Tucson

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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Washington—President Obama faces a choice in this week’s State of the Union message: Does he spend the next two years consolidating the gains he has made, or does he go into retreat? My prediction: He will go for consolidation that conservatives will try to label as retreat, even as they attack him for not retreating fast enough. Obama will deliver his address Tuesday evening in an expectedly strong position.

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The New Civility

Washington—President Obama’s call for “a more civil and honest public discourse” will get its first test much sooner than we expected. Having properly postponed all legislative action last week out of respect for Rep.

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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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Is Help On the Way?

There’s still a lot we don’t know about the massacre in Arizona, but by now it’s quite clear that the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, was mentally disturbed. In college, he was prone to surreal rants that unnerved classmates and teachers. While working at an animal shelter, he didn’t see why sick dogs needed to be kept away from healthy ones. Loughner’s friends were even aware of his weird obsession with Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

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Sometime after I read Ezra Klein’s terrific post about politics through a child’s eyes it occurred to me—and I apologize if others have already noted this, but I hadn’t—that Barack Obama’s choice to frame his speech in Tucson that way was fascinating, because the one thing I’d guess people remember from Obama’s Inaugural Address was his insistence that “the time has come to set aside childish things.” Can we reconcile these two apparently contradictory pieces of rhetoric? Yes, we can (as they say).  But it takes me to a different place than where Klein winds up in his post (and, to be clear, I

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[Guest post by James Downie:] Like Jon, I have a hard time connecting right-wing rhetoric to the shooting in Tucson. Yes, the half-term governor of Alaska and Murdoch’s propaganda machine have contributed more than the left to a “climate of hate.” But to tie that climate to Loughner, one has to resort to assumptions, without a direct connection, which have allowed conservatives room to claim innocence.

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Closing the Gap

When Jared Loughner walked into the Sportsman’s Warehouse in Tucson, Arizona, to purchase a Glock 19 on November 30, 2010, he had every right to walk out the legal owner of the semi-automatic handgun. In hindsight, after he used that weapon to kill six innocent people and wound more than a dozen during an attempted assassination of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, it is easy to question that sale. Given current U.S. gun laws, however, there was no reason to prohibit the transaction.

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Washington—The slaughter in Tucson hasn’t shaken us out of bad political habits. Instead of promoting a sober conversation about the dangers of violent political talk, it has reinforced divisions between left and right.

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[Guest post by Noam Scheiber:] Wednesday night’s speech in Tucson could turn out to be the trickiest assignment of Obama’s presidency. Consider what the situation called for: Memorializing victims, comforting a traumatized community, unifying a country left even more polarized by the tragedy, projecting optimism about the future. Perhaps most challenging of all, Obama had to draw some larger lesson from an event that, we’re discovering, had little intrinsic meaning.

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