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Posted at 8:59 AM ET, 01/12/2011

Remedies that go too far

By Ezra Klein

Marc Ambinder spoke to a bevy of former Secret Service agents and current physical-protection specialists who said that "members [of Congress] can take commonsense steps to reduce the likelihood of an incident, steps that only mildly compromise their access to the public, if at all." But fairly few of the steps mentioned in the article actually seem like good ideas.

One idea is to "request the presence of a police officer from the local jurisdiction" when holding community meetings. That would be from the perspective of constituent access, but is it a good use of resources? Attacks on meetings held by members of Congress happen almost never, while many communities have too much crime and too few police. As Ambinder says, it's not reasonable to ask "the California Highway Patrol to provide officers for every congressional event held by all 54 members of the state’s congressional delegation during a recess." So there is a cost here, but the benefit is unclear.

Another proposal is to have aides "assume some responsibility" over event security to their list of duties. "If the member is sitting at a table, make sure the table is positioned near some sort of concrete pillar that could provide cover. Make sure that the member can quickly move to a vehicle if something happens. A bit of training can help staffers detect unusual behavior in a crowd." And so on.

But will congressional aides make for good bodyguards, even if they get "a bit of training?" I doubt it. Because field organizers actually don't know how to find the one nut who will pull a gun every few decades, they'll start throwing out lots of people who seem a little off. Better than safe than shot at. But if you've ever been to a community meeting, "seems a little off" pretty much describes the whole room. And people who "seem a little off" should have access to their member of Congress, too.

Other ideas in the article include rope lines, a distance of at least seven feet between politician and public ("Safety is nearly assured when the setup keeps the nearest members of the public more than 25 feet away from the protectee”) and proactive threat assessment. In Congress, Rep. Peter King wants to make it a felony to bring a gun within 1,000 feet of a government official, which seems fine until you realize that it's already a felony to shoot at a member of Congress, and so the individuals in question have probably made their peace with a bit of lawbreaking. I could imagine various gun control ideas that might make sense here, but that's not one of them.

And all this would solve ... what? In the past three decades, there haven't been five members of Congress shot by constituents. There haven't been two. There's been one. And it's not at all clear that most of these proposal would've even prevented that shooting.

I don't want to downplay the horror of what happened in Arizona. But attaching a police officer to every congressional event or trying to train aides who're supposed to be listening to constituents to instead try and assess the threat level they pose is not the right way to grieve. We've suffered a tragedy, but there's no evidence, at least as of yet, that legislators are in much everyday danger. That's in stark contrast with, say, people who live in Detroit, who perhaps could use more security.

By Ezra Klein  | January 12, 2011; 8:59 AM ET
 
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Comments

off~topic perhaps...
but watching the recent message offered up by sarah palin, just hours before this memorial, will now be her final legacy in american political life.
i dont believe she will be a presence any longer.
it was the most hardhearted, unrepentant appearance i could have imagined, from the woman who put a young, goodhearted, vibrant, beautiful, fine, intelligent, constructive and admired woman, fighting for her life, in crosshairs.
her message showed her today, as the deeply twisted person that she is.
she walks in infamy, and she walks in exile, with her conscience, for the rest of the way.

it is only a matter of time, before the gods come to meet us from the opposite direction.

Posted by: jkaren | January 12, 2011 10:08 AM | Report abuse

jkaren:
"it was the most hardhearted, unrepentant appearance..."

Do tell, exactly what should Palin be 'repenting' for regarding this tragedy in Tuscon?

To date, exactly zero evidence has been produced to prove the shooter ever supported Palin, the Tea Party, or Republicans in general. The facts (not that I supposed 'facts' mean anything to you) show his obsession with Giffords pre-dates both Palin's arrival on the national stage, and the formation of the Tea Parties.

As each day passes, it becomes more and more evident that there is absolutely zero evidence to support the effort by left-wingers like yourself to use this horrific tragedy to score political points and smear your political opponents.

And for that, jkaren, you can be rightfully labeled despicable. And you and others who seek to use the death of these victims as a political weapon are the ones who should be offering repentence and seeking forgiveness for your idiotic statements.

Posted by: dbw1 | January 12, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

--*[Palin] put a young, goodhearted, vibrant, beautiful, fine, intelligent, constructive and admired woman, fighting for her life, in crosshairs.*--

Implying that Palin's campaign map had anything to do with motivating the insane shooter is reckless, hateful, untrue, and inciting.

