How might Sarah Palin’s reputation have fared if she had compared Jared Lee Loughner to Martin Luther King and described him as “a man of the highest character”? Probably not as well as the reputations of the liberal politicians who heaped these superlatives upon Jim Jones.
The attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords evokes parallels to the assassination of Congressman Leo Ryan more than 30 years ago outside of Jonestown. Both events witnessed well-liked legislators shot while serving their constituents. Both featured heroism by congressional staffers. Both political assassination attempts kicked off a spree of killings. And both mass murderers exhibited drug and mental health problems.
A huge difference between Jonestown and Tucson is that one mass murderer was a darling feted by politicians at the highest levels of government; the other was an outcast among outcasts. Ironically, it is the pariah who had no politician friends, rather than the establishment darling, whose crimes turned into a partisan blame game. The reputations of Jim Jones’ enablers and allies have remained strangely intact.
First Lady-to be Rosalynn Carter and her husband’s running mate Walter Mondale held private meetings with Jim Jones. California Gov. (then and now) Jerry Brown spoke at the Peoples Temple. California Lt. Gov. Mervyn Dymally thought Jones “one of the finest human beings” and a visit to his Guyanese colony left the Golden State’s highest-ranking African-American officeholder “tremendously impressed.” Radical lawyer Charles Garry, himself barely escaping Jonestown alive, had once exclaimed of it: “I have seen paradise.”
What effect did legitimizing the cult and its leader have on Jones’ sycophants in the Democratic Party, the press, and academia?
Willie Brown proclaimed that he believed Jim Jones was part Martin Luther King, part Albert Einstein, part Angela Davis, part Mao Zedong. “When somebody like Jim Jones comes on the scene,” Brown ironically gushed, “that absolutely scares the hell out of most everybody occupying positions of power in the system.” Liberals subsequently elected Brown as the longest-serving speaker of the California state assembly and then mayor of San Francisco for two terms.
Dianne Feinstein along with her colleagues on San Francisco’s board of supervisors awarded a “Certificate of Honor” to Jim Jones. Liberals subsequently elected Feinstein mayor of San Francisco and then U.S. Senator from California.
Angela Davis contributed to Jonestown’s paranoia by telephonically informing the inhabitants over the concentration camp’s loudspeakers that “there is a conspiracy — a very profound conspiracy designed to destroy the contributions which you have made to the struggle. And this is why I must tell you that we feel that we are under attack as well.”
Liberals subsequently awarded tenure to Davis at the University of California-Santa Cruz, bestowed upon her the UC system’s highest academic award, and paid her thousands to speak at Harvard, Stanford and Princeton.
San Francisco Chronicle writer Herb Caen maintained that Jones was “doing the work of the Lord” in South America and awarded him the cloak of victimhood by portraying him as the “target of a ceaseless media barrage.” Liberals subsequently awarded Caen a Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for his “extraordinary and continuing contribution as a voice and a conscience of his city,” proclaimed a “Herb Caen Day” in San Francisco, and ordered the city’s flags at half-mast when he died.
Harvey Milk lobbied President Jimmy Carter not to intervene in an international custody battle between Jones, “a man of the highest character,” and two former cultists whom Milk portrayed as blackmailers. He characterized the accusations that Jones had kidnapped a small boy from his parents as “bold-faced lies.” Carter didn’t intervene, and the 6-year-old whom Milk pleaded to be left with his kidnapper was murdered at Jonestown with more than 900 others. Liberals subsequently produced the hagiographic, Oscar-winning biopic Milk and established a California state holiday in the San Francisco city supervisor’s honor.
Clearly, the careers of Jim Jones’ patrons weren’t harmed by their associations with him. Politicians who had never heard of maniac Jared Lee Loughner before January 8, on the other hand, are being read out of polite society.
No conservative leader appointed Jared Lee Loughner to chair Tucson’s housing commission, as San Francisco Mayor George Moscone appointed Jones to chair his city’s. No conservative leader aided and abetted Jared Lee Loughner’s murder of a child, as Harvey Milk enabled Jones in the murder of 6-year-old John Stoen. No conservative leader’s book so inspired Jared Lee Loughner that the crazed killer based his carnage upon it, as Black Panther Huey Newton’s “Revolutionary Suicide” became the cult catchphrase for the deaths of more than 900 (including several of Newton’s relatives) at Jonestown.
“I’m not taking any responsibility,” George Moscone lamely remarked after the Peoples Temple mass murder. “It’s not mine to shoulder.” If liberals could forgive Moscone for putting Jim Jones in charge of public housing in San Francisco, then perhaps they could grant Sarah Palin absolution, too. For what is anyone’s guess.