Sarah Palin released her “America’s Enduring Strength” video today in response to the media reaction to the of shooting of Rep. Giffords and others in Tuscon, AZ. Palin is suitably sympathetic in the seven minute monologue, but is decidedly unapologetic for her rhetoric. Not surprisingly, the political left and right are having dramatically different reactions to her message.
While most everyone in the mainstream seems to agree there is no direct link between Palin and the mentally unstable shooter, Palin feels understandably attacked in the media aftermath. There is ample basis for discussion over whether or not the violent and gun-based language and imagery used by Palin and other politicians and pundits is potentially inciting violent actions by the fringe elements of society. And it’s understandable why the Arizona shooting has been the catalyst for bringing up the topic of the lack of civility in our political discourse. But the fact remains that there is no traceable connection between this incident and anybody’s political rhetoric. Palin defends that point, and strikes back at those who would try to pin any wrongdoing on her or the right in general.
Ezra Klein makes the eloquent case on the left for why Palin missed an opportunity.
Imagine if Palin had come out and said, “My initial response was to defend the fact that I had never condoned such violence, and never would. But the fact is, if I in any way contributed to an unhealthy political climate, I have to be more careful and deliberate in my public language rather than merely sharpen my defenses.” That would’ve been leadership: It would have made her critics look small, and it would’ve made her look big. Those who doubted whether Palin could rise to an occasion that called for more than sharp partisanship would’ve been silenced.
The right’s reaction is typified by fellow Examiner Lori Calabrese.
In a climate of hate, Palin rose above her critics with a beautifully written address that spoke to us as a nation and,although, Palin struck back at her critics, she didn’t further divide our great nation, yet called for unity and defended the rights and freedoms that make America exceptional.
I don’t know about you, but I saw something different in Sarah Palin. She leaped into the leadership role of the Republican party with her statement, while other GOP hopefuls have either remained quiet on the issue or proved that they don’t have the grapefruits to lead our nation. Palin defends our rights spelled out in The Constitution addressing the fact that a member of Congress went so far as to announce that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech he found offensive.
What Klein and others on the left are not owning up to is that while Palin may have made a few points with a more apologetic message, it would not ultimately have changed any of their minds about Palin. Meanwhile, an apology would have inflamed her supporters who expect her to stand firm, refuse to compromise, and take no prisoners. She had everything to lose by appearing to kowtow to the accusations of culpability, and nothing to gain. However, staying true to her “don’t retreat, reload” mantra, she struck back at her accusers. In doing so, she reinforced her credibility with her loyal base, and acted about like everyone else expected her to act.
All indications are that strategically this was the appropriate message for her to release. Whether you loved it or hated it, she gets credit for being smart enough to recognize there is little she’s going to do that would persuade those who have already written her off to give her a second look.