Once the shock of the Giffords assassination attempt had worn off, the next-most-amazing thing we beheld was the unembarrassed gloating with which the American Left, in its many forms, pointed a pompous and hysterical finger at “the Tea Party” or “the Right” or “talk-show hosts” (although the accusers clearly don’t have Terry Gross in mind). Less than 24 hours after the shooting that nearly killed Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, we had heard from The New Yorker’s George Packer, the New York Times’s Paul Krugman, and the sheriff of Pima County, all solemnly intoning their belief that Jared Loughner had been in some way led to his crime by a lethal cabal of Rupert Murdoch, Sarah Palin, and the Republican party. Even Patricia Maisch, one of the three citizens who subdued Loughner, could not end her interview with Shepard Smith on Fox News without confidently — and gratuitously — blaming the whole incident on “extreme right-wing reporters.”
This collective j’accuse has now become a story of its own, and largely because, after the passage of another 24 hours, nothing at all had emerged from the mass of data on Jared Loughner that linked the assassin with tea parties or talk shows of any persuasion. Nor did Gabby Giffords turn out to be a particularly likely target if the shooter really were some incoherent brown-shirted dupe of Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, or Rush Limbaugh. (Beck’s only public comment on Giffords had been to praise her criticism of the present immigration mess). It was, instead, the Daily Kos that had to airbrush from its website a complaint that Giffords had let down the Democratic side in Congress and could be considered “dead” to the interests of the Left (metaphorically dead, I presume, but bloody metaphors are forgiven when uttered by the Left).
In effect, the denouncers of “hate” had been roaring ahead entirely on hate fuel of their own. By the time we had passed the 48-hour mark, the absence of any connections between Loughner and any co-dependents on the Right hung the accusers in midair, spinning their wheels like Wile E. Coyote. That, however, only signaled a shift from blaming conservatives to blaming a “climate” of opinion in which homicidal rampages are encouraged to happen spontaneously, like oily rags self-combusting. This “climate” turns out to have only one kind of weather, formed solely by the updraft of, as Packer phrased it, “conservative leaders, activists, and media figures” who “have made a habit of trying to delegitimize their political opponents.”
The fundamental problem with this ornate political prurience is that assassination in American history has pretty regularly been the blessèd resort of the Left. Start with Leon Czolgosz, the anarchist who murdered the very conservative William McKinley; turn next to Harry Orchard, the union bomber who blew up Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg in 1905; turn again to Lee Harvey Oswald, the Marxist who murdered JFK (but whom Oliver Stone tried mightily to redefine as a clandestine conservative); add in Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, who tried to attack Gerald Ford in 1975 on behalf of “clean air, healthy water, and respect for creatures and creation,” and Sara Jane Moore, who fired a .38 revolver at Ford a few weeks after Fromme’s abortive attack because the “government had declared war on the left”; and then top it off with John Hinckley, the would-be assassin of Ronald Reagan who claimed Lee Harvey Oswald as his role model, and you begin to get some sense of how closely the profile of the gun-toting lunatic assassin suits the Left’s enragés. When the Left talks about violence from the Right, the only name it seems able to come up with is that of Timothy McVeigh.