Economist turned liberal hack columnist Paul Krugman didn't do his reputation for fairness or class any good with a posting on the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on his nytimes.com blog Saturday, even before the suspect's name or anything about him had been released. He put a foot wrong right out of the gate, suggesting that the shooter, who all can now agree has the characteristics of paranoid schizophrenia, was a political assassin:
We don't have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was. She's been the target of violence before. And for those wondering why a Blue Dog Democrat, the kind Republicans might be able to work with, might be a target, the answer is that she's a Democrat who survived what was otherwise a GOP sweep in Arizona, precisely because the Republicans nominated a Tea Party activist. (Her father says that "the whole Tea Party" was her enemy.) And yes, she was on Sarah Palin's infamous "crosshairs" list.
Just yesterday, Ezra Klein remarked that opposition to health reform was getting scary. Actually, it's been scary for quite a while, in a way that already reminded many of us of the climate that preceded the Oklahoma City bombing.
His column on Monday, "Climate of Hate," was no more temperate, targeting Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly (Sarah Palin for some reason was spared) in self-righteously sorrowful fashion, kicking at the Republicans through his tears and calling up the Oklahoma City bombing.
When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?
Put me in the latter category. I've had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton's election in 1992 - an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.
Conservatives denounced that report. But there has, in fact, been a rising tide of threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials, including both Judge John Roll, who was killed Saturday, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords. One of these days, someone was bound to take it to the next level. And now someone has.
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.
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.
And there's a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you'll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won't hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O'Reilly, and you will.
Krugman put the onus on the GOP to stop the rhetoric (as if establishment GOP leaders had influence over what conservative talk radio hosts say):
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?
But where is Krugman getting his moral authority to lecture on the dangers of violent rhetoric? Here are the opening paragraphs of Krugman's December 18, 2009 column (h/t Seton Motley):
A message to progressives: By all means, hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy. Declare that you're disappointed in and/or disgusted with President Obama. Demand a change in Senate rules that, combined with the Republican strategy of total obstructionism, are in the process of making America ungovernable.
But meanwhile, pass the health care bill.