After the attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a number of people and certainly the media implied that Sarah Palinâ€™s election map, threatening Giffordsâ€™ district among others, was at least partly to blame, since the map placed gun sight crosshairs over the targeted areas.
After the attempted assassination, the map was hastily removed from Palinâ€™s web site. A spokesman for Palin said they were not gun targets, but surveyorâ€™s marks. This was a lie, of course, since Palin herself said they were gun targets.
During the mid-term elections, Giffords picked up on the symbolism of those crosshairs over her district and said that there are â€œconsequences to that action.â€ The media replayed those remarks many times as part of their coverage of the Giffords shooting. It was as though Giffords had a premonition of what was to happen on January 8, 2011.
Other voices, including the media, blamed the harsh and often violent partisan rhetoric, spewing out of political candidates, especially those of the extreme right.
Palin evidently felt that she was being attacked by the media, and this prompted her to respond in an eight-minute video.
The video opened well. Palin sat in front of the flag and a fireplace and spoke in a manner reminiscent of a State of the Union address by a president. But what came out of her mouth was far from presidential. Rather than rise above partisanship, she chose to elevate it and attacked anyone who might have accused her as though they were the ones guilty of provoking violence. The comparison of her proclaimed innocence under attack as equivalent to the blood libel charge of Jews showed both no sense of proportion and an insensitivity to another ethnic/religious group. Her address was anything but presidential.
A genuine presidential address came later from Obama both in form, since he was the president, and in the substance of the address.
As it turns out, there is no evidence that the map and maybe even the rhetoric had anything to do with the disturbed mind of a mentally ill gunman. Palin would have been far better off to ignore the whole issue than to continue with her vitriolic attacks.
(The actions of Jesse Kelly, the tea party candidate who ran against Giffords in 2010, by taking an M 16 rifle to rallies and brandishing it like a phallus to boost his credentials, are far more likely to set the mood for a disturbed gunman than Palinâ€™s map. What else could that action represent, since gun control was never an issue in that district?)
Has Sarah Palin now lost her chance at running for the presidency? She has not alienated the extreme faction on her side, but this is not enough for her to become a candidate. If she still has presidential ambitions, she must now work harder to convince her party of her viability. She desperately needs to get savvy political advice, listen to it and act on it. And if she can manage to achieve the now more remote candidature and be elected, she has to convince the ones who actually make the difference in elections. These are the voters in the middle, between the parties, the ones who value bipartisanship and compromise and who have a vision of government working together for them and for the common good.