I'm struck by how political Web sites are choosing to address the shooting deaths at Virginia Tech, if at all, and the reaction the same is generating among at least one prominent conservative blogger.
Shortly after midnight, the presidential campaign for liberal Democrat Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) announced it's shuttering its Web page, kucinich.us, for 24 hours out of respect to the lives lost. The Web page is plastered with an image of an Easter lily, and the words "In memory and respect of all the victims at Virginia Tech, and all those who are affected by violence everyday, we have closed our site for a twenty-four hour period of mourning."
Reading that brought to mind the criticism that Townhall's Mary Katharine Ham lodged about how many Republican presidential campaigns (as of 4 p.m. EDT), had nothing on their front pages mentioning the massacre.
In her post, Ham wrote that "Political web operatives on the Left understand that websites move with the news, and are sometimes the fastest way to move those messages. Today, the Dem candidates' sites reflect that and the Republicans' do not."
But is such a criticism really in touch with the heartland or does it reflect the inside-the-Beltway media-obsessed mindset that many of us, myself included at times, can fall into? What message, exactly are Republican candidates slow to send? Certainly liberal mainstream journalists picking up on this complaint may drive discussion around to gun control or an imagined "sympathy gap" that shows Republicans "out of touch" with the concerns of American voters.
Is the medium supposed to be a substitute for a policy message in the face of a tragedy like Virginia Tech? And isn't it a bit presumptuous to think Americans are demanding of a bunch of politicians something profound on the mystery of human evil, or comforting and hopeful?
Surely the vast majority of Americans would turn to their faith for those questions.
What's more, does a conservative blogger criticizing Republican candidates offer liberal blogs and the liberally-biased mainstream media talking points for hitting conservative and Republican politicians as "out of touch" with the public?
Does such criticism, particularly from conservative corners, take the heat off of liberal activist groups like the Brady Campaign that are using yesterday's violent mass murder to further a political agenda?
Far from following the Kucinich model and shutting down all fundraising and political outreach for a day, the handgun control activists are ginning up fresh petitions and hitting up Web site visitors for money.
It's hard to expect the mainstream media to ask such tough questions of liberal activists its often agrees with, particularly on emotionally charged issues like gun control.
NewsBusters be watching to see how the MSM converts a devastating crime story into a political issue for the 2008 campaign.