As Sgt. Joe Friday used to say on the old Dragnet series, “Just the facts, ma’am.” The facts, as we know them, are these:
Jared Lee Loughner is a mentally ill young man. Even an untrained eye can take one look at this mug shot and plainly see that. Unlike noted ophthalmologists who like to play amateur psychiatrist on the side, I’ll leave the diagnosis of the nature and scope of Loughner’s mental illness for the experts in the field to decide.
There is no indication at the present time that Loughner’s motivation, as far as any motivation can be discerned from the actions of a mentally ill person, had anything to do with politics. Reports from various sources, such as McClatchy, the Wall Street Journal, and Mother Jones to name only 3, indicate that Congresswoman Giffords was the target dating back to a 2007 meeting similar to the one held this past Saturday in Tucson, during which Loughner asked Giffords a question, “What is government if words have no meaning?” Loughner didn’t get what he felt was a satisfactory answer. His friend, Bryce Tierney, recalls, “Ever since that, he thought she was fake, he had something against her.”
Despite claims from Republicans that Loughner is a “far left liberal” and from Democrats that he is a “Tea Party conservative,” neither appears to be the case. Although Loughner registered as an independent, he is currently on the “inactive” voter list in Arizona.
A few more facts brought to light in the aftermath of the shootings:
Nothing in our political discourse will change. Despite initial calls for a return to some degree of civility and a toning down of the incendiary rhetoric, Republicans will point fingers Democrats and Democrats will point fingers at Republicans. There is too much power and too much profit at stake to expect otherwise.
On both sides, we have politicians and pundits who ignore facts in pursuit of their political agenda, as usual. There’s former congressman Patrick Kennedy saying there’s an “obvious connection” between the rhetoric and the shootings. Rep. James Clyburn says there’s “no way not to make that connection” between Sharron Angle’s “Second Amendment remedies” statement and the events in Tucson. From what we know now, there is no way to make any connection.
On the other side there’s Rush Limbaugh’s diatribe against the “sick, desperate American Left” in which he blasts everybody from the sheriff of Pima County, who he calls a “fool,” to the usual Limbaugh targets which he calls the “Drive-by media.” There’s Andrew Klavan’s piece at City Journal ranting about “The Hateful Left” in which he runs the gamut from the “dishonest and increasingly desperate leftist media” to “the bankrupting of nations and states by greedy unions and unfundable social programs, the destruction of inner cities by identity politics, and the appeasement of Muslim extremists in the face of worldwide jihad.” Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole said, “I’ve never heard the Tea Party preaching violence; I’ve heard them preaching participation.” Apparently Rep. Cole missed this:
One more fact. Knee-jerk, finger in the wind politicians will be knee-jerk, finger in the wind politicians, no matter what.
“Shocked and saddened lawmakers grappled on Monday with the weekend shooting of one of their own, with some suggesting that new laws and regulations are needed to curb incendiary speech.”
New laws and regulations like this:
“Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) reportedly plans to 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.”
What could go wrong there?