Sarah Palin is under intense criticism for using the term 'blood libel' to defend herself after she was severely criticized after the Giffords shooting. I expected nothing more from her than to make the tragedy all about her, but I didn't expect it to be so callous. David Brooks did his best to write a column that is completely pointless after the tragedy and Andrew Sullivan took him to the woodshed over it. A major problem for Palin is that she took a serious amount of heat by many people including Gabby Giffords when she released the Target Map back in March. it's not like the left decided to dredge it up when it had been previously ignored. Even the View's own conservative Elizabeth Hasslebeck was fuming about.
It would have been negligent of everybody to dismiss Palin's target map ad after the Arizona shooting and what defines people at critical times is how they respond.
David Frum pounced on her after the brief statement she sent out directly after the Arizona shooting: What Palin Needed to Say After Giffords’ Shooting
And of course, Palin and her supporters had some justice on their side. Obviously, Palin never intended to summon people to harm Representative Giffords. There was no evidence that the shooter was a Palin follower, and in short order it became evident that he was actuated by a serious mental illness. Whatever you think about Palin’s “don’t retreat, reload” rhetoric, it could not be blamed for this crime.
So – argument won? No. Argument lost.
Of course, Palin has yet to give the answer called for by events. Instead, her rapid response operation has focused on pounding home the message that Palin is innocent, that she has been unfairly maligned by hostile critics. Which in this case happened to be a perfectly credible message. And also perfectly inadequate. Palin’s post-shooting message was about Palin, not about Giffords. It was defensive, not inspiring. And it was petty at a moment when Palin had been handed perhaps her last clear chance to show herself presidentially magnanimous.
Then Palin took it a step further today and now here are a few responses to her latest gaffe.
Jonah Goldberg admits that it wasn't very smart.
I should have said this a few days ago, when my friend Glenn Reynolds introduced the term to this debate. But I think that the use of this particular term in this context isn’t ideal. Historically, the term is almost invariably used to describe anti-Semitic myths about how Jews use blood — usually from children — in their rituals. I agree entirely with Glenn’s, and now Palin’s, larger point. But I’m not sure either of them intended to redefine the phrase, or that they should have.
You can always count on a few left wing Villager type writers to do their best and act like idiots. Jonathan Chait wins the award today.
Okay, it's a little over the top for Sarah Palin to accuse her critics of "blood libel." But she does have a basic point. She had nothing to do with Jared Loughner. He was not an extremist who embraced some radical version of her ideas. And her use of targets to identify districts Republicans were, um, targeting is not exceptional or prone to incite anybody.
What's happening is that Palin has come to represent unhinged grassroots conservatism, and people in the media immediately (and incorrectly) associated Loughner with the far right. Moreover, the Republican establishment understands her potential candidacy as a liability and is looking to snuff it out. So you have this weird moment where Palin is on trial for something she has no connection with at all.
Earth to Chait: Arizona is a hotbed of right-wing unrest and has been for a long time. Guns are being flaunted openly at political rallies and Palin singled out Giffords in the Target Map ad. In what bubble does Chait live? Are we blaming Palin for the shooting? No. We're making it very clear that words do matter and to think Palin has no connection to the unseemly level of discourse is simply naive. Playing the victim is what conservative pundits and politicians do best, and Palin fits in perfectly with their embrace of victimhood and backlash politics. Wake up.