Joan Walsh on the Effect of Right and Left Wing Rhetoric

Joan Walsh recently mocked Peggy Noonan for suggesting Barack Obama bears any responsibility for the IRS scandal, but she had a somewhat different view of the way rhetoric influences action after the Tucson shooting in 2011.

Back in January 2011, Walsh jumped on the Tucson shooting tragedy with both feet, immediately making a connection to the “rhetoric of violence.” Here’s the argument she made:

We won’t know for a while exactly why the gunman identified as Jared Lee
Loughner, 22, shot 18 people, including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle
Giffords, and we may never know why…But…is it really controversial to suggest that the overheated
anti-government rhetoric of the last two years, with its often violent
imagery, ought to be toned down? Really?

Lest you have any doubt whose rhetoric Joan has in mind:

Sadly, to my knowledge, no conservative leader has yet called for
dialing back the rage on the right in the wake of the Giffords shooting.

Walsh repeats this pattern several more times. Her denials string together but there’s always a but at the end:

Although there’s no evidence Tea Party rhetoric had anything to do with Giffords’ shooting, it can be no surprise that…There’s no evidence tying Loughner to any of the right-wing rhetoric used against Giffords, but…We have no idea why Loughner allegedly tried to kill Giffords Saturday. But…

In every case what follows the “but” is a reference to the right’s rhetoric. Now jump forward to last Monday. Walsh devotes an entire column to mocking the idea that President Obama’s rhetoric could have had anything to do with the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups:

Here’s the best evidence the GOP knows the IRS scandal doesn’t reach
into the White House: Now they’re saying they don’t need to find
evidence that President Obama directed or even knew about the
investigation of Tea Party groups’ non-profit status; his actively
campaigning for reelection represented a “dog whistle” to tell the
agency to target his political enemies.

The idea that Barack Obama’s campaign might have made the Tea Party a target is, apparently, risible to Walsh. Why there’s simply no evidence such a thing happened. Yet the idea that Sarah Palin’s campaign map (note: part of a political campaign) created a dangerous climate seemed perfectly reasonable to ponder in 2011.

In Walsh’s mind, right-wing rhetoric is a clear and present danger but left wing rhetoric results in no real world outcomes. Palin saying “Don’t retreat, reload” is cause for national concern and censure, Obama saying “punish your enemies” or singling out groups that oppose him or referring to the Tea Party as “tea-baggers” influences nothing and no one.

With Walsh you get the sense that all that really matters to her is whose ox is being gored. After lecturing about the need to tone down right-wing rhetoric, here’s the kind of rhetoric Joan Walsh feels is acceptable in public discourse (this is from June 2011, 6 months after he column about Tucson):

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