The conservative movement is emerging from the most sustained media attack it has endured in a decade. An attempt was made to use the tragedy in Tucson to render the whole of conservative thought illegitimate and dangerous. Which of the aspirants for the 2012 presidential nomination spoke out for us? Who stood up to be counted, when the Right faced this detestable slander?
No need to ask where Sarah Palin was. She was more of a specific target for the blood libel than any of the other likely candidates, of course… but does any review of her past record suggest she would have sat quietly while some other prominent Republican was pilloried as an accomplice to murder? She confronted the media head-on, called them out for their appalling conduct, and made it clear that her idea of robust debate does not involve compromising her principles before the demands of liars.
Mike Huckabee also did not mince words, calling the Climate of Hate narrative “reprehensible.” On his radio show, he compared the current disgrace to the Left’s failed attempt to pin the Times Square bombing attempt on the Tea Party, and said that “from left-wing politicians to the New York Times’s Paul Krugman, they couldn’t even wait till the gunsmoke had cleared before they were already blaming ‘incendiary right-wing rhetoric’ for the shooter’s crime.” Huckabee also earns bonus style points for describing Jared Loughner as a “whack job nut maggot.”
Mitt Romney? Completely MIA. Not a word to say about a sustained attempt to create a fraudulent narrative that smeared the entire conservative movement as hatemongers. No objection to the callous use of the Tucson dead as political props. Romney defenders have been trying to excuse his silence by saying he’s overseas. That would have been an acceptable excuse thirty years ago.
Tim Pawlenty, while appearing on Jon Stewart’s show in support of his new book, expressed some rather subdued misgivings about the crusade to stamp down conservative free speech. “”We gotta be really careful here, because if you start saying you can say this, you can’t say that, you can use that tone, you can’t use that tone, then pretty soon you start to discourage, chill, maybe intimidate. I even caught myself today talking about hockey fights and politics, and I thought, well you know, maybe I shouldn’t bring that up now because of this concern. So we’ve got to be careful from a free speech standpoint.”
Pawlenty also told ABC’s Good Morning America that Palin’s “crosshairs” electoral map would not have been his “style,” but “there is no evidence to suggest that it had anything to do with this mentally unstable person’s rage and senseless act in Arizona.” It’s a bit less than a fiery defense of conservatism, or a bellow of outrage against the blood libel, but Pawlenty doesn’t really do fire or bellows.
Newt Gingrich found an exasperating contrast between the Left’s insistence that every Islamic terrorist is a madman who acts alone, while Jared Loughner was the murderous agent of people he never actually listened to. “Look,” Gingrich said in a radio interview, “I think it’s amazing that people who cannot bring themselves to connect any kind of radical Islamist ideology to the 126 people who’ve been indicted in the United States plotting terrorism, people 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. “ Amusingly, the dimmer end of the liberal spectrum howled that Gingrich was expressing “Islamophobia” through these remarks, because they lack the self-awareness to understand he was criticizing them.
Herman Cain, the only candidate to have formed an exploratory committee thus far, called the Climate of Hate narrative “silly” in a Newsmax interview. Actually, he said “silly” three times, before continuing, “It has been well established that the deranged young man was in fact deranged that committed that terrible tragedy on the people that died as well as Congresswoman Giffords. It’s silly to try to spin a tragedy into liberal talking points against a conservative talk show host or anybody that’s conservative. I think it’s just a silly argument and disrespectful to the families of those that lost their lives.” So, to sum up, the word to remember when you think of Herman Cain versus the blood libel is “silly.”
New Jersey governor Chris Christie, often spoken of as presidential material despite saying he has no plans to run in 2012, had some mild criticism for using the term “blood libel” to describe the media’s slanderous narrative. He doesn’t have much use for the narrative itself, saying in a Fox News interview that “if speaking to each other civilly means not telling the truth, and putting so much varnish on what we say that you can’t tell where people really stand, I’m not in favor of that.” In other words, he intends to continue being Chris Christie.
The reaction from too many possible contenders for the Republican nomination has been muted. Perhaps they are content to let the media chip away at Sarah Palin, or they’re afraid of drawing the attention of journalistic hounds upon themselves. Conservatives should not accept either excuse from those who didn’t speak out for us, with uncompromising candor, when we were indicted for Jared Loughner’s crimes.
In an interview with Sean Hannity on Monday, Sarah Palin said of her refusal to be intimidated by the media, “I will take the darts and arrows because I know others have my back.” Any aspirant to the GOP nomination who emerged from the past week with no darts or arrows stuck in his chest is not the right person for the job. There have been few hours so hungry to be filled with the voice of leadership.