'Climate of hate'? Don't overlook the left

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Given their scurrilous, insupportable yet sustained accusations against Sarah Palin, tea party activists and other non-Democrats after the Arizona mass shooting, it would seem that Paul Krugman, Keith Olbermann, Clarence Dupnik and other left-wingers have created a "climate of hate" and are thus responsible for Eric Fuller's violent threats and arrest on Saturday.

Mr. Fuller was part of the crowd at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' "Congress on Your Corner" event Jan. 8 in Tucson and was shot in the knee and back during a gunman's murderous rampage. Two days ago he attended a public forum on the shootings, hosted by ABC's Christiane Amanpour.

The forum was intended to help Tucson heal, but when -- to that end -- Tucson tea party founder Trent Humphries suggested that discussion of gun-control bills be postponed until after all the victims had been buried, Mr. Fuller shouted, "You're dead!"

He then took a cell-phone photo of Mr. Humphries and reportedly began a barrage of "inappropriate comments." Police surrounded and arrested him.

But Mr. Fuller's violence did not erupt in a vacuum, did it? Bilious statements from political pundits incited his violence, didn't they?

After all, within hours of the Jan. 8 shooting, Messrs. Krugman, Olbermann and Dupnik et al. had publicly pinned the mass murders on the right wing, the tea party and conservative media figures. And throughout the week, despite growing evidence to the contrary, these irresponsible provocateurs and their supporters refused to retract their slander.

So when Mr. Fuller, a member of their ideological throng, threatened one of those supposed culprits with death, it was cause and effect, right?

Well, no -- though there's more evidence to support my tongue-in-cheek assertion of it than the deadly serious cause-and-effect argument coming from the left last week.

For instance, Mr. Fuller, unlike Jared Loughner, is very aware of current politics. He identified himself as a supporter of Ms. Giffords and in recent years worked odd jobs such as collecting signatures for political campaigns.

In a New York Times interview, he "repeatedly denounced 'the tea party crime syndicate' " and "placed some of the blame ... on Sarah Palin and other Republican leaders ... [who] had contributed to a toxic atmosphere."

So perhaps Mr. Fuller was listening to Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who blamed the shooting on "vitriolic statements made night and day on radio and TV about [Ms. Giffords'] support of health care."

Or maybe he was inspired to violence by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who decried the "politicians and commentators who have so irresponsibly brought us to this time of domestic terrorism" and then named Sarah Palin, the tea party, Florida Rep. Allan West (a black Republican), Nevada's failed Senate candidate Sharron Angle and talk radio host Glenn Beck.

Or maybe Mr. Fuller did read columnist Paul Krugman's allegation of palpable political hatred at McCain-Palin rallies and his assertion that "violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate."

Mr. Fuller could have been inspired by such rants, but ... enough. I'll end this intellectual exercise here.

Assessing culpability for violence without proof is disgusting. Continuing to do so when the evidence points in a contrary direction is immoral. Doing so while calling on others to be more civil is hypocritical political opportunism of a very high order.

Achieving this dubious distinction are Mr. Olbermann's "Special Comment," aired the night of the shooting, and Mr. Krugman's "Climate of Hate" column, published the next day. Apparently neither pundit could recall any inflammatory rhetoric on the left, though Mr. Olbermann acknowledged the possibility -- "however inadvertent, however mild" (of course!).

In any of these sanctimonious calls to civility, where was Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Katie Couric-assisted speculation that the Times Square car bomber was someone upset over health care reform?

Or U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin's ad in which he fired a rifle at a cap-and-trade bill?

Or President Obama's 2008 exhortation: "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun"? And so on.

With political pundits as with criminal suspects, the truth is in the details. And its absence speaks volumes.

Sometimes there is a cause-and-effect connection between words and deeds. But for the vast majority of us, the connection is not that intemperate rhetoric causes violence, but that violence makes us ashamed of intemperate rhetoric.

Correction: The violence makes us ashamed if we are capable of shame. Some, as last week made clear, are not.

Ruth Ann Dailey: ruthanndailey@hotmail.com


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