I always claim to know the left very well. Having been a socialist in my teenage years, having lots of left-wing friends, having gone to one of the most left-wing universities in England, and having read countless left-wing articles and books - I like to think I have the left down pretty well and that I can accurately predict how they will react to a situation or what their next move will be.
Yet what happened yesterday after the awful tragedy in Arizona stunned even this political commentator. Now, was it predictable that they would make the assumption that because the guy was carrying a gun and he shot a Democrat that he might be a right-winger? Sure, that was predictable - we all remember Mayor Bloomberg predicting that the Times Square bomber (who turned out to be a run of the mill Muslim terrorist) would be a right-winger upset about healthcare.
What I was not expecting was that a large portion of the left would not only make the assumption, but actively try to blame key right-wing figures for the tragedy even after they had found out that he wasn't a tea-partier or a right-winger or whatever. In addition, the almost gleeful excitement that such commentators displayed when they felt that they had discovered a link between Palin and the shooting of Rep. Giffords should make any normal person feel physically sick.
Let's be clear, assumptions are natural. If a plane flies into a building, we would naturally assume that it is Islamic terrorism, and yesterday when we learned that Giffords had been shot, it is natural to think that there is a possibility that this was politically motivated, and the fact that Giffords is a Democrat may suggest that there was a reasonable chance that this was a lunatic right-winger.
Yet to blame Sarah Palin before we had even discovered who the shooter was low enough. On the evidence of one measly image that talked about political "targets" and mentioned Giffords, they instantly rushed to the judgement that Palin had deliberately provoked some right-winger who had taken this as a hint, and ran off and shot a bunch of people. The fact that Palin's rhetoric and imagery wasn't anywhere near as strong or as hateful as some of the stuff directed at her, Bush and Limbaugh etc didn't even come into it. Palin had made some vague reference to "targets" and therefore there was blood on her hands and she was to blame. That was their line and they were screaming it from the roof tops.
But then, once we had discovered that Loughner was an anti-God, anti-flag, weed smoking, "Communist Manifesto" reading nut job, one would think that the left would backtrack a little bit, but no! The left have just ignored who the killer was altogether, and have continued, in deliberate contradiction of the facts, to blame Palin, Limbaugh, Beck, Fox (generally anyone who they hate) for the tragedy. The new argument is that "hateful rhetoric" stoked up by figures on the right is responsible in some vague way for upsetting Loughner and sending him on the killing spree.
Now, it is tempting to run through the arguments. It is tempting to reiterate that there is no evidence that Loughner listened to Limbaugh, liked Palin, expressed right-wing views or whatever. It is tempting to reiterate that he expressed views to the contrary, and that were more in line with left-wing views than right-wing views. It is also tempting to remind people that when it comes to political rhetoric, the left are just as vicious if not more. The hate-filled rants of O'Donnell, Maher, Garofolo, Grayson etc aren't exactly milkshakes! And if we are going to point fingers at Sarah Palin's gun language, what about Obama's "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun"? Could that be "interpreted" as an instruction to bring a gun to a political meeting and start shooting people? Should we start saying that Obama has blood on his hands?
But all these arguments miss the point to an extent. It assumes that the left actually believe that Sarah Palin and the right-wing are responsible for these deaths. I only wish this were the case. I'm sure they did believe that the right were responsible at first when reports were coming in. They genuinely believe that everything evil comes from the right and therefore their ideology tells them to assume that any attack must be the right's fault. The initial assumption was at least genuine, and therefore excusable, if not unfair.
Yet, once the facts were established that this had nothing to do with the right-wing, the way they carried on blaming Palin and the right anyway just shows that they were not interested in the facts. They were not interested in making sure that this terrible tragedy didn't happen again. All they were interested in was using the tragedy for their own political ends, and to make it serve themselves. It takes Rahm Emmanuel's old quip about not letting a crisis go to waste to a new low, and is sickeningly opportunistic as well as a sack full of lies.
Politics can be a scummy business, but this is right in the basement. It is important that we on the right deflect their criticisms, but do not resort to dropping to their level. It is tempting to point to Loughner's leftist views and to start inferring that maybe he is one of them, but we mustn't. We mustn't do this because it would be just as false as what the left are doing - Loughner was not a right winger or a tea partier, but he wasn't a Democrat or a socialist either. He was a loon, a complete nut who rambled on about political topics in a way that doesn't even put him remotely near reality.
While it is tempting to fight fire with fire, we on the right must show ourselves dignified and above the gross political opportunism that the left are currently bathing in. When a complete lunatic shoots innocent people, and shows no reason for doing so, it is the lowest form of opportunism to try and use a tragedy to blame one's political opponents when there is no legitimate reason for doing so.
It is in the face of tragedy and suffering where we show who we really are, and many on the left are showing themselves to be grossly immoral cynical opportunists who will use anything in order to smear those that they do not like. We conservative need to stand back, defend those in our ranks who are under attack, and let the left do what they do. Our job is not to win an argument by any means, but to do what is right.