Since the tragedy in Tucson on January 8, 2011, where nineteen people were shot, six of them fatally, political vitriol has filled the media with accusations that blame the political climate for the event. News reports claimed that the target was US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, who was shot through the head at point-blank range. That was enough for the Pima County Sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, to state that the political venom in play throughout the country was behind the attack on Giffords. The other eighteen shot including the six fatalities, were apparently just collateral damage. The Sheriff’s diatribe set off certain lefty-leaning talking heads who tied the Tea Party and especially Sarah Palin into the shooting because Giffords was on Palin’s targeted list to defeat in the November, 2010 election. To date, no one has produced any evidence that the shooter, Jared Loughner, held any position other than an apolitical one. Rather, he was a very disturbed young man driven by his own inner demons.
I’m inclined toward that latter view by examining past political assassinations. One fact stood out as I reviewed those occurrences. The assassination, or the attempt, was overwhelmingly carried out by a single individual who had a specific target. He (they were all male) focused directly on the target and never, never incurred collateral victims as did Loughner.
Let’s examine the cases. If we begin with the assassination of Julius Caesar, it was carried out by Cassius and Brutus without any attempt to kill others in the Senate on that Ides of March. Abraham Lincoln in 1865, was assassinated in his Ford Theater box by John Wilkes Booth who made no attempt to include Mrs. Lincoln or any of Mr. Lincoln’s entourage, in his murderous efforts. Presidents Garfield and McKinley were assassinated by single individuals, Charles Guiteau, in 1881 and Leon Czolgosz in 1901, respectively, with no collateral victims. Mahatma Gandhi was murdered by a religious fanatic in 1948 without parallel damage as was Huey Long by Carl Weiss, a political enemy, in 1935.
Bringing our time line up to date somewhat, we find that Arthur Bremer’s attempt on Governor George Wallace in 1972 and John Hinckley’s attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981 were lone attempts that were unsuccessful. More successful loners were Lee Harvey Oswald on President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and Sirhan Sirhan on Robert Kennedy in 1968 . Other prominent assassinations, while classifiable as non-political, had lone assassins as as well -- in the cases of Martin Luther King, Jr. it was John Earl Ray in 1968 and with John Lennon it was Mark David Chapman in 1980. All the above, whether successful or not, did not include collateral damage in the form of innocent victims.
Based on this information, I allege that a political assassin has a single goal – the assassination of his mark with no interest in killing innocent bystanders. The Tucson tragedy had a totally different scenario. Loughner not only attempted to murder Representative Giffords, but shot eighteen bystanders purposely, killing six of them, including a nine year old girl, Christina-Taylor Green. That has never been the modus operandi of assassins impelled by a deep political motivation.
Q.E.D. – Political rhetoric, from an acrimonious political climate, however crude and alarming, played no part in Loughner’s action. Absent his own explanation, I accept the diagnosis of a mentally disturbed individual intent on inflicting maximum damage to society to satisfy his warped psyche. To avow otherwise, is to contribute to the acrimonious political climate that those hate-spewing writers and speakers allegedly deplore.