Winning arguments vs. making sense, ducking for cover vs. taking the lead on an issue

David Frum addresses the faults to be found in Sarah Palin's response to the Tucson Massacre and to those who claim she bears responsibility for the event:

Obviously, Palin [with her infamous gun-sights graphic] never intended to summon people to harm Representative Giffords. There was no evidence that the shooter was a Palin follower, and in short order it became evident that he was actuated by a serious mental illness. Whatever you think about Palin's "don't retreat, reload" rhetoric, it could not be blamed for this crime.

So — argument won? No. Argument lost.

Palin failed to appreciate the question being posed to her. That question was not: "Are you culpable for the shooting?" The question was: "Having put this unfortunate image on the record, can you respond to the shooting in a way that demonstrates your larger humanity? And possibly also your potential to serve as leader of the entire nation?"

I wholly agree with Frum on this point save for his use of the Loughner was insane trope. My position on the "insane gunman argument" can be found here. Moreover, the internet is now full of similar arguments (of those that I have read, two of the better ones can be found here and here), with Frum offering one of them. I have drawn attention to Frum's argument only because Frum is a conservative, and his writing might influence the rightwing in this country to address their violent reactionaries problem. Frum concludes his article with his assessment of Palin the person and Palin the national politician:

Of course, Palin has yet to give the answer called for by events. Instead, her rapid response operation has focused on pounding home the message that Palin is innocent, that she has been unfairly maligned by hostile critics. Which in this case happened to be a perfectly credible message. And also perfectly inadequate. It was about Palin, not about Giffords. It was defensive, not inspiring. And it was petty at a moment when Palin had been handed perhaps her last clear chance to show herself presidentially magnanimous.

This essay was cross-posted at FireDogLake and OpenSalon

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