Littwin: On Republican rhetoric and the Planned Parenthood shooting

The question now, in the days after the horror at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, is all about motive. But not necessarily for the usual reasons.

From what we’ve learned from media reports so far, the killer, Robert Dear, was an “alienated” man “adrift” who “lived off the grid” and “preferred to be alone.” The New York Times quotes a neighbor from Dear’s days living in North Carolina as saying, “I think I would have thought he was a guy who would go on a rampage.” The Washington Post quotes another: “He was weird. Everyone kept an eye on him.”

None of this surprises. If the man who killed three and wounded nine while taking a city hostage in a five-hour siege turns out to be yet another disturbed person with the usual unchecked access to guns, it could hardly surprise. There was the open-carry killing of three in Colorado Springs just a month ago.

That is, sadly, America in the 21st century, even as Barack Obama once again says of the shootings, “Enough is enough.”

But because the killings took place at a Planned Parenthood, the fight over guns – which has become a central part of the 2016 presidential debate – is only a starting point. As everyone must know, it has been a political season marked by GOP denunciations of Planned Parenthood. It is nothing new to see arguments on abortion grow heated, but the release of the heavily edited sting videos used to accuse Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue has raised the stakes and, with it, the rhetoric.

If you believe that words matter, then you have these to consider: Various Republican presidential candidates have called the organization “barbaric” (Marco Rubio) and a “criminal enterprise” (Ted Cruz) in which “children” are “grown and killed for their body parts, to be sold for profit.” 

If you actually believed that someone was growing children and killing them for body parts, what would your reaction be?

We may not know Dear’s motive, and there may not be a single motive, but it’s clear that it was in this political season that Dear left his trailer in Hartsel, west of Colorado Springs, and went to the clinic.

And since the killings, you may have noticed near silence from the GOP candidates, who have spent months loudly calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood — and in some cases saying the fight is worth shutting down the government. In the past two days, only a few candidates have referenced the shootings at all and none, as far as I can tell, have mentioned the organization by name. (Neither, for that matter, did Cory Gardner in his statement about the murders.)

Cruz told reporters Saturday that “We don’t know … what those motives were, but whatever they were, it’s unacceptable and it’s horrific and wrong.” Of course, he has also called the Planned Parenthood videos “horrific.”  

For those wondering about motive, however, law enforcement sources have been leaking to various news media that Dear talked of “no more baby parts” when explaining his actions to officials. The “baby parts” would presumably lead back to the videos. One source told The Washington Post that although Dear rambled through the interviews, he was “definitely politically motivated.” 

NBC News, which first reported the “baby parts” line, said the interviews with Dear were described as “rantings” and that they including discussions of Barack Obama and that a precise motive wasn’t clear.

But it may not be that complicated. Earlier, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, the former state attorney general, reasonably said that we should probably be able to infer motive in the Planned Parenthood attack “from where it took place.” Suthers also told a Colorado Springs Gazette reporter that his guess was that the killer was a “misdirected ideologue of some sort.”

If Suthers is right, the questions remain: What kind of ideologue and how was he misdirected?

These are loaded questions, of course. Planned Parenthood has been at the center of the abortion debate for years. States with Republican majorities routinely “defund” the organization. States have also been shutting down abortion clinics with various laws that may or not be constitutional, and the Supreme Court is expected to hear a critical case from Texas in this term.

But the sting videos are about more than laws. They’re all about the heat. An abortion clinic has long been a dangerous place to work. Have “baby parts” made it that much more dangerous for those who work there and for those who receive medical care there?

What we do know is that that Carly Fiorina, in a GOP debate, said, “I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. This is about the character of our nation.”

Or maybe it was about the character of a candidate. A range of fact-checkers noted that what Fiorina described was nowhere to be found even in the edited videos. Her attack did, however, move her up in the GOP standings for a time.

Planned Parenthood repeatedly makes the case that abortion is a small part of what it does. Supplying fetal tissue for scientific research — a law for which many Republicans voted — is a tiny part of what it does. Providing health care for women of limited means is most of what it does.

But there’s another argument. I mentioned this before, but I don’t think it can be said too often. Perhaps the most touching story from the tragedy is of Garrett Swasey, the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs cop who was also an elder in a conservative church that does not approve of abortion. He gave his life in order to protect others, whether or not they agreed with him. That’s a motive everyone should admire.

Photo credit: Elvert Barnes, Creative Commons, Flickr

2 COMMENTS

  1. This man was goaded into an act he most likely doesn’t even comprehend by those who should know a whole lot better. But when James O’Keefe was successful in killing off ACORN even though NOTHING he showed in his videos was accurate, the rest of the right decided that they could do the same thing and end PPFA. That O’Keefe suffered NO real consequences for his LYING brought this about, too.

    As long as right wing LIARS and instigators are not brought to justice, this type of thing is going to continue. More and more people will die because we as a country don’t demand truth and honesty, anymore. More lying will be the result, and more deaths because of that lying.

    The IDIOTS who came up with these EDITED, false videos need to be held just as accountable for these deaths as the idiot who pulled the trigger.

  2. All it took for Mr. Littwin to finally acknowledge the tragedy of heroic and selfless law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty was a pro-life cop fatally shot during an attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic.

    “Perhaps the most touching story from the tragedy is of Garrett Swasey, the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs cop who was also an elder in a conservative church that does not approve of abortion. He gave his life in order to protect others, whether or not they agreed with him. That’s a motive everyone should admire.”

    That very moving, eloquent and heartfelt tribute was buried in the last paragraph as if it were simply an afterthought.

