Sarah Palin, former GOP vice-presidential candidate, charged journalists and pundits with 'blood libel' for linking political rhetoric with the shooting of US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others.
Wednesday morning, the 2008 GOP vice-presidential nominee posted an eight-minute video on her Facebook page, expressing sadness and shock over the tragedy in which six people died and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) of Arizona was gravely wounded. Then former Governor Palin waded into the red-hot controversy over political rhetoric and its possible role in inciting the killer.
Palin did not directly refer to charges that her own words and actions – such as posting a map of the US with cross-hairs over congressional districts ripe for Republican takeover, including Giffords's – played a role. But a sense of personal outrage came through loud and clear.
“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,” she said. “That is reprehensible.”
Blood libel? According to the "Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions," “blood libel” refers to “the accusation that Jews murder non-Jews to obtain blood for Passover rituals.” Probably not what Palin had mind. More likely, she meant just plain libel, which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as “a written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression.”
In her statement, Palin also took issue with suggestions that political rhetoric has gotten more heated lately.
“But when was it less heated?” she said. “Back in those ‘calm days’ when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial. But our Founding Fathers knew they weren’t designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government.
“Our Founders’ genius was to design a system that helped settle the inevitable conflicts caused by our imperfect passions in civil ways. So, we must condemn violence if our Republic is to endure.”
Embedded in that statement is a pitch for the conservative ideal of limited government (as in, “if men and women were angels, there would be no need for government”). Liberals will no doubt have a field day with that as well.
She also took a dig at those who criticized the new Republican leadership in the House for beginning the 112th Congress with a reading of the Constitution from the House floor. Congresswoman Giffords was randomly assigned to read the First Amendment.
“It was a beautiful moment and more than simply 'symbolic,' as some claim, to have the Constitution read by our Congress,” Palin said. “I am confident she knew that reading our sacred charter of liberty was more than just ‘symbolic.’ But less than a week after Congresswoman Giffords reaffirmed our protected freedoms, another member of Congress announced that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech he found offensive.”
She was likely referring to Rep. Robert Brady (D) of Pennsylvania, who after the Tucson shooting suggested legislation that would “make it a federal crime to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a federal official or member of Congress,” according to The Hill newspaper.
Palin’s speech mainly consisted of statements affirming the greatness of the nation and its people – the kind of language we might hear from President Obama Wednesday night, as he addresses the memorial service in Tucson. And certainly, there was no apology for anything she has said in the past two years (not that anyone really expected it). But if Palin thought her video release would put to rest the lively public debate over her and others’ political rhetoric, she has another think coming.