Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Lefties have been looking for ties between Jared Loughner's state of mind and recent expressions of right-wing rage; the right, in response to this, has lashed out, aggressively attacking commentators and others -- including Pima County sheriff Clarence Dupnik -- who've criticized the right.

And now along comes Limbaugh. The soundbite from Rush Limbaugh's Tuesday radio show that's grabbing some headlines is this:

What Mr. Loughner knows is that he has the full support of a major political party in this country.

Limbaugh's accusing Democrats of openly consorting with Pure Evil? Appalling -- but, really, just another day at the office for him. I'm more concerned with the context. Here's the transcript of the segment, from Limbaugh's site. Limbaugh does his usual lashing out at Democrats/liberals as sad and pathetic but power-mad fantasists, as opposed to Republicans/conservatives, the hard-bitten realists:

They see everything through the prism of their desires, their power, their designs. That's how they vow the world: Through the prism of their desires, their power, their designs. They live in a fantasy world. They believe utopia can happen. They believe they are the architects. They cannot deal with anything that happens in reality that illustrates there's no utopia and that they can't make it happen. Now, we, on the other hand -- the rational -- we see this killing for what it is.

Limbaugh actually boasts that people on his side look at this crime and "don't seek a deeper understanding of it." He goes on to say:

We, I, don't seek a deeper understanding of a madman like this who has committed the worst kind of crime.... What Mr. Loughner knows is that he has the full support of a major political party in this country. He's sitting there in jail; he knows what's going on. He knows that a Democrat Party, the Democrat Party, is attempting to find anybody but him to blame. He knows if he plays his cards right, he's just a victim. He's the latest in a never-ending parade of victims brought about by the unfairness of America; the bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia of America; the mean-spiritedness of America.

... he understands he's got a political party doing everything it can (plus a local sheriff) doing everything that they can to make sure he's not convicted of murder but something lesser.

... To the American left, for the American left and the Democrats, no individual and no one event is bigger than them and their beliefs. Therefore every opportunity must be taken to advance their agenda, no matter how unrelated events are to their belief system. This sheriff is an embarrassment to committed law enforcement officers all over the country. This guy... Joe Arpaio even said, "I hope this guy is not creating a defense for smart lawyers to use."

And this is why it may be Rush Limbaugh and his pals who send Jared Loughner to the chair -- in concert with lefties denouncing the right.

I imagine that Loughner's lawyer will try to save him from the death penalty. She'll want him to plead insanity -- which in Arizona means that he can't be found not guilty if it's determined that he was the shooter; at best, he'll be found "guilty but insane," and he'll have to go from an institution to a prison if his mental status improves.*

And I assume, further, that Judy Clarke, Loughner's lawyer, isn't going to argue that he was made crazy by political speech, right-wing or otherwise. I say that for two reasons: one is that, outside the political fever swamps, most people either don't think Loughner's madness was political or aren't sure (see this poll). Odds are that his lawyer is with the majority of skeptics. Furthermore, she knows that in the West, in front of politically polarized juries, you certainly don't want to blame one side, expressly or implicitly, for Loughner's madness.

But now Limbaugh is out there essentially making the argument that, if you fight to have this guy declared insane, you're a tool of evil right-wing-bashing Democratic liberals. Believe me: given the reach of Limbaugh and his talk-radio cohorts, and of Fox News, that idea is going to spread into the general consciousness, especially in the West. It's going to make it much, much harder to argue that Loughner's too crazy to have known what he was doing.

Me, I suspect he really was too crazy -- for the most part apolitically -- to have been responsible for what he did. But I'm not sure it'll be possible to argue that now. First this got politicized beyond what the facts could support, and now Limbaugh and his side are (probably) winning a backlash war. And the opportunity to paint an apolitical portrait of Loughner-as-madman may well just fall by the wayside, a victim of this political war.


*UPDATE: I got that a bit garbled -- "guilty but insane" applies within Arizona; the feds still have an insanity defense, thouugh the bar is high. In any case, according to The New York Times, an insanity pleas is unlikely:

The insanity argument is now seldom successful, legal experts said.

What is more likely, they say, is that Mr. Loughner's lawyers will use any mental health problems they find to stave off the death penalty, if he should go to trial and be convicted.

But Limbaugh and his allies will demagogue the sentencing if it doesn't go their way. Judge appointed by a Democrat? Bias. Democrats on the jury? Bias.

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