Well, actually, Dr. Krauthammer wonders more specifically about the delusions of Paul Krugman, but his point can be widely applied to a number of media commentators over the last few days. Krauthammer dissects the the media’s hysterical and fact-free ranting about fantastical links between Sarah Palin and the Tea Party and the shootings in Arizona and neatly skewers the raging hypocrisy of it. Krugman is just a handy embodiment for a much larger phenomenon:
[T]he available evidence dates Loughner’s fixation on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to at least 2007, when he attended a town hall of hers and felt slighted by her response. In 2007, no one had heard of Sarah Palin. Glenn Beck was still toiling on Headline News. There was no Tea Party or health-care reform. The only climate of hate was the pervasive post-Iraq campaign of vilification of George W. Bush, nicely captured by a New Republic editor who had begun an article thus: “I hate President George W. Bush. There, I said it.”
Finally, the charge that the metaphors used by Palin and others were inciting violence is ridiculous. Everyone uses warlike metaphors in describing politics. When Barack Obama said at a 2008 fundraiser in Philadelphia, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” he was hardly inciting violence.
Why? Because fighting and warfare are the most routine of political metaphors. And for obvious reasons. Historically speaking, all democratic politics is a sublimation of the ancient route to power – military conquest. That’s why the language persists. That’s why we say without any self-consciousness such things as “battleground states” or “targeting” opponents. Indeed, the very word for an electoral contest – “campaign” – is an appropriation from warfare.
When profiles of Obama’s first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, noted that he once sent a dead fish to a pollster who displeased him, a characteristically subtle statement carrying more than a whiff of malice and murder, it was considered a charming example of excessive – and creative – political enthusiasm. When Senate candidate Joe Manchin dispensed with metaphor and simply fired a bullet through the cap-and-trade bill – while intoning, “I’ll take dead aim at [it]” – he was hardly assailed with complaints about violations of civil discourse or invitations to murder.
Did Manchin push Loughner over the top? Did Emanuel’s little Mafia imitation create a climate for political violence? The very questions are absurd – unless you’re the New York Times and you substitute the name Sarah Palin.
When Manchin aired his ad, he did get criticized for it, although not for sending messages of violence. Republicans and Democrats accused him of pandering, some to the 2nd Amendment advocates, others to the anti-AGW crowd. The ad worked, or at least it didn’t hurt, as Manchin won his election over John Raese, having made his point that he would not be a rubber stamp for the radical-left agenda that Democrats pushed for the last two years.
And that’s why those metaphors get used by politicians across the spectrum as well as journalists: because people understand them as metaphors. No one thought Manchin would haul out a rifle on the floor of the Senate and drill a hole through a bill he opposed. Similarly, no one thinks that an “air war” in the context of a political campaign means that one candidate will get in a plane and drop incendiary bombs on hostile precincts. That term refers to TV and radio advertising. If anyone thought for a moment that Barack Obama really meant that he’d get guns out to settle political debates or that Sarah Palin really wanted people to reload guns for the same purpose, neither could get elected dogcatcher in any jurisdiction in the US.
That brings us to another of Krugman’s flights of fancy this week — his attack on Michele Bachmann for using “armed and dangerous” in an interview during a campaign. As it turns out, that interview was conducted by John Hinderaker of Power Line, who has the clip in its full context. In it, she’s clearly talking about “arming” constituents with information on cap-and-trade:
For the record, here is what Michele said: “I’m going to have materials for people when they leave. I want people armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax, because we need to fight back.” Yes, that’s right: she wanted Minnesotans to be armed with “materials”–facts and arguments–not guns. If this is the best example of “eliminationist rhetoric” that the far left can come up with, you can see how absurdly weak the claims of Krugman and his fellow haters are.
The hysteria only works when the hysterics eliminate context, tradition, and all common sense, as well as adopting a double standard so breathtakingly obvious that one has to wonder what went through the minds of the “layers of editors and fact-checkers” both at the time and afterwards. Krugman may not be alone in that shrieking bunch of ninnies, but he’s certainly one of its most enthusiastic participants.