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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tucson Shooter Jared Loughner

January 10, 2011

During a town hall meeting in Abu Dhabi (also see post below):

In Abu Dhabi today, at a town hall meeting at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed University for a taped show on MBC television called “Sweet Talk,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton labeled the Tucson shooter an “extremist.”

“Look, we have extremists in my country,” she said. “A wonderful, incredibly brave young woman congressmember, Congresswoman Giffords was just shot in our country. We have the same kinds of problems. So rather than standing off from each other, we should work to try to prevent the extremists anywhere from being able to commit violence.”

The label “extremist” in that context suggests a political motivation. President Obama and officials in the law enforcement community have been more circumspect in their public remarks, suggesting it is too early to ascribe motive.

It perhaps is too soon to ascribe motives. Only Loughner can provide that, but Secretary Clinton’s overall point is well-taken. Irrespective of this kid’s ideology and the ideology of the victims, there is no reason NOT to tone down the political rhetoric. The rhetoric has quite frankly become overly-provocative and tinged with violent symbolism and imagery. It’s politics, not war, and it’s high time people remember that. I don’t care whether someone is on the right, left, middle or totally apolitical. There is no place for thinly-veiled violent rhetoric in a democracy and I’m as big a free speech advocate as you are likely to find.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    January 10, 2011 1:52 pm

    Actually, stacy, now that I’ve read this was a “planned assasination,” I take back what I wrote yesterday — he may be mentally ill, but his motivations were political. I think this meets my definition of terrorism (or political extremism as Hillary suggests). I was interested to read Palin has taken down her website. Wonder if this incident may change the mind of some Independents about the Tea Party -esque Republicans.

    • January 10, 2011 6:16 pm

      You were right to call for people to not jump to conclusions. I think though, when someone guns down a politician, people will naturally look for political motives.

      Obviously the kid is very disturbed. I really don’t care if he’s a lefty or righty or an anti-Semite or whatever or whether he targeted a democrat or republican- it shouldn’t matter- I still think that his ideology, whatever it is, may be less important than the fact that our political rhetoric has become extreme and poisonous. There is no reason in the world to put gun site targets or cross-hairs on a map with a list of people to be “targeted” and then to accompany that with a tweet or facebook entry using the words “reload” and “take aim.” Now Palin is saying it wasn’t a bullseye or crosshair it was a geological survey symbol. Yeah, then why did she call it a bullseye at the time the map was published? Why can’t she just say something like “I in no way intended the map to be taken as a violent image but moving forward I will try to be more sensitive of those concerns….” or something like that? Ironically, Gifford specifically brought up Palin’s cross-hairs map in an interview and called on people to tone it down. Palin and people who use extreme rhetoric aren’t responsible for this tragedy, Jared Loughner is, but extreme rhetoric can have consequences- threats against the POTUS are up, threats against members of Congress are up, threats against federal judges are up- I don’t believe that that has NOTHING to do with the political climate which is making violent rhetoric mainstream.

      Listening to the right wing media and pundits try to claim that the Tea Party rhetoric isn’t laced with violent imagery is rather interesting. If a GOP member of Congress had been gunned down do you think they’d be bending over backwards to make this just a case of some random psychotic guy going on a shooting spree?

      I don’t know exactly what motivated this keep but from what I’ve heard he specifically targeted her, became a bit obsessed with her and planned to assassinate her. I don’t think we exactly know why but I don’t think it’s too much to ask to request that people – and I’ll include myself in this although I don’t think I use violent rhetoric- to treat people with whom we disagree with a bit more consideration and even empathy. The dehumanization has to stop because when we dehumanize others it legitimizes violence.

      Check out Jennifer Rubin’s post today over at Right Turn at the WaPo about this incident. I’m too disgusted with her at this point to even comment on her blog and I usually do.

  2. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    January 11, 2011 8:07 am

    Will do.
    Timothy Egan also reminded me of some choice words by Sharon Angle that can’t be waved away the way Palin waves away her use of crosshairs:
    It’s also worth one more mention of Sharron Angle, the Republican who was nearly elected Senator from Nevada. She agreed with a talk-radio host who suggested that “domestic enemies” — a code for treasonous agents, deserving of death — were working within the walls of Congress. And it was Angle who speculated on whether people frustrated with politicians would turn to “Second Amendment remedies,” which is not even code for assassination. It can only mean one thing.

    • January 11, 2011 8:30 am

      Michelle Bachman has long talked of the unamerican activities of members of Congress (ie. traitors) needing to be investigated. Also, Debbie Wasserman Shultz was on some show last night and I heard her say that during the election her opponent put her name or initials up on a gun target and shot at it.

      The gun rhetoric, talk of rebellion, second amendment remedies, traitors, the POTUS being illegitimate and not even an American (and a closet Muslim)- all of it is very poisonous. It’s like the Southern Strategy on steroids. It’s irresponsible and I think Palin has demonstrated she doesn’t have the judgment or maturity to be a real leader.

