National tragedy, national disgrace

There has been no holiday for shame in the eight days since a deranged young man opened fire on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and dozens of innocents in a Tucson parking lot.

Let us contemplate four bits of political indecency.

1. Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa., says he’ll introduce 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. He specifically cites Republican Sarah Palin’s rhetoric (though it had absolutely nothing to do with the Tucson tragedy) as dangerous and worthy of government silencing.

Yet Rep. Brady expresses no alarm for speech from his own party. He has nothing to say about President Obama recently telling left-wing activists/kooks to “bring a gun” to the fight when the enemy (his term for policy opponents) “brings a knife.” He’s got nothing to say about the left-wing website the Daily Kos, which published a posting from a Tucson writer only two days before the shooting that said, because the moderate Rep. Giffords voted against Nancy Pelosi for House minority leader, Giffords was “dead to me.”

2. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., dreams up his own set of facts when he says: “You cannot yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater and call it free speech, and some of what I hear, and is being called free speech, is worse than that.”

Specifically, he called out Republican Sharron Angle, who challenged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada last year, for warning that in her judgment a frustrated public may consider turning to “Second Amendment remedies” if Congress failed to change course.

Clyburn said the Tucson assailant “saw a Second Amendment remedy, and that’s what occurred here, and there is no way not to make that connection.”

There is zero evidence Giffords’ assailant even knew Sharron Angle existed. To further demonstrate Rep. Clyburn’s stunning separation from reality, he also blamed the recent reading of the Constitution by the Republican-led House for encouraging Giffords’ shooter. Cue “The Twilight Zone” music for this guy.

3. And keep playing it for a renowned media hound Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who quickly announced she would meet with the unwashed public at a “Congress on the Corner” event, just as her “dear friend” and colleague Rep. Giffords did on the day she was shot. Rep. Berkley, who has skated to easy victories for a decade in a gerrymandered Las Vegas congressional district, will face re-election to a redrawn district likely to be far more difficult for her in 2012. Hence, she has made it no secret that she might take a shot (can you still say that, Rep. Brady?) at Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. Bravery or exploitation? Maybe both, but still self-serving ick.

4. Before we knew whether Giffords would survive or knew the name of her assailant, the left-wing blogosphere blamed conservatives for the shooting. Within hours, this columnist had received e-mails from a Kassandra Smail, Kaylynn Wile, Marylyn Fleming, Kassy Ridder, Delice Rosenstiehl, Merrick Walker and Missie Greenwalt.

Probably all fake names as the messages, presumably sent to the nation’s media, contained identical content: “Are you surprised that a Democratic congresswoman who held pro-healthcare reform town hall meetings last year, has been shot in the head at close range? You shouldn’t be.” The e-mail proceeded to cite examples of speech the far left deems dangerous, then called for censorship of conservative thought. Talk radio in particular has blood on its hands, the e-mails suggested.

I exposed them in a blog post, then received this second e-mail from the same crowd: “A Las Vegas columnist was particularly vexed when ‘within hours’ of Gabby Giffords assassination attempt, he received an e-mail condemning conservative talk show rhetoric.”

The spam continued: “The reason why liberal bloggers seemed so prepared for such an event is because it was obvious a disaster of this sort was coming soon.”

Let’s excuse the wingnuts (if any of them got this far) and let them move on to the horoscope section, where they are free to divine motives for future tragedies. Good and sane people, no matter your political leaning, please gather for the conclusion.

What we know now (and remember, it’s still only eight days after the tragedy) is that the suspect, Jared Loughner, was a highly disturbed kid. He listed “The Communist Manifesto” as one of his favorite books. One school friend described him as a “liberal” and a “pothead.” Another said he was apolitical and didn’t listen to talk radio or care about the news. One of his teachers called him a disruptive, scary and incoherent student.

There are only two things we should glean from all this:

Murderer or not, the kid needs to be culled from the herd.

And we can’t let crazy bloggers and opportunistic politicians mindlessly drive the conversation. Otherwise, we run the risk of turning a national tragedy into a national disgrace.

Sherman Frederick (, the former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and a member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame, writes a column for Stephens Media. Read his blog at

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