This morning on “Good Morning America,” ABC’s Ashleigh Banfield sat down with Zach Osler, a high school friend of Jared Loughner, the suspect in the Tucson massacre.

Osler says his friend wasn’t shooting at people, “he was shooting at the world.” Regarding the high-pitched talk radio and cable news political rhetoric, Osler says his friend didn’t even watch the news.

He did not watch TV. He disliked the news. He didn’t listen to political radio. He didn’t take sides. He wasn’t on the left. He wasn’t on the right.

America’s Enduring Strength

Like millions of Americans I learned of the tragic events in Arizona on Saturday, and my heart broke for the innocent victims. No words can fill the hole left by the death of an innocent, but we do mourn for the victims’ families as we express our sympathy.

I agree with the sentiments shared yesterday at the beautiful Catholic mass held in honor of the victims. The mass will hopefully help begin a healing process for the families touched by this tragedy and for our country.

Our exceptional nation, so vibrant with ideas and the passionate exchange and debate of ideas, is a light to the rest of the world. Congresswoman Giffords and her constituents were exercising their right to exchange ideas that day, to celebrate our Republic’s core values and peacefully assemble to petition our government. It’s inexcusable and incomprehensible why a single evil man took the lives of peaceful citizens that day.

There is a bittersweet irony that the strength of the American spirit shines brightest in times of tragedy. We saw that in Arizona. We saw the tenacity of those clinging to life, the compassion of those who kept the victims alive, and the heroism of those who overpowered a deranged gunman.

Like many, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event.

President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own.

They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.

The last election was all about taking responsibility for our country’s future. President Obama and I may not agree on everything, but I know he would join me in affirming the health of our democratic process. Two years ago his party was victorious. Last November, the other party won. In both elections the will of the American people was heard, and the peaceful transition of power proved yet again the enduring strength of our Republic.

Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions.  And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision.

If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those “calm days” when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial.

But our Founding Fathers knew they weren’t designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government. Our Founders’ genius was to design a system that helped settle the inevitable conflicts caused by our imperfect passions in civil ways. So, we must condemn violence if our Republic is to endure.

As I said while campaigning for others last March in Arizona during a very heated primary race, “We know violence isn’t the answer. When we ‘take up our arms’, we’re talking about our vote.” Yes, our debates are full of passion, but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box – as we did just two months ago, and as our Republic enables us to do again in the next election, and the next. That’s who we are as Americans and how we were meant to be. Public discourse and debate isn’t a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional.

No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent, and we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults.

Just days before she was shot, Congresswoman Giffords read the First Amendment on the floor of the House. It was a beautiful moment and more than simply “symbolic,” as some claim, to have the Constitution read by our Congress. I am confident she knew that reading our sacred charter of liberty was more than just “symbolic.” But less than a week after Congresswoman Giffords reaffirmed our protected freedoms, another member of Congress announced that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech he found offensive.

It is in the hour when our values are challenged that we must remain resolved to protect those values. Recall how the events of 9-11 challenged our values and we had to fight the tendency to trade our freedoms for perceived security. And so it is today.

Let us honor those precious lives cut short in Tucson by praying for them and their families and by cherishing their memories. Let us pray for the full recovery of the wounded. And let us pray for our country. In times like this we need God’s guidance and the peace He provides. We need strength to not let the random acts of a criminal turn us against ourselves, or weaken our solid foundation, or provide a pretext to stifle debate.

America must be stronger than the evil we saw displayed last week. We are better than the mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy. We will come out of this stronger and more united in our desire to peacefully engage in the great debates of our time, to respectfully embrace our differences in a positive manner, and to unite in the knowledge that, though our ideas may be different, we must all strive for a better future for our country. May God bless America.

– Sarah Palin

Arizona shooting: Pima County Sheriff’s Department, college won’t release data on suspect

The Arizona Republic – By Robert Anglen

Sheriff’s Department and community-college officials in Pima County are refusing to release a wide range of public documents about the man charged in Saturday’s shooting rampage that left six dead and more than a dozen wounded.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department and Pima Community College have declined to release documents that could shed light on run-ins they had with 22-year-old Jared Loughner in the months prior to the shooting.

The Arizona Public Records Law requires that records be “open to inspection by any person at all times” unless officials can prove releasing the information would violate rights of privacy or confidentiality or otherwise harm the best interests of the state.

The Arizona Republic requested that records, including incident reports on campus and calls for dispatch of deputies to Loughner’s home, be released under the law. Such reports are often released as a matter of course in criminal cases.

College officials have not indicated when or if they will release the information, saying they want prior approval from the FBI and are concerned about violating federal laws protecting the privacy of student information. The Republic did not request student academic records.