  3. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    January 11, 2011 8:19 am

    I’m beginning to see why she drives you nuts. First of all, she doesn’t even write her own stuff. Stringing together quotes by other people does not a commentary make (as a college prof once memorably wrote to me!). But this quote stands out:
    “But it’s also a problem that has nothing, or almost nothing, to do with the tragedy in Arizona. This was not a right-wing militia member taking apocalyptic right-wing rhetoric about watering the tree of liberty too seriously. It was a random act.”
    “Watering the tree of liberty?” Oh please. That’s not the rhetoric anyone’s objecting to. At least be honest in your discourse.

    • January 11, 2011 8:34 am

      Rubin is spinning like a top because she is part of the problem. As you noted, her “commentary” consists of rehashing the views of others and turning them into bumper-sticker talking points and rationalizations. She’s also a partisan hypocrite who only calls out the other side while remaining silent when the exact same thing or similar things are done by her team. I find that annoying and it kills the credibility of her arguments.

  4. January 11, 2011 8:53 am

    In a press conference on Sunday, the FBI Director called this domestic terrorism (unless some international connection were discovered, and then he said it would be int’l terrorism). He knows more about what constitutes terrorism than our media does…

    And I think that regardless of what drove this guy to the horrific acts he perpetrated, the allusions to violence in our media and politics have reached an incredible level. And they do affect people. It creates an underlying tension and I believe it also reflects a preoccupation with violence in much of the public. I hope we will now start to move in the opposite direction as a country…

  5. January 11, 2011 9:58 am

    Good lord, read the comment section to this Laura Rozen post over at Politico:

    http://www.politico.com/blogs/laurarozen/0111/JTA_Is_Loughners_mother_Jewish_.html#comments

    Politico commenters can be extremely hostile, sometimes more so than at other sites. When Laura was writing over at Foreign Policy I don’t remember this kind of vitriol. Why can’t they just state their views without being so hateful?

    If anti-Semitism was behind this then it of course is horrible and should be denounced as such. I have to say though, I’m a bit confused as to the significance of his mother possibly being Jewish except of course if he specifically targeted Giffords for being Jewish- then yes, there’s some sick irony there. As of yet, other than Mein Kampf on his reading list, I haven’t heard any concrete evidence of anti-Semitism being the primary motive but of course it should be looked into. His booklist looked like almost any college freshman reading list quite frankly. Many of those books people read for their historical importance, not solely because they agree with the views expressed.

    It sort of seems like he may not have been motivated by a particular ideology but there does seem to be some evidence of rabid mistrust of the govt and paranoid beliefs about govt control of his thoughts, his life etc. I will say that the rhetoric we have heard for the past 2 years certainly involves a lot of anti-government hysteria although I obviously have no idea if that played a role.

    • January 11, 2011 10:36 am

      Law enforcement is working on identifying Loughner’s motivation and potential allies. I read the following at Democracy Now. This is NOT to say he is linked with this group, just that they’re exploring it because of his writings. The public and media want instant answers, but good investigations take time. –

      “Investigators Probe Arizona Gunman’s Links to Hate Group
      A U.S. Department of Homeland Security memo indicates authorities are investigating whether Jared Lee Loughner, who opened fire at public event hosted by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, had ties to American Renaissance, an anti-Semitic, anti-immigration hate group. The Southern Poverty Law Center said some of Loughner’s online writings reflect the views of members of the anti-government Patriot movement.”

  6. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    January 11, 2011 3:03 pm

    I guess it was inevitable, but now the parents are being blamed — “loners,” “contemptuous,” “didn’t know,” etc. Having been in the position of trying to help desperate parents get their mentally ill adult child help (when the child refuses to acknowledge there’s a problem), I can tell you it isn’t easy. We should also be prepared to understand and forgive their being in denial about mental illness in their only child. What’s unconcionable is that when his Math teacher felt personally threatened enough to call 911, nothing was done apparently. Making homicidal threats is against the law in most (all?) states. they might have brought him to an ED where he would have at least had a minimal psych evaluation. The response of local police departments is extremely variable but, if informed, they should have sent a cruiser to his door and, depending on what they found, warned him against future threats, brought him to a hospital for evaluation or arrested him (unlikely).

    • January 13, 2011 4:17 pm

      Well-written. I agree completely with the article’s author.

  7. January 17, 2011 4:25 am

    The rhetoric everywhere is overheated, but I notice nobody here said anything about the rhetoric on the left. If you are going to hold yourselves up as even-handed and complain about right, then at least be even-handed yourselves. In 2008, The Daily Kos said Giffords was on their “target” list. You also haven’t said anything about the numerous death threats received by the tea party movement – again, if you purport to discuss issues and you aren’t ideologues, then you could at least do some investigation to see what is really going on.

    We don’t have all the facts yet, so we don’t really know, but it is possible the father also had some mental problems.

    What I found interesting was listening to the video he made, where he didn’t mention anything about politics when talking about his “genocide school” It seems as though he wasn’t rational most of the time, but was able to adjust his behavior occasionally. He got his brushes with the law cleaned up so he could buy a gun. He went to Wal Mart to buy ammunition, but the clerk thought there was something wrong and wouldn’t sell it, so he went to another WalMart and either got his act together or maybe the second clerk didn’t notice.

    As incoherent as he was, I would have expected him to say at least something in his ramblings about what was motivating him or where he was getting inspiration.

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