Pima County Sheriff Blames 'Paranoia About How Government Operates'

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 9 2011 1:31 PM

Pima County Sheriff Blames 'Paranoia About How Government Operates'

At the joint presser with the FBI just now, Pima County, AZ Sheriff Clarence Dupnik free-associated about the causes of Jared Loughner's rampage and seemed to lay some blame with the media.

"When the rhetoric about hatred, about mistrust of government, about paranoia about how government operates," said Dupnik,* "and to try to try to inflame the public on a daily business, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it has an impact on people, especially who are unbalanced personalities to begin with."

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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Dupnik's role as a media/political critic is interesting because he's making a case with clear winners and losers. The losers are Republicans. I wrote yesterday about how Republicans were damaged after the Oklahoma City bombing:

In retrospect, Republicans pinpoint this as a moment when Clinton defined them -- the party that had just taken Congress -- as out of the mainstream. They thought it was unfair. And we know that it benefited Clinton politically. After the memorial, Dick Morris wrote a memo about the effects of the tragedy. "Permanent possible gain: sets up Extremist Issues vs. Republicans," wrote Morris. But it didn't play out like that because Morris said so; it played out because after a tragedy, it hurts to think about how lightly you took the possibility of that tragedy.

Politico quotes "veteran Democratic operative," today :

One veteran Democratic operative, who blames overheated rhetoric for the shooting, said President Barack Obama should carefully but forcefully do what his predecessor did.

"They need to deftly pin this on the tea partiers," said the Democrat. "Just like the Clinton White House deftly pinned the Oklahoma City bombing on the militia and anti-government people."

Dick Morris wouldn't have been much of an operative if he'd admitted what he wrote in his 1995 memo to reporters at the time. This Democrat's willingness to give a blind quote about how to capitalize on the murder of several people speaks well of the Politico team's reporting skills, less well of said Democrat's savvy.

But we're fooling ourselves if we don't think politicos are thinking about this. Rebecca Mansour is two-stepping away from SarahPAC's target map because the existence of the map, and the existence of an MSNBC interview in which Giffords worried about the map's "consequences," did Democrats' work for them. It allowed (and is allowing) a sidebar political narrative to build. The narrative, basically, is "have the conservatives and Republicans who keep talking about tyranny and revolution and 'Second Amendment remedies' created a climate for this stuff?"

In 1995, it took Clinton's speech to kick that off. In January 2011, Dupnik has kicked it off.

*Corrected -- in a hurry I originally wrote "Loughner."

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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