Palin Used Highly Inflammatory Rhetoric -- in Defiance of McCain's Directive to Tone it Down -- That Stirred Blatantly Racist Passions Against Obama During '08 Campaign and Has Continued to Employ Incendiary Language in the Two Years Since; Now Former Alaska Governor Deeply Offends Jews by Employing Anti-Semitic Phrase in Defiantly Partisan Speech on Tucson Tragedy
(Posted 5:30 a.m. EST Tuesday, January 18, 2011)
A 'SKEETER BITES REPORT EDITORIAL
By SKEETER SANDERS
Almost from the day in August 2008 when Senator John McCain -- having secured the Republican presidential nomination -- plucked then-Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska out of relative obscurity and into the glare of the national spotlight as his vice-presidential running mate, Palin has found herself embroiled in one controversy after another.
Now, Palin has generated a new furor, this time over a videotaped speech in reaction to the January 8 shootings in McCain's home state of Arizona that left six people dead -- including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl -- and 14 others wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat who represents Tucson.
And this time, Palin may have bitten off more than she can chew -- and permanently foreclosed any hopes she may have had of winning the presidency in 2012.
A DEFIANT PALIN BLASTS HER CRITICS IN VIDEOTAPED MESSAGE
In a videotaped message posted on her Facebook page, Palin branded attempts by pundits and liberal activists to pin the blame on conservatives in general and herself in particular for the shootings during Giffords' "Congress On Your Corner" meet-and-greet event outside a Safeway supermarket in Tucson a "blood libel."
She defiantly accused her critics of attacking her in an effort to damage her politically. "Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them," she said. "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."
But if Palin's intent was to humble her critics, she failed badly. On the contrary, she's now in serious hot water over her use of the term "blood libel," a violently anti-Semitic term that for centuries has been used to falsely accuse Jews of committing unspeakable crimes -- particularly the death of Jesus -- and to justify atrocities against them.
What made Palin's use of the term particularly galling is the fact that Congresswoman Giffords -- whose recovery from being shot in the head was hailed as a "miracle" by doctors at the University of Arizona Medical Center in Tucson and whose condition was upgraded from "critical" to "serious" on Sunday -- is Arizona's first-ever Jewish member of Congress.
PALIN'S USE OF 'BLOOD LIBEL' OUTRAGES JEWISH LEADERS
"Instead of dialing down the rhetoric at this difficult moment, Sarah Palin chose to accuse others trying to sort out the meaning of this tragedy of somehow engaging in a 'blood libel' against her and others," David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said in a statement.
"This is, of course, a particularly heinous term for American Jews, given that the repeated fiction of blood libels are directly responsible for the murder of so many Jews across centuries -- and given that blood libels are so directly intertwined with deeply ingrained anti-Semitism around the globe, even today," Harris said.
Simon Greer, president of Jewish Funds for Justice, a New York-based Jewish civil-rights organization, also ripped Palin, calling her use of "blood libel" in her videotaped message "totally out-of-line."
Greer noted that Palin is a commentator at Fox News Channel. She posted her statement just days after Fox News president Roger Ailes said he issued a directive to the conservative-leaning cable network's commentators to tone down their rhetoric in the wake of the shootings.
"I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don't have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that," Ailes said in an interview with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons on Simmons' Web site, GlobalGrind.com.
(No similar directive was issued by NBC News chief Steven Capus to MSNBC's commentators, but the liberal-leaning cable network's top-rated pundit, Keith Olbermann, did call for a truce, blaming himself as well as his rivals on Fox for infusing public debate with violent imagery. "We need to put the guns down," said Olbermann. "Just as importantly we need to put the gun metaphors away permanently.")
PALIN A RHETORICAL FLAME-THROWER SINCE '08 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
The firestorm over Palin's use of "blood libel" in her video message -- a defiant defense of her brand of confrontational politics -- is only the latest in a series of insensitive and outright inflammatory remarks that the former Alaska governor has made in the more than two years since she entered the national spotlight. In the process, Palin caused deep problems for the McCain campaign and has roiled the Republican Party as no one else has since Pat Buchanan's infamous "culture war" speech at the 1992 GOP National Convention in Houston.
Indeed, a widening rift opened up between McCain and Palin as the campaign wore on and polls showed McCain badly trailing Obama, according to The Times of London, with McCain "alarmed about the fury unleashed by Palin . . . against Senator Obama. Cries of 'terrorist!' and 'kill him1' have accompanied the tirades by the governor of Alaska against the Democratic nominee at Republican rallies," the newspaper said.
That Palin was relishing the traditional role of the vice-presidential nominee to be the campaign's "attack dog" to a degree seldom seen in the annals of American presidential politics was cause for increasing alarm among McCain campaign staffers and the nominee himself, with the London daily quoting Mark Salter, McCain's longtime chief of staff, as saying that his boss would rather suffer an "honorable defeat" than conduct the kind of take-no-prisoners, scorched-earth campaign that Palin and other conservative hard-liners in the GOP wanted him to conduct.