    The paragraphs that preceded were filled with desperate, unsuccessful and almost comical attempts to somehow, someway, anyway link Republican rhetoric to the killings regardless of how tenuous the link.

    The hyper-sensitive Mr. Littwin, who at times appears offended by everything Republicans say, now appears offended because Republicans didn’t say anything:

    “And since the killings, you may have noticed near silence from the GOP candidates,…”

    You can’t make this stuff up!

    While admitting “We may not know Dear’s motive, and there may not be a single motive”, Mr. Littwin proceeds at full speed, hell-bent on developing his own homemade politically-friendly theory about what drove Mr. Dear using this New York Times quote:

    “a neighbor from Dear’s days living in North Carolina as saying, “I think I would have thought he was a guy who would go on a rampage.”

    But Mr. Littwin ignores this New York Times quote from Mr. Dear’s ex-wife:

    “He was generally conservative, but not obsessed with politics. He kept guns around the house for personal protection and hunting, and he taught their son to hunt doves, as many Southern fathers do. He believed that abortion was wrong, but it was not something that he spoke about compulsively. “It was never really a topic of discussion,” Ms. Ross said. He did not have many close friends.”

    It is absolutely amazing how much of this column is devoted to Mr. Littwin’s amateurish efforts at determining a motive. Those efforts are in sharp contrast to previous columns where he appeared almost disinterested in motivation.

    For example, the shootings earlier this year at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon where the motivation seemed obvious.

    This from the New York Times:
    “Are you a Christian?’ (the gunman) would ask them,” Stacy Boylan, father of Anastasia Boylan, 18, told CNN. “‘And if you’re a Christian, stand up.’ And they would stand up and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second.’ And then he shot and killed them, and then he kept going down the line doing this to people.”

    Incredibly, Mr. Littwin completely ignored this religious-based motivation in his Roseburg column. Would he have failed to mention it had the gunman asked if they were Muslim? Would he have failed to mention it had the gunman asked if they were Jewish?

    The answers are no and hell no, respectively.

    Today, no possible motive–real or imagined–is left unexamined. He even goes so far as mentioning so-called “sting” videos without any evidence that they played any role in this tragedy. But he doesn’t stop there:

    “For those wondering about motive, however, law enforcement sources have been leaking to various news media that Dear talked of “no more baby parts” when explaining his actions to officials. The “baby parts” would presumably lead back to the videos. One source told The Washington Post that although Dear rambled through the interviews, he was “definitely politically motivated.””

    Will “no more baby parts” turn out to be another “Hands up, don’t shoot”?

    Does Mr. Littwin care if it does?

    Could Mr. Littwin’s sudden, unexplained, obsessive, compulsive desire to determine a motive be politically driven?

    Of course!

    And what if he can’t find a a link between Republican rhetoric and the shootings?

    Well, the Colorado Independent has given him license to get creative.

    Two columns in two days—and on a weekend no less–devoted to this one incident and neither contained even a single suggestion from Mr. Littwin about gun laws he would like to see enacted and whether they would have prevented the Colorado Springs tragedy.

    Perhaps because he doesn’t have one.

    That would be a good guess.

    =========================================================================

    Courage enlarges, cowardice diminishes resources. In desperate straits the fears of the timid aggravate the dangers that imperil the brave. – Christian Nestell Bovee

    “President Francois Hollande deemed the shootings and bombings “an act of war.” He said early Saturday, “We will lead the fight, and we will be ruthless.”
    ‘France is at war,’ Hollande says” – CNN

    “On Sept. 6, 2012, Obama boasted at the Democratic National Convention that “al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat.” Five days later, al-Qaeda-linked terrorists attacked two U.S. diplomatic compounds in Benghazi, Libya, killing the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

    “On Jan. 7, 2014, Obama dismissed the Islamic State as the “JV” team in an interview with the New Yorker, adding that the rise of the Islamic State was not “a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.” That same month, the Islamic State began its march on Iraq, declaring a caliphate, burning people alive in cages and beheading Americans.

    Then on Thursday, Obama did it again, telling ABC News, “I don’t think [the Islamic State is] gaining strength” and promising “we have contained them.” The very next day, the Islamic State launched the worst attack on Paris since World War II, killing at least 132 people and wounding more than 350 others.

    How many times is this sad spectacle going to repeat itself?” – Marc A. Thiessen Washington Post

    “Democrats who debated in Iowa last night were very, very concerned about the Paris terror attacks and the growing evidence that ISIS—or Da’esh, as it is called in the region—has metastasized into a true global threat. Very concerned. Bernie Sanders even thought that this barbaric challenge to civilization should be “eliminated”…although it was not as great a threat as global warming, he allowed, which—hold on, here—causes terrorism. You know, droughts and floods set people in motion and…well, never mind.

    Indeed, political correctness makes it impossible for Democrats to face, head on, by name, the essential problem: the rise of Islamic radicalism—or jihadi-ism, as Hillary Clinton tried to call it (and almost succeeded). This is not just a word game.” – Joe Klein Time

    “The irony of those (Democrats) unwilling to call the threat of radical Islam by its name is that in endeavoring to be intelligent and understanding, in trying to avoid painting with “too broad a brush,” they are in reality betraying their ignorance or inability to grapple with the true nature of today’s foe

    Our leaders do us no service when they fail to recognize that the threat the so-called Islamic State and its allied terrorists represent is a civilizational not a geopolitical conflict, and can only be understood through that lens. The radicals who perpetrated the Charlie Hebdo attack were not motivated by Western Imperialism, but by members of a free society violating Islamic law.” – Daily Beast

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Greenlight a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Memorial Day – May 30, 2016

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