Palin Spox: Targets on SarahPAC Map Were Actually 'Surveyor's Symbols'

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 9 2011 11:30 AM

Palin Spox: Targets on SarahPAC Map Were Actually 'Surveyor's Symbols'

Fox News has a leaked Department of Homeland Security memo with speculation about the ideology of the Tucson shooter, Jared Loughner, focusing on his possible anti-Semitism. He may have been a reader of American Renaissance, the far right, white nationalist Web site. I note this because there is no reason to believe that Loughner saw Gabrielle Giffords on Sarah Palin's PAC target list and was inspired to shoot her. She was Jewish; he, according to Caitie Miller, had met Giffords in 2007 and disliked her; there's a lot to go on.

All that said, this exchange between Palin aide Rebecca Mansour and Palin-supporting radio host Tammy Bruce is completely absurd . Bruce begins by describing the map of SarahPAC's 20 midterm election targets -- members of Congress in districts that went for McCain/Palin in 2008 who voted for health care reform -- and referring to the targets on the map as "surveyor's symbols." Mansour points out that "targeted districts" are part of political parlance -- obviously true -- and says this. (It starts at around 11:40 in the clip.)

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.

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MANSOUR: I just want to clarify again, and maybe it wasn't done on the record enough by us when this came out, the graphic, is just, it's basically -- we never, ever, ever intended it to be gunsights. It was simply crosshairs like you see on maps.

BRUCE: Well, it's a surveyor's symbol. It's a surveyor's symbol.

MANSOUR: It's a surveyor's symbol. I just want to say this, Tammy, if I can. This graphic was done, not even done in house -- we had a political graphics professional who did this for us.

This is deeply stupid. Here's the map:


Among the people who gave the impression that these were targets: Sarah Palin. When she announced the list in a tweet, she wrote "don't retreat, instead - RELOAD!" I'm not an expert surveyor, but I'm not sure what sort of tools need reloading. Jonathan Martin points out that after the election, Palin tweeted about her success (18 of the seats went to the GOP) by saying "remember months ago 'bullseye' icon used 2 target the 20 Obamacare-lovin' incumbent seats?" Throughout 2010, when Palin was criticized for the target map, she either didn't respond or mocked the "lamestream media" for interpreting her gun metaphors as calls for violence. At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, for example, she got big applause when she said "Don't retreat, reload -- and that is not a call for violence!" The media wasn't going to force her to stop using the gun line.

Palin doubled down, and she had a lot of support from conservatives for doing so, because a lot of them considered the "target map" criticism a bad faith attack on her. Were some of the attacks in bad faith? Maybe. But Gabrielle Giffords had specifically raised her concerns about the target map. Palin had many, many months to stop using the "reload" line, or to identify the targets as "surveyor's symbols," and she didn't do that.

There's also a reason that, while political pundits and consultants might use war and gun metaphors to talk about politics, politicians stay away from them. It's the same reason why Mansour is ludicrously spinning the target map now.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.