Ed Driscoll

For Dana Milbank, a McKinley moment?

Past performance is no guarantee of future results:

On Tuesday’s PoliticsNation on MSNBC, during a discussion of Republican congressional members who have spoken of the possibility of impeaching President Obama, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank labeled such talk “tribal politics” and compared it to a “revenge killing” against the President because he won the election.

After host Al Sharpton played clips of several Republican members of Congress from a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Milbank dismissed the likelihood of impeachment and then added:

But I think what this represents is not a serious effort to remove the President. But it’s a certain frustration, and they said as much in that hearing having lost these elections: What do you do to counter this President? I think that’s in a way what politics has become now.

It’s not just about defeating your opponent, it’s about taking him out. And I think that’s sort of this revenge killing almost that’s become part of our tribal politics right now. And I think that’s what we’re feeling.

“WashPost’s Milbank Compares Talk of Impeaching Obama to ‘Revenge Killing,'” as spotted by Brad Wilmouth of Newsbusters, today.

Palin’s now-famous offense was her tweet last March telling conservatives: “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!” The tweet referred people to her Facebook “target” map showing the districts of Gabrielle Giffords and other House Democrats in a rifle’s cross hairs.

Palin has been uncharacteristically quiet since Saturday’s slayings. She posted a brief Facebook message offering condolences, and an aide even tried to claim that the crosshairs, which Palin had called a “bull’s-eye,” were really “surveyors’ symbols.”

The real defense of Palin was left to Beck. On his radio show Monday, he read aloud an e-mail she had sent him: “I hate violence,” it said. “Our children will not have peace if politicos just capitalize on this.”

Beck furiously defended Palin, and himself, during his three-hour broadcast. “We are not going to play defense at all!” he vowed, rallying his followers: “Offense!” Beck denounced media “fatheads” and said Sheriff Dupnik has “no facts.” The real source of violent rhetoric comes from the left, he said – particularly liberal academic Frances Piven, who called for an uprising against the government. In 1966.

Liberals have indeed stirred violence over the years – as recently as two years ago, I argued that the left’s rhetoric was more vitriolic – but at the moment the “Second Amendment remedies” are coming mostly from the right, and from none more than Beck.

On Monday, Beck denounced violence and said that he and Palin aren’t to blame for what a “madman” does. “Intent matters,” Beck said, and he isn’t “looking to incite violence.” But it’s not that Beck and Palin are advocating violence. The danger is that unbalanced characters, attracted by the violent talk, take literally the metaphoric call to arms.

“For Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, a McKinley moment?”, Dana Milbank, the Washington Post, January 11, 2011.

In January of 2011, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and guest Michael Hirsh of the National Journal argued that violent metaphors should be stricken from the common culture and banned much like racial epithets (err, other than their use by Quentin Tarantino and every rap “artist,” I suppose):

National Journal’s Michael Hirsh wants to raise the bar on decorum to an entirely new level. On Thursday’s MSNBC airing of “Hardball,” Hirsh told host Chris Matthews certain “gun” terms should be stricken from political discourse and referred to instances where Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Republican Nevada senatorial candidate Sharon Angle used such off-limits language.

“Well we don’t want any more duels and thankfully that was the last one,” Hirsh said. “[B]ut the point I was trying to make is you can draw a line particularly in the use of certain kinds of metaphors. The use of gun metaphors – killing, murdering, taking out, which was another metaphor for a – Michele Bachmann used in one of her statements, Sharon Angle – the Nevada Senate candidate’s now infamous comment about quote, unquote, ‘second amendment remedies’ to deal with the problem Harry Reid, her opponent.”

His proposal? Make such language inappropriate in the same racial slurs are inappropriate.

That’s the kind of language I think we got to have a hard think about now,” Hirsh said. “Do we really want to continue to use that kind of language at these levels? Or, should there be kind of a social sanction, not a legal one, but a moral sanction in the way that we’ve stopped using certain epithets like the ‘n’-word public forums. Stop using that kind of language, those kinds of metaphors.”

While Matthews agreed with Hirsh’s sentiment, he’s been remarkably ineffective in enforcing his suggestion at MSNBC. Either that, or it was all just situational ethics and battlefield prep in the first place.

Nahh, couldn’t be.