Not too many years ago, a horrific crime like the one perpetrated by Jared Loughner would have been the occasion for liberals to call for gun control legislation. This time they are aiming higher, trying to delegitimize, with at least some sectors of the electorate, opposition to their policy preferences. The Democrats are taking a flyer on this because they think it worked for them in the case of the Oklahoma City bombing. Is there any chance, this time, that they can blame the Arizona murders on conservatives?
I don’t think so, for two reasons. First, while many facts are not yet known, it appears obvious that Loughner was a garden-variety lunatic with no conventional political allegiances or influences. He was much more akin to the Virginia Tech murderer–does anyone remember his name?–than to a political assassin like John Wilkes Booth or Lee Oswald. His bizarre YouTube videos are well known, as is the fact that he was focused on, and perhaps obsessed with, Congresswoman Giffords as early as 2007. More evidence of his lunacy is rapidly piling up, such as the emails that were given to the Washington Post by a student in one of Loughner’s college classes. The emails start on the first day of class, in June of last year:
One day down and nineteen to go. We do have one student in the class who was disruptive today, I’m not certain yet if he was on drugs (as one person surmised) or disturbed. He scares me a bit. The teacher tried to throw him out and he refused to go, so I talked to the teacher afterward. Hopefully he will be out of class very soon, and not come back with an automatic weapon.
This was after an hour’s observation of the obviously wacko Loughner. The fellow-student’s observations of Loughner continued in the same vein. On June 10:
Class isn’t dull as we have a seriously disturbed student in the class, and they are trying to figure out how to get rid of him before he does something bad, but on the other hand, until he does something bad, you can’t do anything about him. Needless to say, I sit by the door.
And on June 14:
We have a mentally unstable person in the class that scares the living crap out of me. He is one of those whose picture you see on the news, after he has come into class with an automatic weapon.
I don’t think the Democrats will be able to convince any significant number of people that Sarah Palin, for example, was somehow responsible for the behavior of a patently disturbed individual–a paranoid schizophrenic, some are saying–like Loughner.
Second, most people are very well aware of what Palin and other conservatives have and have not said–and what liberals have said, too. The Democrats can’t point to anything Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh has said or done that exceeds in any way what is regarded as routine discourse by Democrats, let alone that can plausibly be linked to mass murder. I just don’t think any significant number of people can be convinced that there is any connection whatsoever between Jared Loughner and any aspect of the conservative movement.
Of course, this assessment could change as more facts come to light. For example, it could turn out that Loughner lurked in the cesspit of the Daily Kos–an environment that would be much more congenial to his demented state of mind than the Tea Party or Sarah Palin’s Facebook page–and could have been influenced by that web site’s “targeting” of Representative Giffords. But at present, there is zero evidence of any connection between Loughner and any political faction, left or right.
So I think the Democrats are fighting a losing battle. There will be at least as much backlash against their political opportunism as there will be benefit from their cynical attacks. You’ll be able to tell that I’m right if, in the next week or two, they shift over to talking about gun control rather than “discourse.”
UPDATE: Jim Hoft aptly sums up the state of our knowledge about Loughner, and the Democrats’ cynical opportunism, so far. All references are supported by links:
We already knew that the Tucson shooter Jared Loughner was an anti-Christian, anti-Constitution, left-wing, pro-Marx, antiflag, “quite liberal” lunatic.
Today we found out that he also wanted to kill cops.
Using the state-run media model, we can therefore draw two conclusions from this information:
1.) He must be a tea partyer
2.) It’s Sarah Palin’s fault