The Campaign Spot

Why Are We Polling About the Gunman’s Motivations?

Tim Pawlenty, Peter King, and Pat Sajak all feature in today’s Morning Jolt, but it begins with a look at an odd poll question:

Inconvenient Conclusions Get Surveys Left in the Poll Vault

CBS began Tuesday by telling us, “Overall, 57 percent of respondents said the harsh political tone had nothing to do with the shooting, compared to 32 percent who felt it did.” Ah, how reassuring! A triumph for common sense and known facts! There is hope for the Republic after all!

But CBS must have had some wariness about that result, because by Tuesday night they had released a second set of numbers from the same poll revealing, “Forty-five percent of Americans believe that Jared Loughner’s political views were “probably” a factor in the shootings in Tucson Saturday, a new CBS News poll shows. One in three say they probably were not a factor, while 22 percent say they do not know.”

Er, what were his political views again? The tyranny of the English grammar structure? Me don’t even know how to take a political stance on that. I suppose you could consider an incomprehensible, murderous rage directed at Giffords a political view, but that’s almost a tautology: ‘Do you believe that his desire to kill drove him to kill?’

Is there anyone out there who feels like they really completely understand what was going on in the gunman’s head?* You do? Okay, go please turn yourself in to the FBI immediately.

*You’ll notice I rarely write the gunman’s name. This is deliberate. I remember the Weekly Standard writing an editorial about the Columbine killers back in the 1990s, focusing on the abominable irony that we so often remember the names of the perpetrators of mass murder but rarely recall the names of the victims. At the end, I lamented that the editorial perpetuated the killers’ fame by naming them, only to reread it and find that the writer had artfully avoided mentioning either one. News coverage requires specific names, but afterward, when we digest and analyze, it is good to forget the names of evil men who killed in order to be remembered.

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