There’s an old Bill Cosby routine, called “Shop”, on the album Why Is There Air? that is quite apposite to the events of the past two days. In it, Cosby describes how his junior-high-school shop teacher tricked the guilty party into tacitly confessing to having put a bullet in the shop class furnace — and without directly accusing the kid or even so much as saying his name. With the right-wing attacks on Pima County, Arizona Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, we’re seeing something rather similar play out.
Just as Cosby’s shop teacher didn’t directly accuse any of his students of being the one who put the bullet in the furnace, Sheriff Dupnik, without naming persons or ideologies directly, blamed the political climate in Arizona for making possible the shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several others. And, just as the kid who put the bullet in the furnace inadvertently revealed himself — “I didn’t put the bullet in the furnace, and stop talking about my mother!” — the attacks by conservatives on Sheriff Dupnik, who never once said the words “conservative”, “Republican”, “Tea Party”, or “right-wing” when discussing the creation and creators of the climate of bigotry and prejudice, stand as a tacit admission that they know full well they are responsible for having created it.
First off, we have the nuttier of Arizona’s two nutty far-right senators, Jon Kyl, who said this on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday morning:
First, I didn’t really think that that had any part in a law enforcement briefing last night. It was speculation. I don’t think we should rush to speculate. I thought that the report that we just saw from Tucson seems to have it about right: We really don’t know what motivated this young person except to know he was very mentally unstable as was pointed out in the piece.
It’s probably giving him too much credit to ascribe a coherent political philosophy to him. We just have to acknowledge that there are mentally unstable people in this country. Who knows what motivates them to do what they do? Then they commit terrible crimes like this. I would just note Gabrielle Giffords, a fine representative from Tucson, I think would be the first to say don’t rush to judgment here.
Um, except the sheriff didn’t do any of what you claim he did, Senator. Unless you’re going on the record as approving of Arizona’s becoming the capital and mecca for prejudice and bigotry? . . .
Other right-wingers are lining up behind the senator to lob rocks at the sheriff, thereby making their own tacit confessions of guilt. There’s conservative radio talk show host Jon Justice, who’s calling for Sheriff Dupnik to resign. The Koch-funded group Tea Party Nation, led by Judson Phillips, has stepped forward to attack the sheriff. And FOX News, of course, sent forth Megyn Kelly, one of the blonde on-air personalities the right wing think tanks and media outlets have been so assiduously hatching since the days of Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, to see if she could cloud the sheriff’s mind with her cuteness and get him to confess to conservative-bashing. (She failed.)
Meanwhile, in addition to all the tacit admissions of guilt on various conservatives’ parts, we have a direct admission of guilt by an actual Republican — and a United States Senator, no less! — that the Republicans and conservatives are a) responsible for the poisoned political atmosphere and b) need to knock it the heck off (emphases mine):
A senior Republican senator, speaking anonymously in order to freely discuss the tragedy, told POLITICO that the Giffords shooting should be taken as a “cautionary tale” by Republicans.
“There is a need for some reflection here – what is too far now?” said the senator. “What was too far when Oklahoma City happened is accepted now. There’s been a desensitizing. These town halls and cable TV and talk radio, everybody’s trying to outdo each other.”
“What was too far when Oklahoma City happened is accepted now. There’s been a desensitizing.” Indeed there has, and part of the reason is in fact FOX News, which exists to serve as the Republicans’ chief and favorite televised propaganda vector. But I want you all to notice something else: The senator who said these words didn’t dare do so on the record.
Think about that for a moment.
Can you imagine Ben Nelson or Mary Landrieu being afraid to criticize the Democratic leadership or the Democratic base? Of course not — it’s why the GOP/Media Complex loves them so much. A Democratic elected official who bashes Democrats will always get a warm welcome on any major TV or radio network, and most newspapers as well, and will suffer not a feather’s weight worth of retribution from the party leadership.
But no modern Republican nowadays dares openly criticize either the GOP leadership or its teabagger, Bircher, Neo-Confederate base. They know full well that retribution, official or otherwise, would be swift and painful.
And that is that.