“Don’t Retreat – Reload.” That’s Sarah Palin’s wild-west, gun-blazing, backwoods mantra that serves as a rallying cry for rowdy rednecks from Selma to Seattle – and, perhaps, has unleashed an untold number of lunatics on an unsuspecting society.
Palin’s continued use of gun-related rhetoric, including a map that marked Democratic Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ district with rifle crosshairs, is indeed troubling and has provoked public debate about the hate-filled national political discourse.
Some Democrats have even insisted that Palin’s incendiary comments have resulted in violence at political rallies across the country.
Last week, Jared Lee Loughner unloaded a Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol outside a Tucson, Arizona supermarket and murdered six people, including a federal judge, a congressional aide and nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green. Giffords and 13 others were injured in Saturday’s senseless rampage.
Palin was certainly not the direct cause of Loughner’s murder spree, but she has certainly fired up a cult-like electorate hell bent on promoting violent tendencies.
But Palin’s star, which once burned bright, may now be flickering and fading fast. Angry top Republicans say Palin – once considered a formidable candidate for the White House in 2012 – missed a remarkable opportunity on Wednesday to demonstrate that she is capable of helping unite a nation.
In an eight-minute video Palin posted online about Saturday’s shooting in Tucson, she missed the mark and further damaged her own credibility when she uttered this statement: “Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”
The phrase “blood libel” was immediately criticized by a number of Jewish organizations, who say it’s wrong to liken criticism of her to an anti-Semitic myth that sparked centuries of persecution. Blood libel is a term most closely associated with a false accusation, first spread in the Middle Ages, that Jews killed Gentile babies and children and used their blood for baking matzos, the unleavened flatbread eaten during Passover.
It’s questionable whether Palin – who, despite having attended five colleges, is not exactly a scholar of either history or politics – even knew what it meant.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told Politico that while it was “inappropriate at the outset to blame Sarah Palin and others for causing this tragedy or for being an accessory to murder,” Palin went too far in calling the attacks on her “blood libel.”
And then there was this unintelligible offering from Palin’s teleprompter-read video message: “There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those calm days when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols?”
Dueling pistols? Back in what days? Another gun-related analogy? Once again, Palin proves that she only opens her mouth to change feet.
Many of her fellow Republicans were unimpressed by her latest salvo, which was widely hammered for being blatantly self-referential at a time of others’ great pain.
“She should have offered prayers and compassion for the victims and let it go at that,” GOP strategist Ed Rollins, a veteran of presidential campaigns, told reporters. “This is not about her. A short statement would have been better than a video.”
According to media reports, Palin’s advisors are “furious” that Palin is being linked to Saturday’s tragedy, but the response from her staff – and Palin – should be to immediately tone down her rhetoric and communicate in a more civil tone instead of using the date of Wednesday’s memorial to defend herself and advance her own personal agenda.
Moreover, Palin’s flawed attempt to upstage Obama on Wednesday was not only a critical miscalculation, but it also proved what many of us already know: Palin shows incredibly poor judgment and is not ready for the White House, unless she’s touring it.
One of the true tests of leadership – and for a U.S. president in particular – is to successfully offer hope during troubled times and tragedies, to bring heartfelt relief when Americans are confused and conflicted, to have the ability to calm the hotheads and lead a more conciliatory and thoughtful public debate.
On Wednesday in Tucson, Obama — not Palin – skillfully articulated a vision for healing a nation and effectively provided comfort to those in pain.
That’s real leadership.
“What we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another,” Obama said. “As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.”
Only time will tell if Obama’s call for civil discourse will resonate with Palin and her Tea Party followers.
If Palin has an ounce of decency, after her unbelievable “blood libel” blunder, she’ll retreat. But since Palin craves the spotlight and has absolutely no shame, my guess is that she is quickly – and proudly – preparing to reload.