P.J. O'Rourke writes a good column for Weekly Standard and confirms my analysis here. Mr. O'Rourke expresses himself much better, though.
Entries in Arizona shootings (5)
If Meet the Press isn't beating ABC's This Week in ratings, it ought to be beating them. I have to say, though, I've lost respect for David Gregory -- to open Meet the Press this morning, they had the obigatory picture of Sarah Palin as they announced the topic of civility and political discourse as related to the Arizona shootings, and Gregory grilled Tom Coburn about rightwing rhetoric and how it increases paranoia in mentally disturbed individuals, but at least Gregory doesn't insert his personality and ego in the roundtable discussions to the extent Amanpour has on This Week. This morning, although some guests were the usual political class pundits, David Brooks, Peggy Noonan, and to a lesser extent of being "usual", Al Sharpton and one guy who has something to with the Special Olympics whom I didn't know and can't remember his name, the discussion was good and it touched on a lot of important issues. What was missing was a voice from totally outside politics, but someone who thoroughly understands politics -- this inclusion of diversity would have gone a long way toward broadening understanding of the problems we face and possible solutions.
I'll just highlight the discussion and give my take on what was missing. It was roundly agreed that civility and tone in politics are necessary to get things done. Al Sharpton, with his raw intelligence and canny ability to cut through flowery talk and pretentiousness, kept the conversation grounded and was actually the one who made the most sense, even if he's stuck in political solutions.
David Brooks, of course, took his middle course and believes that Obama can bring the country together in compromise. Peggy Noonan talked about style and decorum. Sharpton made the point that symbolic gestures like both political parties sitting together at the State of the Union Address and being civil are all well and good, but action is necessary to make changes.
There was talk about improving mental health services and all agreed that this is necessary, and, connected to this was a converstation about information sharing between military, FBI and local law officials and all government type agencies, even schools, to assure that the system identifies mentally ill individuals who might be at risk of causing violence. Sharpton brought up the fact that even if they are identified, we must have proper facilities to treat them and access to the facilities.
On education, the consensus, of course, was that government should do more to reform education, although there were no concrete solutions suggested. Then there was a lot of talk about MLK and his dreams -- the Special Olympics guy brought up that MLK was an "extremist" and called himself an extremist for love and justice. Obama was compared to MLK as a black historical figure moving civil rights forward. Sharpton, brilliantly, said that King was about more than pretty words and big ideas, more than a dreamer, that he was also about action and change, and that King was a civil rights leader and that Obama is President, that blacks are not one dimensional, they are multi-dimensional and that this is the true message of Kingism. When Sharpton said this, it created an opening for someone who understands the world outside of the political realm to unite all the previous topics and move the conversatation to a new place, but, alas, throughout the entire discussion of all the topics, the underlying assumption was that government has to handle and solve all these problems.
From community offerings of mental health identification, access and treatment to improvement of educational offerings to opportunities for blacks to contribute their multi-dimensional offerings as individuals, the private sector is practically excluded in all discussion of solutions.
Yet, our greatest resources lie within the hundreds of millions of individals across the nation. As I've written about lately, the assumption that "private" is selfish and myopic and the "public", as in the State, is compassionate with vision of the common good and welfare, has misled us and caused us to ignore the source of real change. One way to look at the current situation of corporations and private businesses sitting on a mountain of cash is to say government should confiscate more of this money and spend it on government solutions to our most pressing problems -- another way, though, to look at it is that all the individuals with influence in these corporations and private businesses could be a big part of the solutions to our most pressing problems. There's plenty of evidence that the black hole in government which is sucking down cash and pushing us further in debt is the most inefficient and incompetent route to solutions -- when companies know this, they don't want to see capital diverted wastefully from the private sector to the black hole -- however, private industry can be convinced that their help and resources will solve problems which make us all better off, them included. Society as a whole will be better improved if mental health is addressed with intelligence, compassion and common sense -- society will be better off if communities offer diverse and effective education opportunities which meet 21st century needs of complete, rounded education with a focus on specialized knowledge to address technological progress in a changing, global economy, then let parents and the kids make their choices. If industry leaders are brought in to invest in education solutions, we'll begin to see progress. If communities are given the responsibility to develope educational offerings, we'll see more progress. If the federal govenment gets out of controlling education, we'll see more progress.
Yes, Sharpton is right -- blacks are not one-dimensional. Like Herman Cain, there many, man wealthy and successful blacks in all areas of society, politics, business, universities, entertainment, sports and religion. I dare say the greatest success, since laws were changed to offer equal opportunity, have been outside politics and government, in spite of having the first black president -- and it must be remembered that the laws had to be changed. We don't need to argue which came first, the chicken or the egg, just look at the reality today. I will make a brave claim and say the greatest opportunity for change among the fortunes of black individuals, the greatest influence, is working and acting, multi-dimensionally, in the private sector. Yes, there is still much unemployment among blacks, but employment will come from the private sector, and wealthy black entrepreneurs, business leaders and executives can help influence education and job opportunities for black individuals who work for the oportunity and have the will to achieve and succeed. These black leaders in the private sector can inspire a better model to emulate for young kids. Depending on government social programs is a dead end. Attitudes about the private sector have to change.
