Jim covered Congress and The White House during the George W. Bush administration for The Washington Times, and worked as a reporter, editorial writer and columnist for newspapers in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California. He has appeared on the Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, and many local and national talk radio shows to talk politics and policy.
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For several glorious years more than a decade ago, I worked as an editorial writer and columnist at one of Virginia’s great newspapers, The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va. It’s a pretty reliable conservative editorial page, run by a mentor of mine. It also features a wild card editorial cartoonist — my friend, Clay Jones. Clay is a talented editorial cartoonist, who has syndicated his work to many great newspapers and magazines across the country.
Clay’s unreliability (from the mainstream right’s perspective) is one of his strengths. He challenges the reader, no matter one’s political perspective. Plus, Clay has an artistic aesthetic that is truly unique. But his cartoon in the wake of the shooting in Tucson was more that just challenging. It facilitated the blood libel against Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and all of us on “the right.” And it warrants a rebuttal, which I take the opportunity to deposit at Somewhat Reasonable.
Here’s what I put in the comments beneath Clay’s cartoon. Please leave your own comments below.
I hardly know where to start with this — and I’ve held off for several days on purpose. If I responded to all your points, this reply would get even longer than it already is. Perhaps I will respond more fully at The Heartland Institute’s home blog, Somewhat Reasonable.
But I strongly suspect that the “conservative friend” of yours who perhaps spawned this cartoon — or at least inspired part of your explanation — was me. And I presume it was from a Facebook post I wrote more than 24 hours after the massacre in Tucson. You have, my friend, horribly misread (and mischaracterized here) the plain meaning of what I quite clearly wrote. For the benefit of you and your readers, I will reproduce it here:
“I’ve been monitoring my Twitter feed after the shooting in Arizona. And I HATE that after feeling shocked and sad, my first get-that-out-of-my-mind thought came true: The crass politicization of the tragic event. Prayers for the fallen and injured, and for our country.”
As is quite clear from the text above, the “first thoughts upon hearing of this massacre” was not to worry that “the blame that would be attributed to the right wing.” Far from it, and perhaps I could have made it more clear by using the word “next” instead of “first” — but the PRELUDE should have made that apparent. Not only was it NOT my first thought, but (as is clear from that Facebook post) my frustration was that I couldn’t get out of my mind a fear that the left would seize upon this incident to libel the right (and, as it turned out, Palin herself). I felt sadness and regret over THAT fact — and not for me, but for our country. Alas, despite HATING the thought that our current political climate made it come too quickly to mind, it came true anyway. I’d have loved to be wrong. So, thanks for skipping over those parts of my abbreviated (but clear) Facebook status update thought process.
Your inability, Clay, to NOT take the bait the “mainstream media” set is depressing enough. But your “explanation” of this cartoon that loops in me (and people who also regretted the politicization of this event) makes me even sadder.
In this post, you say that “They stage actual shooting rallies as campaign events.” But you fail to mention that a Democratic, non-Tea-Party candidate in West Virginia ACTUALLY SHOT the Obama-pushed cap-and-trade bill in a campaign ad.
Then you say this: “Did Sarah Palin incite Jared Loughner to shoot a U.S. Representative and kill six people? Did Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh or the Tea Party contribute? I don’t think so. I think it’s far fetched to believe this guy followed anyone on today’s political radar.”
Well, yes, Clay. You did say that. And you should stand up for what you drew: A dead body in a pool of blood with Palin barking something blithely inane while standing over it. One is hard-pressed to see the “nuance” in such a cartoon. You blame Palin. Don’t run away from it.
Yet it’s hard to run away from the fact — though, even now, you still seem to reject it — that me, or “the right,” or Palin, or Beck, or Limbaugh, or the Tea Party had NOTHING AT ALL to do with the tragic incident in Tucson. By all accounts, Loughner didn’t even watch TV news or listen to talk radio or even know anything about Palin — let alone be “inspired” by her routine political tactic of “targeting” key Congressional districts in an upcoming election in which Loughner didn’t even vote.
Loughner is a severely mentally disturbed individual who obsessed about Gabby Giffords before anyone outside Alaska knew who Sarah Palin was. Yet that didn’t affect your decision — days later — to pin a blood stain to Palin and “the right.” Perhaps you should have waited a few more days before drawing this one, buddy.
Sometimes, when the facts don’t fit your narrative, you should reconsider your narrative. And if you want to make a legitimate and biting commentary on the irresponsible rhetoric of the right, you might be more thoughtful about the news hooks upon which you place them.