And for what purpose could you be ginning up such hate for a political figure?

Posted by: msoja | January 12, 2011 10:20 AM | Report abuse

msoja:
"Implying that Palin's campaign map had anything to do with motivating the insane shooter is reckless, hateful, untrue, and inciting."

If anyone went back through these boards, I've said for the past year or so that if you ever want to see true 'hate speech', ask a left-winger to talk about Palin.

Their seething hatred for this everyday woman is palpable. I'm not even a Palin supporter, in the sense I would vote for her for President. But just reading what left-wingers are willing to say about a woman who's done nothing more than rally soccer moms away from being loyal to the Democrats is stunning at times.

Posted by: dbw1 | January 12, 2011 10:29 AM | Report abuse

"Rep. Peter King wants to make it a felony to bring a gun within 1,000 feet of a government official, which seems fine until you realize that it's already a felony to shoot at a member of Congress, and so the individuals in question have probably made their peace with a bit of lawbreaking."

I would certainly agree with your assessment Ezra, and this raises an important question - why on Earth should Rep. Peter King be making decisions on our behalf? Or the guy who thought adding a few more people to Guam would cause the island to capsize? Or even a very bright guy who might get the above correct, but on the other hand might not understand my particular situation or share my values?

Posted by: justin84 | January 12, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

"Do tell, exactly what should Palin be 'repenting' for regarding this tragedy in Tuscon?"


msoja...dbw1....you shouldnt need anyone to answer this for you.
~~for being a person who HAD great power, making twisted, completely irresponsible and dangerous statements.
~~for having been ruthless and dangerous enough, to put an innocent person in crosshairs.
to allude to all manner of violence.
~~for saying cruel and ruthless, mocking things on a daily basis.
~~for being a person who is supposedly G-dfearing, and who has shown no humility whatsoever, in public life, and in her statements directed at others.
~~and because the brash, arrogant, rude and mocking things she said on a daily basis has lowered the bar for dialogue in this country, day by day.
~~because people with great power, need to use it wisely, and she did not....on an almost daily basis.

and we will never know, never know, what completely drove this man to do the things that he did.
no matter how many psychiatrists spend time with him, there will be no way to ever know if those statements of hers, which were everywhere, everyday, did not have an effect on him.
no matter how many will say anything to the contrary, it is impossible to know.
we never know what is in the heart of another human being...or what causes a person to act in such a way.
there can be a hundred speculations. we never really know.

she deserved to offer up an apology for the brokenness and ruthlessness and violent analogies that she brought into all of our lives. she damaged our country with her level of debate.

she owed the nation an apology, for putting any of our political aspirants or leaders, in crosshairs.
regardless of anything,
she owed an apology, even in the eyes of the angels.
and she continued on her path, defending herself, instead of asking forgiveness for what she has done to our dialogue.
how she could deliver that statement today, and accept no responsibility for what she has contributed to the pain of others, will seal her political fate.

and msoja and dbw1, if you were being honest with yourselves, you would agree...i sincerely believe that.
people need to be accountable and take responsibility for their wrongdoings, their sins, and their hurts against others.

that is what she needed to repent for.
and this episode, will revisit her forever.

Posted by: jkaren | January 12, 2011 10:44 AM | Report abuse

i volunteer in a truly remarkable, faith-based shelter, which creates miracles in the lives of those who have caused enormous pain to themselves and to others.
but the premise by which this shelter transforms lives, is by having people lay their wrongdoings out with a humble and contrite heart, before G-d, and before others.
when they are able to admit that they have acted hurtfully, irresponsibly...said or done things that could have brought hurt or harm to others, they must apologize.
they must accept responsibility.
it is only then, that they are able to move back into the light, and transform their lives and relationships.


this shelter performs miracles, but it is only when people can accept personal responsibility for the role they have played in creating darkness or pain for others.
there is an important lesson here.
there was an important opportunity for sarah palin, for her transforming into a force of nature, that is one of spiritual light, rather than darkness.
she needed to do that for the sake of all of those whose lives have been touched or affected by her words.
there is an important lesson, in how this faith-based shelter teaches us to live.


Posted by: jkaren | January 12, 2011 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Time to attack Iran.

Posted by: willows1 | January 12, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

"but watching the recent message offered up by sarah palin, just hours before this memorial, will now be her final legacy in american political life."

Frankly, if Palin was able to survive politically after those interviews back in 2008 - the ones which Tina Fey could lampoon by quoting them directly - this is hardly going to make a difference.

