WASHINGTON — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s first spoken words on the shootings in Tucson, Ariz. — a lengthy denunciation of both violence and pundits who are “manufacturing a blood libel” — was more an effort in media critique than post-tragedy reconciliation.
And in the immediate aftermath, the reaction to it was a bit of incredulity, shock or simple confusion. Assistant House Minority Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) became one of the first lawmakers to weigh in Wednesday morning.
“You know, Sarah Palin just can’t seem to get it, on any front. I think that she’s an attractive person, she is articulate,” Clyburn said on Bill Press’ radio show. “But I think intellectually, she seems not to be able to understand what’s going on here.”
Clyburn’s comments were tame compared to the chilly reception and head-scratching that Palin’s statement received on the Internet and cable, where the anti-Semitic roots of the term “blood libel” did not go unnoticed.
“Whether it was her intention or not today, she is feeding the beast of what has really been a pretty nasty ideological finger-pointing fight that we have been watching on Twitter and the Internet and on some forms of cable television,” NBC News’ Chuck Todd said on MSNBC.
“There was some sympathy for Palin over being tied to shooting, + she chose to go inflammatory,” The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz wrote via Twitter.
All of which should serve as a telling backdrop for President Barack Obama as he takes center stage during the memorial service for the shooting victims on Wednesday evening. Whereas the defining tone from Palin and others is one of self-defense and even victimization — former Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle accused her critics of being “dangerous and ignorant” on Tuesday — Obama is likely to stick with his default positions: projections of civility, calls for unity, pleas for depolarization.