Sarah Palin

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, likes to say that “no organization anywhere in the world is a more devoted advocate of free speech.” His response to the tragic shooting in Tucson came, therefore, as something of a surprise. In early January, Assange issued a press release arguing, despite the lack of any evidence, that right-wing vitriol had provoked the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, to go on a murderous rampage.

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Free Association

Among the many thoughts I've had about the shooting of those unfortunate people who went to a supermarket on a Saturday morning to meet with their congresswoman, I've been stuck by how hard people have tried to create meaning out of the mayhem. For some observers, things as seemingly insignificant as a birth date—in this case, the birth date of a nine-year-old girl—feel heavy with significance, if only we knew how to interpret them.

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To the growing field of conservative psychoanalysis exploring the question of what mental flaw must be present in liberals to make them not appreciate the intelligence and sound judgment of Sarah Palin, the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto has a new contribution. His thesis is that liberals dislike Palin because of the lady parts: Why does their hatred of her burn so hot? Ask them, and they'll most likely tell you: Because she's a moron. But that is obviously false. ... We'd say this goes beyond mere jealousy.

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The Battle Hymn of Sarah Palin: Say what you will about pro-Obama kitsch, but it had high production values. This is what happens when the entire cultural elite is affiliated with one party. There has to be somebody out there who can write a better song about Sarah Palin.

Decision Time

The Republican Party—and indeed much of the media establishment—is living in a fantasy world when it comes to 2012. To hear most of the pundits and soothsayers tell it, the presidential nominating contest is still a long way off. The GOP heavies we’ve been talking about since 2008, such as Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Tim Pawlenty, are all terribly flawed: Mitt’s got his RomneyCare; Newt has been a national pariah; Huck has money problems; Palin is toxic outside her base; and T-Paw induces narcolepsy.

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Here's Wall Street Journal editorial page writer and conservative movement apparatchik Stephen Moore writing up the Draft Mike Pence movement: Mr. Pence won the straw poll at a gathering of more than 1,000 social conservatives in Washington, D.C., over the summer—besting Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and presumptive front-runner Mitt Romney. One concern is what Sarah Palin's intentions are, since she would have a huge funding base if she runs.

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Mortal Coil

Consider the following reactions to the tragic shooting in Tucson: First, President Barack Obama’s speech got rave reviews (“magic,” New York Times columnist Gail Collins called it), even though, by the standards, say, of Bill Clinton’s Oklahoma City address, it was pretty humdrum, especially during those times when the president was trying to draw lessons from the tragedy rather than eulogizing its victims.

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The President’s speech last night was beautiful but ultimately, a magnificent punt. It was brave for Obama to crisply dismiss the idea that partisan rhetoric is what drove Jared Loughner to kill, given how much currency that idea now has among the bien-pensant kinds of people who elected him.

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Okay, it's a little over the top for Sarah Palin to accuse her critics of "blood libel." But she does have a basic point. She had nothing to do with Jared Loughner. He was not an extremist who embraced some radical version of her ideas. And her use of targets to identify districts Republicans were, um, targetting is not exceptional or prone to incite anybody. What's happening is that Palin has come to represent unhinged grassroots conservatism, and people in the media immediately (and incorrectly) associated Loughner with the far right.

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After the horrible tragedy in Tucson, many are rightly criticizing Sarah Palin’s use of crosshairs on a campaign map showing the districts represented by members of Congress she wanted to oust in 2010, including that of Gabrielle Giffords. It isn’t the only example of Palin’s penchant for inflammatory imagery or language.

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