Victor Davis Hanson

After the recent Tucson, Ariz., shootings, Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik, a Democrat, almost immediately and without evidence claimed that conservative anti-government speech had set off alleged killer Jared Lee Loughner.

Yet the more the unfolding details informed us that the "Communist Manifesto"/"Mein Kampf"-reading Loughner was mentally unstable, apolitical and without discernible interests in contemporary issues, the more the flamboyant Dupnik went on television to expand his cast of culpable characters. He finally ended up blaming everyone from Tea Party opponents of President Obama to talk-show host Rush Limbaugh -- and became an instant celebrity and hero to left-wing partisans.

Just as disturbing as the incoherence of Dupnik's demagoguery was his apparent professional incompetence. As the sheriff's nationally televised blame narrative imploded, it was also disclosed that Loughner had a long record of aberrant behavior and substance abuse in Pima County -- known to local law enforcement, including Dupnik's own department.

More disturbing still, if Dupnik were right that a pre-existing conservative climate of hate-engendered politics was not only pervasive in Tucson, but also might prompt an unstable person to kill, why had he not dispatched at least one of his 500 officers to patrol the open-air public event sponsored by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords?

Dupnik is a good example of an increasingly common bad habit of local politicians to resort to cosmic sermonizing when more mundane challenges go unaddressed. In Dupnik's case, it is hard to monitor all the nuts like Loughner in the sheriff's department files to ensure they don't get guns and bullets and pop up at political events, but apparently far easier to deflect subsequent responsibility by sounding off on political issues.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a past master of lecturing about the cosmic while sometimes ignoring the more concrete. Governing the boroughs of an often-chaotic New York City is nearly impossible. Pontificating on the evils of smoking, fatty foods and supposed anti-Muslim bigotry was not only far easier but had established the mayor as a national figure of sensitivity and caring, praised for his progressive declarations by supporters of everything from global warming to abortion.

But Bloomberg's carefully constructed philosopher's image was finally shattered by the December 2010 blizzard and his own asleep-at-the-wheel reaction. An incompetent municipal response to record snowfalls barricaded millions in their borough houses and apartments, amid lurid rumors of deliberate union-sponsored slowdowns by Bloomberg's city crews.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.