It does not need the words of politicians to inspire nutters to do bad things, so it’s perhaps a bit much to be blaming Sarah Palin for the shooting of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona. Which isn’t to argue in favour of the kind of argument former Governor Palin mounted on her political action committee website in which she marked Ms Giffords as one of those in the gun sights of her campaign to defeat Democrats.

9-01-2011 palinsolution

It was a crass and crude way of getting a point across and I guess it could have been seen as an endorsement of violence by one with a feeble mind. Far better that the illustration not have been used than it be taken down from the website after today’s shooting.

Regrettably Bill Clinton was closer to the truth than I am sure he would have liked in his comments in a speech he gave in Washington DC back in April on the upcoming 15th anniversary of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

I had a great time fighting with Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay and Dick Armey… I remember when [Armey] called Hillary a socialist. I remember when Newt Gingrich, shortly after becoming speaker, said that Hillary and I were the enemies of normal Americans. It didn’t bother me a bit.

But what we learned from Oklahoma City is not that we should gag each other or reduce our passion from the positions we hold — but that the words we use really do matter, because there’s this vast echo chamber and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike. They fall on the connected and the unhinged alike. And I am not trying to muzzle anybody. But one of the things that the conservatives have always brought to the table in America is a reminder that no law can replace personal responsibility. And the more power you have and the more influence you have, the more responsibility you have.

Look, I’m glad they’re fighting over health care and everything else. Let them have at it. But I think all you have to do is read the paper everyday to see how many people there are who are deeply, deeply troubled.

Yes, the Boston tea party involved the seizure of tea in the ship because it was taxation without representation. This fight is about taxation by duly elected representatives that you don’t happen to agree with and can vote out at the next election — and two years after that, and two years after that, and two years after that.

By all means, keep fighting. By all means, keep arguing. But remember words have consequences as much as actions do. And what we advocate commensurate with our position and responsibility, we have to take responsibility for. We owe that to Oklahoma City.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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