The claim made by Sarah Palin’s staff that the cross-hairs in her now-notorious “reload” ad targeting 20 Democratic Representatives were intended as surveyors’ symbols ought to go down in history as one of the dumbest defenses ever offered. Of course, since the right wing takes Nineteen Eighty-Four as an instruction manual rather than a warning, Palin has dropped the offending ad down the memory hole.
Note that Rep. Giffords complained about the ad at the time; if the former half-term governor didn’t intend the cross-hairs to represent gunsights, she might have said so at the time.
But the real (pardon me) smoking gun wasn’t the ad, which was rendered ambiguous by the ubiquity of military imagery in politics (“target” districts, “attacks,” etc.). It was Palin’s silence when her Mini-Me in Nevada, Sharron Angle, talked about “Second Amendment remedies” if the wingnuts failed to get their way at the ballot box. That should have given Angle a case of political leprosy. But instead all the wingnuts who pretended that Barack Obama’s service on a board with a guy who had been involved in poltical violence in the 1960s made him a “pal of terrorists” didn’t have a word of criticism to offer.
Can anyone offer an interpretation of “Second Amendment remedies” that doesn’t involve the threat of political violence? Or any excuse for not denouncing – sorry, I guess that should be “refudiating” – that sort of nonsense, when engaged in by a political ally? Children think they can play with fire and not get burned. Grown-ups know better.
In the 1960s, mainstream opinion isolated the extremism of the John Birch Society, and Barry Goldwater’s failure to distance himself from that hotbed of lunacy helped sink his Presidential campaign. But Bircher rhetoric is now a mainstay of right-wing talk, and the official pundits have next to nothing to say about it. The wake of the Tucson massacre, some Republican office-holders seem to be getting nervous: but so far they’re doing so only anonymously. After all, the Tea Party listens to Glenn Beck, and the Tea Party is their base. Profiles in Courage, anyone?