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Tilting at Windmills

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January 11, 2011

A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE WITH NEWT GINGRICH.... As tempting as it is to simply ignore the odd tirades of the disgraced former House Speaker, this latest gem from Newt Gingrich strikes me as special.

The former speaker of the House and possible 2012 presidential hopeful said Monday that some people on the left jumped too quickly to conclusions about accused gunman Jared Lee Loughner.

"[P]eople who would immediately scream about ethnic profiling, people who on the left have every possible incentive to never allow anyone to draw conclusions, suddenly say things that are just factually untrue," Gingrich said on Chicago's WLS radio station.

"There's no evidence that I know of that this person was anything except nuts," he said, later adding, "This person was apparently by any reasonable standard deranged."

If anything, Gingrich hinted, Loughner might be left-leaning.

Putting aside the madman's incoherent ideology, it's fascinating to see Gingrich chastise those who would dare rush to "draw conclusions" in the wake of a tragedy, making claims that are "factually untrue."

Indeed, let's take a quick stroll down memory lane with ol' Newt.

In 1994, just a few days before the midterm elections, a deranged woman named Susan Smith drowned her two young sons. Gingrich, at the time, made infanticide a campaign issue and publicly equated Smith's murders with the values of the Democratic Party. Gingrich told the AP, "The mother killing her two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting and how much we have to have change. I think people want to change and the only way you get change is to vote Republican."

Five years later, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people at Columbine High School. Gingrich insisted that American "elites" bore responsibility for the massacre. "I want to say to the elite of this country -- the elite news media, the liberal academic elite, the liberal political elite: I accuse you in Littleton ... of being afraid to talk about the mess you have made," Gingrich said, "and being afraid to take responsibility for things you have done, and instead foisting upon the rest of us pathetic banalities because you don't have the courage to look at the world you have created."

In 2007, Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people at Virginia Tech. In response, Gingrich blamed liberals for supporting "situation ethics," adding, "Yes, I think the fact is, if you look at the amount of violence we have in games that young people play at 7, 8, 10, 12, 15 years of age, if you look at the dehumanization, if you look at the fact that we refuse to say that we are, in fact, endowed by our creator, that our rights come from God, that if you kill somebody, you're committing an act of evil." Gingrich, explaining the VT tragedy, went on to condemn Halloween costumes and the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law.

Sure, Newt, tell us again how awful it is for political figures to rush to "draw conclusions" in the wake of a tragedy.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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He's nothing more than just another Fox News imbecile.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on January 11, 2011 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

Everyone confuses Newt with a politician.
Sure, he was one at one time.
But now, he's become a leader in the 'Performance Art' field that is the RepubliKlan Party.
And like great comedian's such as Bruce, Carlin or Pryor, he is the 'Gold Standard' for all of his followers and accolytes, to revere and emulate.
They to want a future like he had. Where, if they're disgraced and have to step down from political office, they are still relevant and get to go on all of the Sunday shows, and run a successful grift for over a decade.
Performance Art!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 11, 2011 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

I cracked open a Fortune Cookie, and it said:

"In politics, name recognition is everything."

Posted by: DAY on January 11, 2011 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

There is a knee-jerk reaction among some liberals to blame Sarah Palin for the shooting. I have very mixed feelings about this.

I fully understand the tragedy in Arizona is not Sarah Palin's fault. But, because I also understand that her utter contempt for rational, reasoned political discourse is a blight on our country, I am more than willing to let her take the fall for this one. After all, how many times has she used misguided fear to score political victories?

However, my concern is that, because the hardcore Republicans are already using the tragedy to ramp up an absurd fear of having their precious, precious guns taken away, those incurious, unquiet authoritarian-follower foot soldiers of the GOP might be even more easily moved to destructive behavior like we saw in the health care "debates." Recall how the breakdown of reason led to shouting and violence and the weakening of resolve for vital reforms — all of which started with the former-half-term governor's tweet of the "death panels" lie.

