O’Connell Weighs In On Palin, Arizona Tragedy At Politico’s ‘The Arena’

Re-Posted From Politico‘s “The Arena”

Much to the delight of the Daily Kos and the liberal left, far too much criticism is being irresponsibly heaped onto Mrs. Palin by the national media. If she chooses to seek the presidency, Mrs. Palin is going to have to explain herself on a wide variety of issues, not just the tragic events that unfolded this past weekend in Tucson.

Argument, debate, confrontation are fundamental to the checks and balances of our system. The notion of what constitutes appropriate speech itself falls within the scope of debate. We live in a big country with lots of opinions, not some idealized Utopia governed by wise elders. What grates on the ears of some as a literal call to arms is understood as a mere rhetorical flourish to others.

We hear calls to tone down the rhetoric in the interest of calming the debate and not creating offense. At the same time, the voters grow frustrated with politicians who speak in nothing but generalities that avoid any mention of reality. Should we ask Ed Rendell or Chris Christie to apologize for their “confrontational politics” when we don’t like what we hear?

Regardless of the facts of this horrible incident, the national media have already made Arizona into symbol of angry politics. Likewise, it makes no more sense to hold up a single deranged individual as an exemplar of an entire state than it does to characterize a religion, organization, ethic group, etc. by the actions of one individual. Mental illness strikes everywhere and it’s superficial to conclude a causal link between reality and the twisted logic of deranged individuals.

More helpful would be media attention to the human stories that are driving the frustrations aired in the Arizona’s political debate — the rancher afraid to leave his house at night, the women herded across the boarder as sex slaves, the mismatch between government laws and government action, etc. Before the media start creating more symbols, they should think about their own role in turning this discussion into an emotionally charged shouting match rather than a rational debate.

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