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After Arizona, advice for Sarah Palin

Posted by Rob Anderson  January 10, 2011 01:45 PM

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palin2.jpgThe last few days have surely been uncomfortable for Sarah Palin. As much of the nation now knows, her PAC put a bullseye on Gabrielle Giffords' district, and Giffords herself had expressed concern about using such violent imagery. There is no reason to believe that Jared Lee Loughner, the shooting suspect, knew of Palin's map, but it's not implausible that he was influenced by the overall culture of incendiary images and rhetoric, of which Palin's map was another log on the fire.

And yet this disturbing turn of events gives Palin the chance for a truly presidential moment. If she were so inclined, she could offer a speech or a statement like this: "The events in Arizona shocked and disturbed me, as they did for most Americans. This kind of attack truly hits home for those of us who are or have been in public life, and regularly spend time in the community with our constituents. It was a sad moment for America. Such crimes are unfathomable to the vast majority of Americans, and we can never know what goes on in the mind of a killer. But I also think this attack drives home the need for all of us in public life to engage in civil dialogue. For my small part, I've asked my PAC to remove any language that could be construed as violent, no matter how colloquial its use. I don't think language can cause an attack, but I do believe we should each do our part to maintain a constructive dialogue in this country."

Inevitably, Palin would face questions — and, yes, even more furious criticism from liberal blogs — about her past rhetoric. But everyone already knows that, and she could respond by reinforcing her point that no particular piece of rhetoric influenced this killer. Most Americans would agree with her in that. Most importantly, by making a conciliatory statement, and then backing it up with a pledge to remove violent imagery from politics, Palin would be taking the high road in a way that would win her respect even from some of her detractors. It would, in a small way, make her seem more credible as a presidential candidate, because presidents have to be sources of calm and wisdom in the midst of national disturbances.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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