One thing is certain. The Giffords shooting is only the beginning. I know that Palin's careless use of crosshairs on that poster contributed to the volatile political atmosphere we have today. But laying the blame for the shooting at her feet runs the risk of making her a nutjob martyr. And that is without question infinitely more dangerous.

Posted by: chrenson on January 11, 2011 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

The Tucson sherrif issued a non-partisan call for less heated political rhetoric, and conservatives freaked out.

No one needs to accuse conservatives of anything. They're acting plenty guilty all on their own.

And here Gingrich signals that the right has no intention of dropping its violent rhetoric. And why not? As we've seen the past couple of election cycles, the bereft right wing needs to keep whipping their radical base into a frenzy, consequences be damned.

Posted by: Gregory on January 11, 2011 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Comparing cultural decadence and economic populism (two elements associated with "the left" that have no business being conflated) is already a mistake of principle.

Posted by: neil b on January 11, 2011 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

It is ironic that a lot of progressives, including Representative Giffords, predicted that the ramped up vitriol would ultimately lead to violence, not from some right-wing organized movement, but from unhinged and unaffiliated individuals with a proclivity towards violent attention-seeking acts.

And sure enough, we've seen it play out again and again and again. For the most part only one side — the side that made the prediction — has called for civility. The other side continues to make the case that those who rightly foresaw these events are "jumping to conclusions."

Posted by: chrenson on January 11, 2011 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting Bloomberg column by Amity Shlaes:

Not for its content, which is way overloaded with false equivalence BS. But rather for the fact that it's Amity Shlaes. She's usually a reliable stenographer of whatever the right-wing talking point is of the moment - sort of like David Brooks without the rare glimpses of intelligence. But in this column, instead of being defensive, she ends up taking a more or less responsible stand against extremist rhetoric. Maybe the pendulum really has swung a little.

Posted by: Basilisc on January 11, 2011 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Re: Susan Smith - during the trial, as biography.com notes: "Smith's stepfather, Republican Party and Christian Coalition leader Beverly Russell, testified that he had sexually molested Susan when she was a teenager and again in the months leading up to her drowning the boys."

Posted by: Ted on January 11, 2011 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

By the way, Benen. Excellent post!

Posted by: chrenson on January 11, 2011 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

how bout getting a job, you fat POS?

Posted by: benjoya on January 11, 2011 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

"There's no evidence that I know of that this person was anything except nuts,". Then he promptly says, Loughner might be left-leaning. Of course, offering no evidence,

Posted by: ComradeAnon on January 11, 2011 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

As commenter Ted notes above, you left out the kicker in the Susan Smith case: the damage that had been done to her by her admittedly sexually abusive, hard right-wing stepfather. It was this incident, and Newt's utter failure to learn from it, that destroyed his facade of seriousness in my eyes.

Posted by: Ken D. on January 11, 2011 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

And didn't Newt say, "Bill Clinton is the enemy of normal Americans," just days or weeks before a gunman shot at the White House?

Posted by: Vandal on January 11, 2011 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

If you're willing to assume, for the sake of argument, that Gingrich is not simply an idiot, then his comments can only mean that he realizes that most of what he says is just anti-left ooga-wooga. "Don't mind me, I'm just foaming at the mouth." OK, if you say so, Newt.

Posted by: MattF on January 11, 2011 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

A bit random thought--if the Health Care Reform act was fully implemented years ago, would we have this situation today? If he (the shooter, not Gingrich) was not allowed on campus until he had a mental health evaluation, who would have to pay for that today? Will that be covered under the new policies? Would that have made a difference?

What about his previous trouble with the law? Clearly "red flags" were there--could they have insisted on a mental health evaluation? Who would have paid, and what would (eventually) be covered under the new health care provisions?

Posted by: golack on January 11, 2011 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

I wish you all would read the essay by Steve Almond (The Daily Rumpus) it is worthwhile.

Posted by: Joan on January 11, 2011 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

@Joan: Thank you, I took your suggestion and read the essay. It does contain some thoughtful observations. I would recommend others here read it as well:

Surely Some Revelation is at Hand by Steve Almond.

Posted by: trex on January 11, 2011 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK



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