Regean Assassin?

By Dennis Mullin

POLITICS: Jodie Foster shot Ronald Reagan. That is what the liberal press would have you believe. The registered “independent’ voter in Arizona, an obvious mental case, shot the Congresswoman because of Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck, according to Paul Krugman of the New York Times – despite his own personal call on progressives to “hang” Senator Lieberman of Connecticut. The vapor and hysteric hypocrisy of the liberal left – which considers everyone but themselves “Nazi storm troopers,” is seriously out of control. John Hinkley said he shot Reagan to impress Jodie Foster.” So by Krugman’s standards she is guilty of attempted murder. The left and the media have turned this into such a circus the rightist backlash will be severe. Talk about a “climate of hate,” liberal America and their media pals are working overtime to kindle one. Do not forget, Foster starred in “Panic Room” – perhaps fleeing the NYT.


Here’s what Megan McArdle of The Atlantic tells us. “I don't have much to say about what happened this weekend other than the obvious: it's a tragedy, and I hope we are making adequate provision to care for victims who may now face decades of disability.  But as to the rest--we still don't know why he did it.  Many of the people who rushed to blame this on their political opponents made themselves look like first-class jerks, an impression that was not improved when we got more information, and they doubled down rather than simply admit that they had perhaps jumped to conclusions.  

At this writing, there is no evidence that his ideas were significantly influenced by anyone, left or right, or that saying mean things about Giffords made his fixations worse; we're talking about someone whose main grievance seems to have been that she wouldn't address his concerns about a conspiracy to control the grammar of American Standard English.  


This never looked much like an assassination, which usually targets a single politician, not nine-year-old girls who happen to be standing near them.  And after reading his ramblings, it's pretty clear that he was some kind of crazy, and that his community turned away from his craziness rather than trying to intervene.  But even that judgment may be premature.  And anyway, it's not enough to say that he was crazy--even paranoid schizophrenia does not elevate the risk of violent behavior by that much.  Most mentally ill people do not attack other people.


I'm not sure why it is so necessary that we identify a culprit in all of this.  What good does it do us to know that he is, say, a paranoid schizophrenic?  It may matter in his sentencing, of course.  But it's far from clear that this knowledge would let us do what we want, which is to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.  We are not going to prophylactically lock people up, and there is no "seems a little, well, off" list to which we can add people we don't want to have guns.  Even extended magazine bans wouldn't have done much good, as he was carrying lots of spares.  As I understand it, he was essentially stopped because one of his spare magazines malfunctioned, something which may be more likely to happen on larger capacity magazines.  Anyone who practices a little can swap magazines faster than others can notice and decide to tackle them.


Blame is a way of simulating control: if we can just identify who was at fault, we can stop it.  The problem is, when we can't identify any very plausible target, we too readily go after implausible ones: Freemasons poisoning the wells, or Federal Reserve bankers plotting to monetize the national debt.  At worst, this tendency is dangerous, corrosive; at best, it leads us to make unproductive policy choices.


A terrible thing happened.  We live in a universe in which terrible things happen.  That's no one's fault--or maybe, everyone's fault.  Either way, I don't see much in the way of solutions coming out of this--only terrible, terrible sadness.”


The LA Times added: “The chief law enforcement officer who's supposed to be assembling the complex criminal investigations of six sudden homicides against a local 22-year-old suspect, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik sure has found ample time the last couple of days to appear all over national news media, spouting prickly opinions on pretty much anything asked.

The sheriff, who celebrates his 75th birthday today, is understandably defensive. He had no officers at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' Saturday open-air get-together in a shopping parking lot. Just the sight of a parked patrol car near a federal officeholder might have discouraged a troublemaker.

Indeed, Dupnik's deputies didn't arrive at the carnage scene until summoned by frantic 911 callers. By then, officers didn't even have to capture the suspected....

...shooter, Jared Loughner. Several brave, unarmed crowd members had already subdued the man; good thing they did because the kid still had ammo for his 9-millimeter Glock semiautomatic.

Dupnik followed the usual public relations communications template for such crises: a news briefing late the first day, as national media types and a parade of satellite trucks tream into town, to efficiently distribute to everyone at once what little information can be released by then.

Authorities are usually quite circumspect at these initial briefings, for fear of poisoning any future jury pool ("We have the shooter!") or tipping off possible accomplices still at large.

Dupnik didn't release the name of the young man already in custody or speculate on a motive. The sheriff did, however, hand the upcoming legal defense some support by volunteering that the suspect was clearly unbalanced.

He also announced that Giffords, a personal friend, was the main target, although 19 other people were hit, six fatally.

And then, based on no evidence whatsoever, the veteran of 31 years as sheriff expounded on how the shootings were connected to the heightened temperature of today's political rhetoric. In his own prose certain to make Arizona tourism authorities wince, Dupnik said:

When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.

If, indeed, Sheriff Dupnik is quite certain the climate is so dangerous and Arizona so full of boiling political rhetoric, anger and abundant armed nut jobs stoked by irresponsible media that made his friend Giffords a likely target, why were there no deputies present Saturday or just stopping by the Safeway rally to be seen? The way donut shops and all-night convenience stores are so delighted to have uniformed officers visibly patronizing their place of business routinely.


This isn't the first time Dupnik willingly walked into political controversies, portraying himself as a simple law enforcement professional with no political interests. Last year he called Arizona's controversial new immigration law, which his department would be expected to enforce, "unwise," "stupid" and "racist."


”We didn’t have a tea party until we had a black president.” Asked to elaborate, the sheriff added: "I was talking about how bigotry is alive and well in America.” With little mystery and no manhunt to preoccupy the hungry media battalions, willing officials were in big demand to fill airtime.

And Dupnik was definitely willing. On Monday, the day of Loughner's first legal appearance, the sheriff had interviews with CBS and NBC. He attacked Rush Limbaugh, not previously thought to be involved in the case. On CNN he said, “the hard right is deliberately fueling the fire." The sheriff also took a phone call from President Obama and no doubt will see him at Wednesday's memorial service at the University of Arizona.

"I'm especially disappointed in the sheriff," said Arizona's Rep. Trent Franks, "because we were looking to him for straight facts and he politicized this." The unspoken truth is Dupnik's incorrigible media showboating may be just fine with federal investigators, who typically move into such high-profile incidents and quietly take over the investigations by Day Two. If the old guy's busy out front blabbing on TV, he's not in the feds' hair, as close-cropped as it usually is.”

Comments (2)

the kid
Said this on 1-13-2011 At 04:50 pm
Great points, Dennis, and quickly brought together. The sign of a pro.

the kid
Said this on 8-31-2014 At 01:52 pm
It's actually a great and helpful pidce of information. I am sarisfied that you simply shared
this useful info with us. Please stgay us up to date like this.
Thank you for sharing.
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