When a radio host asked me what I thought of the massacre in Aurora, Colo., I had to ask for clarification. I said: "What do you mean? Who could deny it's an unspeakable tragedy?"
What he was really asking me was to address it in a political context. The problem is that I don't believe there was any political context to the shooting; not everything is political.
But unfortunately, elements of the left seemed determined to graft political implications onto the event, irrespective of the absence of any factual basis for doing so. They seized on it both to demonize grass-roots conservatives and to pump new life into their perennial campaign against the Second Amendment.
This is part of a leftist pattern to rush to the judgment that every such event is politically motivated -- by disgruntled right-wingers. The Daily Caller made a similar observation, citing such examples as The New York Times' speculating that the pilot who crashed his small plane into a Texas office building was "The First Tea-Party Terrorist" and Time magazine's wondering aloud whether tea partyers were behind the hanging death of a census worker in Kentucky.
But let's not forget the more high-profile examples: when President Bill Clinton pointed an unmistakably accusatory finger at conservative talk radio after the Oklahoma City bombing and when Democrats galore lurched to blame Sarah Palin and tea partyers for the Tucson, Ariz., shootings.
So it was hardly surprising that ABC News' Brian Ross noted on "Good Morning America" that a person with the name of the alleged shooter, James Holmes, was a registered member of the Colorado Tea Party Patriots or that David Gregory, host of NBC's "Meet the Press," in discussing the Aurora shootings, casually invoked President Clinton's words about the Oklahoma bombing.
While pretending to refrain from ascribing political motivations to the Aurora shooting, Gregory said, "But President Clinton's words back in 1995 could be true today, couldn't they, about how some of the public discourse can fall on more vulnerable ears?"
No, David, they weren't true when Clinton said them in 1995; they weren't true when Democrats attempted to exploit the Tucson shootings for political gain; and they are manifestly untrue with respect to the Aurora shootings, so shame on you for hinting otherwise.
Some have correctly observed that the left is engaging in psychological projection in seeing conservative politics behind every act of violence. That's true, but I believe there's more to it than that.
While there is a pattern in the left's repeated imputation of political motives to and shameless political exploitation of many large-scale violent acts in this country, there is a larger pattern at work, as well. That is, the left doesn't merely attribute violent acts to conservatives; increasingly, it frames their stance on most policies as their being morally depraved, which is why such statements as "Republicans want a smaller America" flow so freely off the tongue of President Obama.
According to this view, which is shockingly more pervasive on the left than the uninitiated might suspect, conservatives want to protect the unborn because they disrespect women and women's rights; they oppose same-sex marriage out of bigotry; they support welfare reform not to help people in the long run but because they lack compassion; they oppose higher tax rates for all income brackets because they believe in carving out special privileges for the wealthy; they advocate reducing the federal government's role in education because they don't care about the poor or minorities; they support stricter immigration law enforcement because they are bigots and nativists; they pass voter ID laws because they are racists who want to suppress the minority vote; they oppose socialized medicine because they don't care about those with pre-existing conditions or those without health insurance; they favor enhanced interrogation techniques against terrorists not to save innocent lives but because they are bereft, to some disturbing degree, of humanity; they obsess against the United Nations because they are selfishly nationalistic and close-minded; they oppose limitless extensions of unemployment benefits not because such extensions have been found to exacerbate unemployment but because they don't care about people; they favor the death penalty, gun ownership rights and a strong national defense because they are violent, jingoistic, imperialistic warmongering cowboys; and they love corporations and even want dirty air and dirty water -- another actual Obama quote -- because profit is their god and people come in a distant second.
Do you see the irony? The left's entire premise about Oklahoma City, Tucson and Aurora is that the right's rhetoric is hateful and leads to division and even violence because it gets people thinking such terrible thoughts about others. Yet on so many policy disputes, the left demonizes conservatives in precisely those terms.