Dick Morris and  Eileen McGann

After Tucson, Ariz., shootings, Sarah Palin's unfavorable rating in the CNN poll rose from 49 percent before the midterm elections to 56 percent now. It was not the left-wing charges that Sarah Palin had somehow incited the Tucson shooter by her aggressive political rhetoric that did her damage. Polls show that voters discounted these statements and even Rep. Giffords' husband has made clear that there was no political motive involved. It was Palin's response to these attacks that got her in trouble. Her highly publicized accusation that the criticism was a "blood libel" turned voters off. As sincere admirers of hers, we hope she learns a lesson from this exchange.

The lesson is simply this: She should not become a battering ram hammering at liberal critics -- getting down into the mud with them -- answering every attack, no matter how low, personal or undeserved it is. She is a potential presidential candidate for the Republican Party. As such, she needs to keep her own head unbloodied and intact. Battering rams don't find that easy to do.

The left plays Sarah like a fiddle. They pile on with totally outrageous attacks aiming at her personal life, her children and her family, and -- now -- linking her to murder. These disgraceful attacks do not score points with the voters. In fact, they tend to trigger a sympathetic feeling toward Sarah when they are leveled. But, for some reason, Palin feels compelled to answer them, to reply, to tell her side of the story (aka the truth).

The result of the exchange is that both sides lose: Her attackers and Palin herself both suffer. But the attackers aren't running for anything. They just go on to the next attack. They are after ratings and circulation, not votes -- and the more sensational their accusations and the more vulnerable the target, the better. But Palin has an image to protect, and when she is hurt in these exchanges, it matters politically.

Palin's basic point was, as usual, sound. These killings were the act of an evil madman, not anything related to our political dialogue. But this sensible point got buried, and many voters looked at the "blood libel" statement as self-indulgent and thin-skinned. To them, Palin seemed to be the one using the murders to besmirch her enemies, even though she was only answering their charges. Critics charged that she looked more concerned about defending own personal reputation from the attacks than with the national tragedy that had just taken place.


Dick Morris and Eileen McGann

Dick Morris, a former political adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of 2010: Take Back America. To get all of Dick Morris’s and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to www.dickmorris.com