Pundits need to take a breather before making call on tragedies 

I’m warming to the idea of a pundit’s Brady Bill. Some political commentators could use a (voluntary) “cooling off” period before they start using mass murder to score partisan points.

That could have saved Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post’s neoconservative blogger, some embarrassment over the weekend.

On Friday, before much was known about the horrific car bombing and mass shooting in Norway, she used the tragedy to argue against modest cuts to the Pentagon’s budget. Trimming the Department of Defense — which accounts for nearly half the world’s military spending — would be “very rash ... curbing our ability to defend the United States and our allies in a very dangerous world.” The slaughter in Norway was, she wrote, “a sobering reminder for those who think it’s too expensive to wage a war against jihadists.”

Actually, it’s a sobering reminder to think before you post. Even if Rubin had been right about who carried out the attacks, her argument went nowhere unless you think the United States needs new aircraft carriers to stop car bombings in Oslo.

As it turned out, the murderer was a native Norwegian, Anders Breivik, a European nationalist with “fiercely anti-Islamic and pro-Israel views,” according to the Jerusalem Post. Whoops!

Yet some of the lefties who ridiculed Rubin this weekend, such as the Center for American Progress’s Matt Yglesias, had itchy Twitter fingers in the immediate aftermath of January’s rampage in Tucson, Ariz. Without the slightest evidence, Yglesias and others pointed to a graphic on Sarah Palin’s website — an electoral map with crosshairs — as a possible incitement for Loughner to shoot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

At this writing, Norwegian authorities have yet to rule out the possibility that Anders Breivik had some collaborators.

But whether he’s a lone nut or one of several, the dark night of fascism hardly seems likely to descend across Europe because of a “climate of hate” fostered by European voters who have concerns about immigration from Muslim countries.

It’s likely that the only worthwhile political lesson to be gleaned from the horror of Friday’s incident is that Norway ought to consider having a longer maximum prison sentence than 21 years.

In general, invoking the ideological meanderings of psychopaths is a stalking horse for narrowing permissible dissent. There’s little to be learned from the acts of  the obsessed and deranged. But these incidents ought to teach us not to use tragedy to score partisan points.

Examiner columnist Gene Healy is a vice president at the Cato Institute and author of “The Cult of the Presidency.”

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