As much fun as it is to call out the clueless Sarah Palin for her long list of gaffes, lies and inflammatory nonsense, neither she or her supporters caused the Arizona atrocity. If Jared Loughner, the suspect, is the culprit, it’s likely that we’ll find that he suffers from a serious mental illness — perhaps paranoid schizophrenia — and probably hears voices. Maybe he hears Palin. It’s just as likely he hears Zeus or the Green Hornet.
Palin has taken a lot of grief since the shooting spree because of an irresponsible image she used on her Facebook page during the campaign. In listing a group of Democratic Congressional seats that she wanted Republicans to win, she used a map of the United States and imposed images of gunsights over several Congressional seats. One of those was the seat held by Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
(Palin has since claimed the image wasn’t crosshairs, but that’s nonsense. It was.)
In response, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D-Pa.) wants to make it illegal to use such imagery. He told Fox News yesterday (via TPM):
“It wouldn’t be harm putting that in the bill. It is on both sides. It’s not a partisan bill. Again, we’ve got to stop our bickering amongst each other. We’re setting a bad example for the American people. We need to cut down rhetoric amongst each other. We can disagree without being so disagreeable,” Brady said.
I agree with Brady that we can disagree without being disagreeable. But his proposal for outlawing political speech is foolish and dangerous — as much a threat as a lunatic with a gun. The freedom that Americans enjoy to say almost whatever they like — especially in the political arena — is one of the cornerstones of this great democracy. Brady ought to be ashamed of trying to impose limits on that freedom.
There is no evidence that Loughner ever saw Palin’s Facebook page. But even if the investigation shows that he was specifically motivated by it, such imagery should not be outlawed. (Whether Palin should have used better judgement is quite another matter. She should have, as should all the violent-imagery-worshiping pols who have seen fit to invoke martial accessories for their ads.)
Last week, when Speaker John Boehner set aside time for the new House to read the U.S. Constitution aloud, U.S. Rep. Giffords read the First Amendment. Afterwards, she told several people that she was especially pleased that was the part she was given.
It would dishonor her for Brady to push a law that infringes on that sacred text.