Pima Community College officials confirmed Saturday that they suspended Loughner after a series of outbursts in classrooms and the library, five of which involved campus police…

Clyburn: Words can be danger

The Post and Courier – By Yvonne Wenger

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in Congress, said Sunday the deadly shooting in Arizona should get the country thinking about what’s acceptable to say publicly and when people should keep their mouths shut.

Clyburn said he thinks vitriol in public discourse led to a 22-year-old suspect opening fire Saturday at an event Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords held for her constituents in Tucson, Ariz. Six people were killed and 14 others were injured, including Giffords.

The shooting is cause for the country to rethink parameters on free speech, Clyburn said from his office, just blocks from the South Carolina Statehouse. He wants standards put in place to guarantee balanced media coverage with a reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, in addition to calling on elected officials and media pundits to use ‘better judgment.’

‘Free speech is as free speech does,’ he said. ‘You cannot yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater and call it free speech and some of what I hear, and is being called free speech, is worse than that.’

Clyburn used as an example a comment made by Sharron Angle, an unsuccessful U.S. senatorial candidate in Nevada, who said the frustrated public may consider turning to ‘Second Amendment remedies’ for political disputes unless Congress changed course.

Clyburn said the man accused of shooting Giffords did just that.

‘He saw a Second Amendment remedy and that’s what occurred here and there is no way not to make that connection,’ Clyburn said.

Despite Clyburn’s position, law enforcement has not yet revealed any motives in the shooting.

Clyburn has been the most outspoken of the state’s congressional delegation on the shooting.

U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, the 1st District Republican, said the Fairness Doctrine would stifle free speech and be harmful to the public, but he would say little on the matter beyond that. Engaging in a partisan conversation is not appropriate now, Scott said, because the focus of Saturday’s shooting should remain on prayer for the victims.

‘A 9-year-old little girl is gone and the Fairness Doctrine is not going to bring her back,’ Scott said.

The Fairness Doctrine has been a controversial subject during the Obama administration. The Federal Communications Commission in 1987 stopped enforcing the policy that required the media to present both sides of an issue. Now, with the popularity of partisan cable news, some want the FCC to use the policy to inject balance into heated media discussions…

Sanders Fundraises Off Arizona Murders

TWS – By STEPHEN F. HAYES

There has been no shortage of individuals and institutions that have sought to capitalize on the shootings in Tucson. Add Vermont senator Bernie Sanders to that list.

This afternoon Sanders sent out a fundraising appeal, seeking to raise money to fight Republicans and other “right-wing reactionaries” responsible for the climate that led to the shooting.

He writes:

Given the recent tragedy in Arizona, as well as the start of the new Congress, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few words with political friends in Vermont and throughout the country.  I also want to thank the very many supporters who have begun contributing online to my 2012 reelection campaign at www.bernie.org.

There is no question but that the Republican Party, big money corporate interests and right-wing organizations will vigorously oppose me.  Your financial support now and in the future is much appreciated.

Sanders lists several events as evidence that right-wing rhetoric led to the attacks, and then continues:

What should be understood is that the violence, and threats of violence against Democrats in Arizona, was not limited to Gabrielle Giffords.  Raul Grijalva, an old friend of mine and one of the most progressive members in the House, was forced to close his district office this summer when someone shot a bullet through his office window.

Another Democratic elected official in Arizona, recently defeated Congressman Harry Mitchell, suspended town meetings in his district because of the threatening phone calls that he received (Mitchell was also in the cross-hairs on the Palin map).

And Judge John Roll, who was shot to death at the Giffords event, had received numerous threatening calls and death threats in 2009.

In light of all of this violence – both actual and threatened – is Arizona a state in which people who are not Republicans are able to participate freely and fully in the democratic process?  Have right-wing reactionaries, through threats and acts of violence, intimidated people with different points of view from expressing their political positions?

A staffer in Sanders’ campaign office confirmed that the letter went out today.

Related Links:

Michelle Malkin:  Sarah Palin speaks, blamestream media goes wild

Ann Coulter: LIBERALS SEEK BAN ON METAPHORS IN WAKE OF ARIZONA SHOOTING

Big Gov’t: Exclusive: Alan Dershowitz Defends Sarah Palin’s Use of Term ‘Blood Libel’

Canada Free Press:  Walking Short: The Life and Lies of Sheriff Clarence Dupnik

NRO:The Term ‘Blood Libel’: More Common Than You Might Think

Related Previous Posts:

The Tucson Killings: Malfeasance And Irresponsible MSM Reporting

BREAKING: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Shot

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