Sunday, January 16, 2011

The elusive local angle on Arizona

By now, every publication and their great-grandmothers have spoken on the horrible tragedy in Arizona, where a lone gunman without a coherent motivation mowed down 13 people during an informal congressional meet-and-greet outside a Safeway in Tucson, killing 6 including a 9-year-old newly elected student council member.

To give the story a local marinade our trusted newspaper posted a piece that includes a statement from the Staten Island Tea Party, and gently dissects their reaction to the tragedy. The question we have is: why?

The local chapter of the Tea Party has nothing to do with Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, or this Salvia-addled lunatic in Tucson. It seems the local Tea Partiers don't even have much in common with the Tucson Tea Party, which is much more concerned with issues such as illegal immigration.

For instance: after the shooting, the Tucson Tea Party has obsessed over any perceived incremental attempt to limit their access to high capacity clips, weapons, bullets, ammo, guns, guns, guns.... Second Amendment "remedies" so to speak. We do not believe this is a specific priority of the local Tea Party, but then again, maybe some one should have asked them.

Instead of focusing on an actual issue - ANY issue - the news cycle quickly devolved into partisan talking points about who is to blame and if all the "heated rhetoric" was responsible for the atrocity. Again, not helping anybody. If we want that argument, we can get it on cable news, talk radio, blogs, NY Post...

By the way, the Democratic "spokesman" also made haphazard connections and allegations in this piece. Just balls of obfuscation.

How could a local news outlet have handled this more effectively? Well, how about asking local political activists whether they align themselves with the so-called "heated rhetoric." And not just mamma grizzly Sarah Palin - whose coded ramblings are not fueling anything except a reality TV career - but people like Sharron Angle, who made the inflammatory statement about "Second Amendment remedies."Or what about newly-elected Congressman Allen West, a man whose chief of staff defiantly declared "if ballots don't work, bullets will?"(This individual has since been "replaced.")

You see, by going to the Tea Party for a reaction on the tragedy there's a mild guilt-by-association brush being applied to the situation. And it's not fair. Do they agree with this rhetoric? Are they members of the National Rifle Association? Are they forming a militia? Assassination squads? Will they resort to "Second Amendment remedies"? If not, then why play connect-the-dots with Arizona?

Then there is Staten Island Congressman Mike Grimm. In the House a whole 6 days, Grimm leaned on his FBI resume (again) to suggest that all members of Congress should be prepared to carry weapons and transform contentious town hall events into showdowns at the O.K. Corral.

Maybe Mr. Grimm should take a look at his more senior colleagues, like Long Island's Peter King - who has reached across that tumultuous aisle to suggest some sensible, though not necessarily enforceable, gun restrictions. Or, maybe Mike Grimm should just take a back seat, keep his mouth shut for the remainder of his first term, and let the adults do the work.

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