Did Palin’s Website Incite Killer to Target Giffords?

Did Palin’s Website Incite Killer to Target Giffords?

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Tea Party leaders, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and even Barbara Walters have let Sarah Palin off the hook for her lethal crosshairs map that targeted House Democrat Gabrielle Giffords and the pictures of 19 other Democrats on her website. Their argument mostly boils down to two points of defense. Palin’s map and her bull’s-eye target of Giffords and the other Democrats was a politically savvy and focused effort to target vulnerable Democrats and galvanize GOP voters in those districts. There was absolutely no personal or hint of violent animus in her political ploy. The second point is that her map is just a standard eye-catching political graphic that Democrats have also used to target vulnerable Republicans and rally Democrats to defeat them.

Neither is remotely true. Let’s look at Palin’s map and compare it to the widely published and cited Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) map by Palin apologists. The DLC published their political map not as a prelude to the midterm elections as Palin’s map was, but a month after the 2004 presidential election. George W. Bush had already won a second term. The graphic was part of a lengthy, and fleshed out assessment of the reasons why the Democrats lost the 2004 election, and what the party had to do to be competitive in 2008.

The Democratic party political manifesto ticked off a list of issues, course corrections and outlined a strategy that the party had to undertake to win toss-up states in and outside of the South and the Midwest to have any chance of victory in 2008. The DLC map did not target one single GOP congressperson or senator by name for defeat. It focused exclusively on the states that the Democrats needed to ramp up their time, energy and resources in trying to make a political dent in the GOP’s decade-long dominance in those states. It crunched the political numbers and showed that Bush won the potential swing states by single-digit margins, and stressed the strengths and weaknesses in those states of the Democrat’s strategy, approach and organization. The nine bull’s-eyes on the DLC map carefully explained that the Bush margin of victory in the swing states was less than 10 percent. Palin’s map had no political assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the Democratic Party, did not lay out a blueprint or grand strategy for increasing the GOP influence in the states, let alone make any effort to educate voters on the crucial issues.

It was nothing more than a crude, calculated, cynical and inflammatory political hit piece on individual Democrats with the suggestive appeal in bold “Let’s take a stand.” It hammered on the issue that was the most caustic and polarizing for many conservatives: the health care reform bill. Palin’s hit list of Democrats was designed not to educate and inform voters on the range of issues in the elections, but to politically wipe out Democrats that Palin thought were easy pickings. Giffords was, tragically, one of them. She instantly recognized the danger of Palin’s crass map. She pulled no punches in interviews warning that “words have consequences” and that she did feel that Palin’s map targeting her posed a threat that went far beyond mere political bad theater; that there was the real possibility that some unbalanced individual could in fact take Palin’s call to action literally, and do serious harm to one or more of the targets on Palin’s hit list.

Giffords sadly was right. It wasn’t hard for her to make that warning.

For months, millions have been relentlessly bombarded with images of a gun-toting Palin on hunting forays, exulting the virtues of guns. The spectacle of Palin’s Tea Party devotees packing guns and weapons, and issuing bellicose threats to liberal and moderate Democrats with President Obama right at the top of their list as a target of their shrill violence-tinged abuse have been looped on the television repeatedly.

Palin and her defenders spin it every which way that her political map was a perfectly acceptable political blueprint for defeating Democrats, and that if some nutcase decides to blast away at a public figure, don’t smear the blood of that figure and the innocents that go down in the crossfire on them. That blood is on their hands, or more accurately on their hyper-charged incendiary rhetoric against Democrats.

Polls and surveys show that a majority of Americans do see a connection between the vitriolic rhetoric embedded in Pailin’s map and the targeting of Giffords. They are fed up with it. The great tragedy is that Gifford’s prophetic words about the hate behind Palin’s map weren’t heeded. The nation paid a steep price for ignoring that. Any effort to chalk that up to politics that everyone engages in defames the Tucson dead.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts national Capitol Hill broadcast radio talk show on KTYM Radio Los Angeles and WFAX Radio Washington D.C. streamed on ktym.com and wfax.com and internet TV broadcast on www.thehutchinsonreportnews.com