" unrepentant appearance i could have imagined, from the woman who put a young, goodhearted, vibrant, beautiful, fine, intelligent, constructive and admired woman, fighting for her life, in crosshairs"

But did Sarah Palin want her to be shot, or was she merely targeting her seat in Congress? The answer is obvious. Remember, Democrats put a bulls-eye on her seat too. Martial political imagery and rhetoric has been used by pretty much all political parties for a very long time.

Nevermind that on top of that, there is no evidence that he was motivated by anything Sarah Palin said or did. There is nothing for Palin to be repentant for, with regards to this particular issue.

You want to know why most American politicians should be repentant? Look at the incredible damage their policies do to millions - yes millions - of lives (e.g. the War on Drugs). That's why they should be repentant. Not for their speech. If all politicians did was shout inflammatory rhetoric, I'd be thrilled.

Posted by: justin84 | January 12, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Not sure how this turned into t Palin blog, but here's my take.

What you are seeing in her case is a chickens come home to roost thing. NO, of course she had no invovlement in the shootings in any way. I'm talking more about her political ambitions.

In the last two years we have seen that there is almost nothing she won't comment on and no one she won't tweet about, even the First Lady on nutrition. She has made herself a lightning rod at all levels for every controversy, injecting her opinions where there was no reason to go.

She even endorsed the incredibly inept Christine O'Donnell in a state she may never have even visited, in a race there was no chance of winning.

While all this has been good for Palin Inc., it also points out why her career in politics is completely finished. There's a smart political axiom that says "never make an enemy by accident" and Palin has done so by the millions.

Republican leadership knows this and are trying to make sure she's not in the race in 2012. They don't believe she coud get the nomination of course, but they believe she could damage the eventual candidate by making them move too far to the right in primaries.

She knows she can't possibly win too, but the temptation to enter in order to remain nationally relevant for a longer period of time is strong.

We will see which of these colliding trends prevails by year's end

Posted by: 54465446 | January 12, 2011 11:13 AM | Report abuse

"Frankly, if Palin was able to survive politically after those interviews back in 2008 - the ones which Tina Fey could lampoon by quoting them directly - this is hardly going to make a difference."

you are absolutely wrong.
this is something of an immensely different magnitude.
this is going to finish with her political career.
she is a liability....politically, spiritually and intellectually bankrupt.

Posted by: jkaren | January 12, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse

"Their seething hatred for this everyday woman is palpable."

No it isn't. That's a right-wing fantasy. Most liberals I know don't hate Palin, they dismiss her. They view her as a comic figure, a somewhat delusional intellectual lightweight. They are delighted every time she says something ignorant or just plain stupid because it reflects so poorly on other conservatives.

Yes, liberals are quick to point out just what a moron she is (and by implication, all those who support her), how tasteless and insensitive her antics are, but there is no vitriol when they call attention to the obvious, just derision. There's a huge difference.

Posted by: suehall | January 12, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

The right way to grieve? that's kind of weird Ezra. They're not trying to express grief, they're trying to make suggestions about how to protect Congressmembers.

Ask CHiPs to provide 54 cops for those days of a ten-day or two-week period that a Congressperson is out in public? Hell yeah. There are over 7,300 of them. They can spare them.

But you don't even need State Police. Why (at least when the state pulls back from the precipice of bankruptcy) can't a local officer from Sacramento and Calistoga and Needles be present at their local Congressperson's events? Just the presence of a uniformed officer could be a deterrent in some instances.

Posted by: andrewlong | January 12, 2011 12:06 PM | Report abuse

"you are absolutely wrong.
this is something of an immensely different magnitude.
this is going to finish with her political career.
she is a liability....politically, spiritually and intellectually bankrupt."

Time will tell.

I don't care for Palin, yet I'm not outraged in the least. I highly doubt a hardcore Palin supporter is going to change their views over this.

A large portion of the American people simply don't think the same way you do, jkaren.

Consider from the National Review:

"Some of the other lines are the most profound but may be lost in the coverage. Those last few paragraphs are beautiful and true. That may be lost on everyone who already has an opinion about the woman who delivered them."

"With an appropriate pause, she made use of her voice to bring some light to some ridiculous frenzied noise. She made a good and responsible use of her voice, not for the first time."

From the comments section:

"It doesn't matter what Palin does - she's guilty in their eyes and nothing will change that."

"That seems right, JohnG. I'm not always a backer of Palin, but this speech sets a very high bar for the president."

