Monday night, to the surprise of many, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returned to the Capitol to cast her first vote since being shot in the head by Jared Lee Loughner seven months ago. Her triumphant return brought cheers from everyone in the room, despite their contentious disagreements over the past few weeks.
Ironically, these disagreements have often turned to using the same violent rhetoric that was so widely blamed by the media as the reason for Loughner's violent shooting spree. In reality, martial rhetoric is virtually ubiquitous in our political system, but the same people who condemned it seven months ago are now hypocritically using the same language, having no problem calling Tea Partiers "terrorists," "kidnappers," or congressmen on a "suicide mission."
As Jonah Goldberg pointed out at National Review yesterday, the abusers of martial language against the Tea Party are the same people who blamed Loughner's shooting spree on Sarah Palin for using crosshairs on a map.
Everyone “knew” the shooter was a tea partier. Except he wasn’t. He wasn’t even a conservative. He was a sick, demented, nutball. [...]
Finally, president Obama, our national-healer, gives a speech. It was a good speech. Indeed it was one of the first speeches in a long while that got anything like bipartisan support. Civility. New tone. No more martial metaphors. These were the takeaways.
In fact, these media pundits and politicians have been hypocritical in their use of violent rhetoric ever since the shooting. In the weeks following, Chris Matthews placed crosshairs over an image of the Capitol building, the media dismissed leftist Eric Fuller, one of Loughner's shooting victims, when he screamed "You're dead!" to a Tea Partier, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a list of Republican incumbent "targets," similar to Palin's list of incumbents, but only 23 days after a tragedy it blamed on the same violent rhetoric.
The mudslinging against conservatives blamed for Loughner's shooting spree continued. Obama's words were not taken to heart by his supporters, as the use of violent metaphors did not abate. From the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto,
Then it was February, and the liberal elite lost all interest in policing "the boundaries of public discourse." The faux goo-goo group Common Cause held a rally where participants urged the lynching of Supreme Court justices. Liberals--including at least one Democratic congressman--employed actual violent rhetoric against Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker, whose state budget reforms stripped government employee unions of many of their expensive privileges.
While the link does not seem to exist between violent rhetoric and action in politics, especially since it has become such a part of the political vocabulary, if such language were actually the cause of Giffords's shooting, then the media and politicians have forgotten all the lessons they hypocritically preached in January. From Goldberg,
So flashforward to this week. Tom Friedman — who knows a bit about Hezbollah — calls the tea partiers the “Hezbollah faction” of the GOP bent on taking the country on a “suicide mission.” All over the place, conservative Republicans are “hostage takers” and “terrorists,” “terrorists” and “traitors.” They want to “end life as we know it on this planet,” says Nancy Pelosi...Joe Nocera writes today that “the Tea Party Republicans can put aside their suicide vests.” [...]
Then last night, on the very day Gabby Giffords heroically returns to cast her first vote since that tragic attack seven months ago, the vice president of the United States calls the Republican party a bunch of terrorists.
The morning after her return, though, NBC was the only network to mention Vice President Joe Biden's violent remark, and even then, only to promote his denial of the statement. A conservative making a similar remark following the return of Giffords would never receive the same free pass that has been given to Biden and a host of others in their rhetoric against the Tea Party.
Update (15:30): As Ed Morrissey pointed out at Hot Air, the violent rhetoric of the media has not pared down at all, citing examples from a number of sources. They continue espousing a series of talking points to associate the strong-willed Tea Partiers with violence, terrorism, and criminals, not backing away from the violent rhetoric they were so impassioned to dispel in January.
You know what they say: Never negotiate with terrorists. It only encourages them.
These last few months, much of the country has watched in horror as the Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people...But they didn’t care. Their goal, they believed, was worth blowing up the country for, if that’s what it took.
Also of the Times, Nicholas Kristof called the Tea Party "our own domestic extremists," while Maureen Dowd wrote the Tea Partiers are "trying to burn down the House they were elected to serve in," "determined to blow up the country’s prestige."
Politico's opinion contributor William Yeomans added his nearly verbatim two cents as well.
It has become commonplace to call the tea party faction in the House “hostage takers.” But they have now become full-blown terrorists.
They have joined the villains of American history who have been sufficiently craven to inflict massive harm on innocent victims to achieve their political goals. A strong America has always stood firm in the face of terrorism. That tradition is in jeopardy, as Congress and President Barack careen toward an uncertain outcome in the tea party-manufactured debt crisis.
Martin Frost, another Politico opinion contributor, echoed the exact same analogy.
We now have a group of U.S. politicians seeking political purity, who seem to have much in common with the Taliban. They are tea party members; and because of blind adherence to smaller government, they seem intent on risking destroying what American political leaders have constructed in more than two centuries of hard, often painful work. Like the Taliban, they see compromise as an unacceptable alternative.
Chris Matthews was a little more creative, using a series of criminal analogies to define Tea Partiers as defiling America, describing them as "one guy with a knife and the other trying to avoid being cut. It was a thug attacking a victim. It was a mugging.”
Hypocritically, none of them have yet to use the civil dialog they reprimanded Republicans for not using in January.
Image above via Politifake.org