who shot the Gipper, this young man had some pretty severe mental issues. And yet, in reporting on the incident, CNN, for example, as Ed Morrisey noted, “repeatedly kept insisting on a link between the shooting and political activism on the Right, especially Palin’s:“
Not just on CNN, either, but CNN holds itself out as an unbiased, middle-road news source that people of all political stripes can trust. Instead, they demonstrated their hostility by taking shots at the Right and Palin through the exploitation of a tragedy and horror that no one understood and for which no evidence existed to suggest any link at all.
(H/t Instapundit.) CNN and a number of voices on the left used this incident as a battering ram with which to attack the right and to trot out once again their notion of the type of people who shoot political figures or otherwise engage in violence as a means to make political points. Problem is that mentally imbalanced individuals like the man who shot Congresswoman Giffords also target Republicans (recall also the attempts on President Ford’s life) and rock stars (the media recently remembered John Lennon on the thirtieth anniversary of his murder).
It seems it was the Arizona Democrat’s prominence which drew her to the attention of this disturbed young man as it was the prominence of Ronald Reagan which attracted another mentally unstable twentysomething now nearly thirty years ago.
The media narrative notwithstanding, the supposedly overheated level of political discourse no more pushed a young man to shoot Congressman Giffords this weekend than it pushed another similarly disturbed individual to shoot President Reagan in 1981. The facts clearly point to a man with some pretty severe mental issues. It’s unfortunate that all too many in the media choose to play the political angle in the current shooting rather than cover it as they did thirty years ago.
Maybe it would have been different back then if there had been a (D) after Ronald Reagan’s name.