"While the speech was very, very good, I cant help but look at the political angle, and how the left must be reacting to this address."

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/256944/palin-uses-her-voice-response-tucson-kathryn-jean-lopez

Posted by: justin84 | January 12, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

jkaren:
"she owed the nation an apology, for putting any of our political aspirants or leaders, in crosshairs."

The DNCC had a map with bullseyes on the GOP districts they consider 'targets' in 2012.

I'll wait here for your equally-expessed outrage at the violence perpetuated by Democrats.

Posted by: dbw1 | January 12, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

suehall:
"Most liberals I know don't hate Palin, they dismiss her. They view her as a comic figure, a somewhat delusional intellectual lightweight."

I'm sure you must be right. I'm sure the reason why liberals were frothing at the mouth attempting to tie this tragedy to Palin within HOURS, not days, but HOURS of the shooting reflects how much liberals don't take her seriously and just dismiss her.

I know it's probably too much to ask a liberal to think logically, but you can't have it both ways....you can't say that liberals just dismiss her and don't take her seriously, while at the same time liberals are trying to blame her for being so powerful that a mere map on her website may be responsible for the actions of a lunatic....in spite of the lack of any evidence that the shooter ever saw the map.

Figure out which way you want to argue this one, and we can go from there...

Posted by: dbw1 | January 12, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

jkaren:
"this shelter performs miracles, but it is only when people can accept personal responsibility for the role they have played in creating darkness or pain for others."

I'm just curious....does your shelter also require residents to apologize for the bad actions of other people who they have never met, and where there is no evidence that the person in your shelter has any tie whatsoever to the bad actions committed by someone else thousands of miles away?

I admire your involvement in a faith-based shelter. I financially support a similar non-profit run by a close relative. However, as far as I know they tend to encourage personal accountability for wrongs that individual has committed. They don't try to make people feel like they share corporate responsibility for the actions of other people with whom they have no association.

Posted by: dbw1 | January 12, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

I imagine the presence of uniformed police officers could give small events a different vibe. That might make some constituent less vocal or passionate in expressing their views. Worse, it might disproportionately affect people from communities where there is a lot of mistrust of the police.

Posted by: a23145m1 | January 12, 2011 2:45 PM | Report abuse

"I'm just curious....does your shelter also require residents to apologize for the bad actions of other people who they have never met, and where there is no evidence that the person in your shelter has any tie whatsoever to the bad actions committed by someone else thousands of miles away?"

i can assure you, at this shelter....if one of the residents circulated a flyer with another resident, or any person, in crosshairs, and used a metaphor relating to guns, there would be a good chance that they might not be in the shelter after that.
there is a ZERO TOLERANCE for actions like that in this shelter.
and the individual who did this, would be having to do a lot more than apologize.
the conduct and actions of sarah palin would be unacceptable to stay in this program.

Posted by: jkaren | January 12, 2011 3:28 PM | Report abuse

jkaren:
"i can assure you, at this shelter....if one of the residents circulated a flyer with another resident, or any person, in crosshairs, and used a metaphor relating to guns, there would be a good chance that they might not be in the shelter after that."

Well, it's good to know then you wouldn't tolerate the good people at the Democrat National Committee at your shelter as well, since they had a map that used bullseyes on districts they intend to 'target' in 2012. Or are bullseyes less offensive than crosshairs? I can't keep up with the PC police on the left.....

I would post the link to stories about the DNC bullseye map here, but I don't want to be guilty of inciting violence among the mentally unstable who might be encouraged to visit the Democrat website....

Posted by: dbw1 | January 12, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

nothing more to be said.
those who obstructed and tried to cause harm, have been deeply discredited, their political fates are sealed, and the wheat has now been separated from the chaff.
under the leadership of our wise, dignified and brilliant president, a cabinet with nobel prize winners, and still, many well-intentioned, intelligent leaders in congress, it is time to move ahead.

Posted by: jkaren | January 12, 2011 7:32 PM | Report abuse

--*this is going to finish with her political career.*--

You wish.

From the things I read, it looks like stupid Paul Krugman is the one to really shoot himself in the foot. He and the NY Times have taken themselves down another few notches.

Of course, Klein was right there on the day of the massacre, ruing Palin's (and Angle's and Kelly's) rhetoric, too, like the trained propagandizing chipmunk he is.

Posted by: msoja | January 12, 2011 8:13 PM | Report abuse

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