Not to make this too long, but two issues bothered me, especially in light of what government ought to do to fix problems -- one is the issue of information sharing and being able to involuntarily committ people. This is a little scary, because "exteme", "different", "weird" can mean many different things to different people -- I would hate for government to develope more ways to gather information on citiziens and strengthen its ability to involutarily committ -- we've seen how this turns if we look at the history of Germany, Italy, Russia, and even our own history --it can easily be abused to silence oppositon, or incompetence can cause those "different" to be labeled as a threat. I understand the real need to identify real threats from disturbed, dangerous and violent people, but we have to be careful, and, unless an act has been committed, this goes back to the legitimate responsibilities of government -- is it a legitimate responsibility of government to identify mental illness and treat it? I don't think so. Each community can handle the problem of information, identification and treatment.
Another problem is with repetition of the idea that the midterm elections were about sending a message to politicans to get along and get things done. Chuck Schumer, who was interviewed by Gregory before the roundtable, repeated this conclusion from the midterms. It doesn't make sense. The left is pushing this idea of what the midterms meant, so they either believe the public wants government to get things done that the left wants to get down or the right to get to get done, that they want compromise to favor the left or the right. Since Republicans shellacked the Democrats, according to Schumer, the public wants government to compromise and get things done that favor the right -- that's the logical conclusion. But, surely Schumer is not eager to compromise to get things done that favor the right. And if the public had wanted government to get things done that favor the left, then they would have voted for more Democrats so the deck would be fully stacked and much could get done. What has happened is that we have a split government where nothing much at all will get done. Isn't it more likely that what the public wants it to undo a lot of what has already been done?
Looking back objectively over the media's performance last week, many of them blaming or implying blame for the Arizona shootings on Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and other media personalities associated with the right, the majority of major media sources were an embarrassment to the field of journalism and reporting, and even to opinion makers.
It's not even the case where both left and right acted inappropriately, although some of the defenses from the right were too exaggerated and shrill -- the real problem is liberal bias in the MSM as many of us have been claiming, and the left has been denying. It doesn't really matter, the perception among independents, the most objective political observers, is that the media was way out of line and that the shooting had nothing to do with rightwing personalities. This reflects poorly on the Democrat Party, and they brought it on themselves. There was no concerted effort to rebuke the media and make it clear that they weren't going along with the false accusations -- many of the Democrats joined in the blame game.
If common sense liberals and Blue Dog Democrats don't work hard to change the image of the Democrat Party, they are going to become politically irrelevant. I believe most independents still give President Obama the benefit of the doubt, but this doesn't help Democrats. What is likely happening is that the public is compartmentalizing their affection for Obama while beginning to despise the manipulation, arrogance and dishonesty of the Democrats. Obama's position as an historical figure is a separate issue, and his political life is limited, even if he wins another term, but the Democrat Party will be around. The Democrats and the MSM are out of touch with the public, and the problem is that they don't know it.
I would advise everyone in the media and on blogs who are analyzing the events in Arizona to be very careful. Just this morning I've read at least six responses which are very troublesome and will come back to haunt the pundits. First of all I'd like to say this is not a political issue, as far as we know -- it's a human tragedy issue for sure.
Tom Brokaw on Morning Joe said "we need to find better ways to resolve our [political] differences." This wasn't a settling of political differences, as far as we know, and using "we" is incomprehensible. Several of the guests on Morning Joe, and Boehner over the weekend in an interview, talked about this as an attack on "democracy", "our way of life", the other representatives in congress. Rhetoric like this promotes the impression that this was an organized attack, such as from a terrorist group, on us as Americans, citizens of the US. This is ludicrous given the facts that have been presented to us.
Several news outlets are associating Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann and other political figures with the shootings and slayings - Morning Joe partcipants, who at first appeared to be so cautious to not make this political, finally brought it around to politics, implying that heated political rhetoric plays a part. Joe Scarborough pined for the days of Everett Dirkson in congress, until he was reminded of the reality of those times -- Scarborough appeared to be using this tragedy to promote the moderate approach to politics, whereby people can disagree but still work together to get things done -- on the face of it, an honorable sentiment, but totally unrelated to this tragedy -- plus, Gabrielle Giffords is a moderate and has worked with the other side. The point is that these associations are premature and, if what we know so far is true, irrelevant. To use this terrible incident to promote a political position is pathetically disconnected from the reality of the tragedy.
We live in the Information Age, and everyone who makes a false association between this killer and any political rhetoric on the right or left is going to look foolishly partisan, insensitive to tragedy and opportunistic, because their past words and actions will come back to haunt them just as they are using the past words and actions of others to imply causality. And it does no good to first state that there is no evidence of a political connection, then go on to imply connections -- this is the height of hypocrisy.
The hypocrisy and small-mindedness of implying any one individual, group, political party, speech, ad campaign or gun sale is in any way a factor causing this deranged kid to open fire in a crowd is apparent and also so opportunistic that it's difficult to understand how adults can react in such a way -- how can supposedly mature, intelligent adults be so blind to their own hypocrisy and manipulation? Anyone purposefully using this tragedy for political purposes is abhorable.
I will not post an analysis of the tragedy in Arizona yesterday -- I'll just say I hope the injured fully recover, and I feel deeply for those who died, their family members and friends.
I will, though, write something brief about the reactions. Watching the morning shows and reading blogs, I'm more convinced than ever that politics has corrupted a large part of society -- too much is viewed through the lens of politics. The Arizona incident is about individuals involved in a tragic event. To use this as a political tool is to be disconnected from what makes us human.