The “Blood Libel”

Here’s what she said.

“Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions.  And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. 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 they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”

This was in reference to the accusation widely expressed that Palin “had blood on her hands” for inciting Jared Loughner into shooting Congresswoman Giffords in the head, by putting her district in a gun sights graphic in a political poster. Poseidonian agrees that the accusation was excessive and unhelpful. However, negative media attention is a challenge all politicians must face, and when they are skillful, turn to their advantage. Expression of regret that the graphic had been misunderstood, and a call to a less vitrolic politics were imperative in any statement she might make.

The phrase “blood libel” refers to the anti-Semitic claim that Jews kill Christian children and consume their blood. Obviously neither Sarah Palin, nor Glenn Reynolds, from whom her speechwriter cribbed the phrase, know that. They couldn’t possibly, because interpretive charity demands that we not think that they did. Otherwise, the only inference here is that Palin equates the accusations of incitement with anti-Semitic accusations of ritual child slaughter and hematophagy.

Had Palin made this comment off the cuff, to a live audience, this would’ve been an understandable error. But she took and thus had days to prepare these remarks. She had days to have the draft of what she should’ve known was a make or break political speech of a lifetime gone over with a fine-tooth comb. No competent professional political advisor would’ve let these remarks pass, because they force the inference that she is either too ignorant or too self-serving and thin-skinned to lead. All I’m saying is that she has no idea what competent advice looks like, or why she needs it. And that all by itself utterly disqualifies her from any serious consideration for the presidency. I came to this conclusion instantly upon seeing the phrase “blood libel” in print this morning. Thinking “it’s all about me” is bad enough. Thinking that her additional contribution to the outrage people on the right are feeling was needed, and that she could not afford to ascend above the fray, is bad enough. But her bad judgment in her choice of words this morning has raised questions about both her leadership and managerial ability. Ignorance of the history of anti-Semitism is unfortunate, but not a fatal flaw. Ignorance of how to be a politician in a presidential aspirant is.

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2 comments on “The “Blood Libel”

  1. Pliny the Elder says:

    I guess I just never saw her as a serious contender. She was in the position of Dan Quayle, mistreated by the media and the intelligentsia. However, like Dan Quayle, she has done nothing to contradict their (mis)characterizations. Quayle needed to run for Indiana governor and govern well. Palin needed to continue to govern successfully. One reason both Reagan and Clinton had success is their extensive experince as governors. Neither was great, but each governed well enough that the “incompetent” label had trouble sticking, much as that “teflon” enraged their opponents. Palin effectively yielded the field the day she resigned as governor.

    The Republicans need to nominate a grown-up, which probbaly limits the field to successful governors or maybe a miltary person. Someone like Ambassador Huntsman might be able to grab both motifs: he was a successful governor and now has two years experience as US Amb. to our most serious geo-political competitor.

    Palin offers virtually none of this. And no speech can really change that.

  2. RV says:

    I thought she was done with a couple days ago, but this makes it official: Palin’s future as presidential aspirant is over. Some of my liberal friends are skeptical, sort of like a bad horror movie where the monster keeps coming back to life, but I think people will come to realize in the coming days that her run is over. Not to say that she can’t do any more damage, but this greatly diminished her chances of even running, and eliminates her from winning, period.

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