Sarah Palin’s famous bullseye map was both offensive and stupid. And while Palin’s camp has taken it down in the wake of yesterday horrific shooting in Arizona, one of the former half-term Alaska governor’s aides has, incredibly, upped the ante for offensive stupidity.
In March Palin unveiled a “Take Back the 20” website, featuring a U.S. map targeting--with bullseyes--20 Democratic House members, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. In announcing the list on Twitter, Palin urged her supporters, “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!” Palin made the phrase a part of her campaign trail repertoire. The site was taken down in the wake of Saturday’s attacks (and let’s marvel that it wasn’t until something like the Arizona tragedy took place before someone in the Palin camp thought it was a bad idea).
But a Palin aide named Rebecca Mansour told a radio talk show host that the crosshairs were actually—wait for it—surveyor’s symbols.
Here’s the exchange, as reported by Slate’s Dave Weigel:
MANSOUR: I just want to clarify again, and maybe it wasn't done on the record enough by us when this came out, the graphic, is just, it's basically -- we never, ever, ever intended it to be gunsights. It was simply crosshairs like you see on maps.
BRUCE: Well, it's a surveyor's symbol. It's a surveyor's symbol.
MANSOUR: It's a surveyor's symbol. I just want to say this, Tammy, if I can. This graphic was done, not even done in house -- we had a political graphics professional who did this for us.
I can’t decide which possibility is more startling: That Mansour actually believes what she is saying, in which case she is an idiot; or that she merely thinks everyone else is so deeply stupid that we’ll believe it, in which case her stupidity would also be matched with cold cynicism. [Photo Gallery: Gabrielle Giffords Shooting in Arizona.]
Here’s the problem, as Weigel and others have ably pointed out: Palin herself has played up the notion that the map was populated with bullseyes. Politico’s Jonathan Martin points out that after the election she tweeted about the “‘bullseye’ icon used 2 target the 20 Obamacare-lovin’ incumbent seats?”
I wrote yesterday that we should not rush to politicize the Arizona shooting. Ascribing a political motive or philosophy to an apparent madman before we have all the facts does little to calm the tone of our politics, and it threatens to distract from the unfolding tragedy by refocusing attention on familiar rote debates.
But to say that it is too soon to know whether Saturday’s attacks are the result of overheated politics or just bad coincidence is not to say that those arguments, especially regarding the dangers of inflammatory political rhetoric and symbolism are not legitimate.
Putting that map up was irresponsible and tasteless to start with. Spouting nonsensical defenses of it only compounds the mistake.