You know what this country needs after a week of insanity on display in Tucson and inanity on display in the American media? We need someone with whom we can all be angry — a handy whipping post to berate and mock. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you our figure of unity … Russian reporter Andrei Sitov from TASS, assigned to the White House press corps, courtesy of Ann Compton:
“[M]any people outside would also say — and the quote, unquote “freedom” of a deranged mind to react in a violent way is also American.” Sitov called it “the reverse side of freedom, unless you want restriction, unless you want a bigger role for the government in their lives.”
“No, no, I would disagree vehemently with that,” shot back Gibbs. He went on with considerable force.
“There are — there is nothing in the values of our country, there’s nothing on the many laws on our books that would provide for somebody to impugn and impede on the very freedoms that you began with by exercising the actions that that individual took on that day. That is not American. There are — I think there’s agreement on all sides of the political spectrum: Violence is never, ever acceptable. We had people that died. We had people whose lives will be changed forever because of the deranged actions of a madman. Those are not American. Those are not in keeping with the important bedrock values by which this country was founded and by which its citizens live each and every day of their lives in hopes of something better for those that are here.”
Compton says that some members of the White House press corps briefly considered this a “return to the Cold War,” apparently offended that Sitov would frame a mass murder in Tucson as somehow indicative of American values. It does have that Soviet-era flavor, too — when the Kremlin (and doesn’t that term take you back?) would routinely use any single crime, tragedy, or outrage as somehow emblematic of the corrupt and decadent West, especially in the US. Since Russia today isn’t exactly a paragon of laissez-faire democracy, it’s easy to see how veteran reporters at the White House could find something very, very familiar in that question.
However, it’s also possible that Sitov just fumbled his vocabulary a bit. Sitov’s clarifying addendum sounds as if he meant that while we try our best to prevent these tragedies through intervention when possible, in a free country one cannot guarantee that they won’t happen. Mass murder isn’t an American value, but the American value of freedom prevents us from creating a massively large police state that could prevent these tragedies, but would also prevent free expression and choice.
If that’s what Sitov meant and just clumsily argued, then he is right. In fact, that’s exactly what John Green said to NBC on Monday, that the murder of his precious daughter by a lunatic was part of having “a free society,” and that “I prefer this to the alternative.”
Update: My apologies; I got bit by the assumption that it was Jake Tapper who wrote this, but it was Ann Compton.