PALIN STIRRED UP UGLY DISPLAYS OF RACIST VENOM AGAINST OBAMA AMONG HER SUPPORTERS
When McCain imposed a strict ban on his campaign raising the issue of Obama's former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Palin was furious.
Palin and several top campaign officials -- as well as hard-line GOP conservatives -- insisted that an all-out attack on Obama's relationship with Wright was the only option McCain has left to cast doubts in voters' minds about his opponent. But McCain was adamant that to bring up Wright would almost certainly be seen as a last-minute desperation move and trigger accusations of McCain playing the "race card" against the then-senator from Illinois.
McCain was forced to confront open bigotry against Obama face-to-face at a campaign stop in Minnesota -- and was determined to tamp it down, even grabbing the microphone away from and rebuking a women who called Obama "an Arab," implying that he was not a native-born U.S. citizen and was a Muslim.
But that didn't stop Palin from stirring up racially-tinged animosity toward Obama during her solo campaign appearances. In a now-notorious campaign stop in Ohio -- captured on video by a reporter for the English-language international channel of Al Jazeera -- several Palin supporters, all of them white, let fly with vicious anti-Obama comments laced with racist and Islamophobic venom -- the latter in spite of the fact that Obama is a Christian.
Palin did nothing to stem the open displays of bigotry among her supporters. To the contrary, she did the exact opposite: She stoked the crowd into a frenzy of contempt against Obama by saying, "We know who the bad guys are," referring to terrorists. At Palin's mention of "bad guys," the crowd shouted, "Obama!"
Palin continued: "Those who sympathize and support those terrorists who would seek to destroy all that it is that we value -- those are the bad guys, OK?" Her implication was clear: Obama was, in her mind, a "bad guy." A terrorist sympathizer. An enemy of America. A traitor.
PALIN: I MIGHT RAISE ISSUE OF OBAMA'S CITIZENSHIP IN 2012
Fast-forward to December 2009. In an appearance on conservative radio talk-show host Rusty Humphries' program, Palin effectively joined the ranks of the birther conspiracy theorists when she declared that she "doesn't have a problem" with those who, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, still stubbornly insist that the president is not a native-born American, but a native of his father's homeland of Kenya.
This belief -- still being doggedly pursued by the birthers despite their utter failure to come up with any evidence to back up their claims -- has long since been dismissed by the Kenyan government as "madness" and "a red herring." Even many mainstream conservatives branded the birthers "loony."
(Palin distanced herself from the birthers within hours after The 'Skeeter Bites Report published a blistering editorial accusing Palin of joining forces with a movement engaged in a hate campaign against the president aimed at the forced removal of Obama from office.)
CAMPAIGN 2010: PALIN'S NOW-INFAMOUS 'TARGETS' MAP
Fast-forward to last March. In the immediate aftermath of the passage of the health-care reform law, several lawmakers became the targets of vandalism and threats, including Giffords, whose Tucson district office was vandalized.
To his credit, then-House Minority Leader (now Speaker) John Bohener (R-Ohio) condemned the violence and threats: "I know many Americans are angry over this health-care bill, and that Washington Democrats just aren't listening," he said. "But, as I've said, violence and threats are unacceptable. That's not the American way. We need to take that anger and channel it into positive change. Call your congressman, go out and register people to vote, go volunteer on a political campaign, make your voice heard -- but let's do it the right way."
But what did Palin do? On March 23, amid the violence and vandalism, Palin posted on her Facebook page her now-infamous gun-sight target map, with Giffords' seat among the 20 held by Democrats targeted. Even more incendiary was this Twitter posting by Palin:
"Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" Pls see my Facebook page."
With a track record like this, is it any wonder why Palin has become such a lightning rod? And yet, not only does she still refuse to acknowledge any responsibility for contributing to our poisoned political discourse, she has the gall to attack those who take her to task for it.
It's the political equivalent of the old definition of Tourette's Syndrome, which for many years was thought to be associated with compulsive utterances of obscenities and/or socially inappropriate and derogatory remarks.
BACKLASH OVER 'BLOOD LIBEL' REMARK MAY DOOM PALIN'S 2012 BID FOR WHITE HOUSE
But with her "blood libel" remark, Palin may have gone too far. With the term's explosive anti-Semitic connotations, the former Alaska governor's political future -- already dealt a blow by the resounding defeat of Joe Miller by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in the hotly contested U.S. Senate race in her home state -- may have been fatally damaged.
For Murkowski, her write-in victory over Miller -- who denied her the GOP nomination in the primary -- was sweet revenge: In 2006, Palin had ousted her father, Frank Murkowski, from the governor's mansion. The two have been locked in a bitter political feud ever since (Although Miller, whom Palin strongly supported, said he would not contest the election results, he still has refused to concede defeat).
Already, an anti-Palin campaign Web site called Impalin' -- Stop Sarah Palin for President 2012 has been launched. And the "blood libel" firestorm is likely to intensify a stop-Palin movement within the GOP.
In any case, this latest episode has shown quite clearly that Sarah Palin is precisely what this column said of her in an October 20, 2008 editorial: That the former Alaska governor is a dangerous, fearmongering demagogue totally unfit to hold the most powerful job in the world.
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Copyright 2010, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.