Again, Sarah Palin, unemployed former reality television star, has eclipsed Barack Obama, President of the world’s last superpower.
The US President flew to Tucson today to lead a memorial for the six slain in Saturday’s shooting titled “Together We Thrive: Tucson and America”. It follows several days of memorial speeches in Congress by hundreds of representatives of both sides, led by incoming Republican Speaker John Boehner, in honour of injured colleague Democratic Rep Gabrielle Giffords.
Obama began his speech as Crikey went to press, watched closely amid criticism he’s failed to convey the emotional impact — on this issue and others. The event is more like a rock concert than a memorial: more than 24,000 people are in the audience, overflowing from the 14,000-capacity stadium.
While American custom does not provide for official periods of state mourning, five days has not sated the nation’s media, clearly reluctant to return to normal programming and tone.
The administration’s efforts to lead a nation from grief to justice under the umbrella of due process has become lost in the all-hours cacophony of blame. No 24-hour fancy in the wake of a tragedy, the blame game has been raging non-stop across all traditional and social media. Virtually every editorial in every newspaper since the shooting has focused on the availability of guns, the Tea Party movement’s revolution rhetoric, and Palin’s cross-hairs map.
Palin initially offered what amounted to the least believable offer of condolence of any American public figure. But after getting a pounding in the media for four straight days, the former vice-presidential nominee hit back last night in a video that became an instant viral success.
“Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own,” Palin said in her prepared speech to camera, flanked by an American flag. “They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle.”
But when Palin went on the offensive, her choice of words sparked a new chapter in the already incendiary debate, accusing her critics, particularly in the media, of “blood libel”:
“If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”
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Jewish lobby groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, and several prominent Republicans were quick to condemn Palin for inappropriately altering the emotionally laden term, which had historically described “false accusations that Jews murdered Christians and used their blood in religious rituals” according to New York Times writer Michael Shear.
The former Republican vice-presidential candidate did not name any specific person or party in her counter-attack, a style described as “almost presidential-esque” by CBS chief political consultant Marc Ambinder (far from a conservative talking head).
In just over seven minutes of video, Palin regained the high ground in the field of Republican contenders for the 2012 presidential nomination. She even appeared to take an early swipe at Obama by referencing American Exceptionalism, a populist doctrine more strongly held by conservatives.
Betting agency BetUS.com puts Palin favourite for Republican nomination, but behind Obama in the main race.