Tucson Murders and the Modern American Political Culture

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When a mentally unstable man murdered six people and severely wounded Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, last January, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik was quick to blame Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle for the shootings, and others like Paul Krugman also claimed that it was a political shooting orchestrated by the Right. Not surprisingly, Dupnik was the darling of the Left, as he claimed that the "lack of civility" from non-leftists.

Four months later, Dupnik's SWAT charges gunned down Jose Guerena as they barged into his house. Guerena allegedly was holding an AR 15 (with the safety still on), and as the video in this article shows, Dupnik's employees wasted no ammunition, firing more than 60 shots in a few seconds. Guerena was still alive when paramedics arrived, but Dupnik's ambassadors for "civility" would not let them tend the wounded man until he was dead.

The reaction of the sheriff is most instructive. In the January incident, he openly blamed people who were not responsible for the killings; in May he denied that his office shared any blame at all in the killing of Guerena even though they fired the bullets. Guerena, according to Mr. "Civility," totally was at fault, as Pima County SWAT officers did nothing wrong.

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Furthermore, Dupnik has helped lead an avalanche of bad publicity (much of it likely untrue) toward the dead man and his family, engaging in the kind of character assassination that he would have condemned in January. In other words, if Sarah Palin campaigns against another Democrat, that is near-murderous behavior; however, when Dupnik and his lackeys gun down a man in his home, and then falsely claim that he must have been a drug kingpin, that is just being "responsible." (As Will Grigg has noted, Dupnik blames the press for the bad publicity in the aftermath of this killing.)

While Dupnik has turned out to be as despicable as some of Fox News might have wanted to claim in January, he only is a small part of a larger tragedy. American political culture, which to me Dupnik represents in part, has become so hypocritical and so dishonest and so destructive that I believe it is impossible for decent people to survive it.

First, let us deal with the hypocrisy. Pima County is the "liberal" county of Arizona, and there even is a secession movement for the county to split off from Arizona. Home to the University of Arizona, Pima County is decidedly Democratic in party politics. Furthermore, Dupnik is supposed to be the "Anti-Sheriff Joe," in contrast Republican Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, who has made a sham of civil liberties and rule of law.

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Dupnik, you see, is supposed to be the opposite of Arpaio in every respect. Yet, what happens when his charges wantonly gun down a man who was not a threat to the community and was well-regarded by his peers? Why, Rule of Murder must prevail, and even to question it is to engage in irresponsible behavior. How is that different from what Arpaio would do or has done? It isn't.

The hypocrisy is not limited to Dupnik, as the propaganda machine that promoted his lies last January has been silent on the Guerena shooting. For example, the leftist Phoenix New Times, which has been (rightly, in my opinion) attacking Arpaio and his political allies, had dozens of articles on the Giffords shooting (with all of the usual accusations one would expect from the Left). However, in the Guerena killing, it ran only one piece, and the article basically was little more than a press release from Dupnik's office, although it did note that the "raid" found only one bag of marijuana — in a different home.

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Sojourners, which joined the "civility" crusade, had nothing on the Guerena killing. Most of the mainstream media has been silent or only has reported on official documents and done interviews with Guerena's widow and her attorney. And so it goes.

The dishonesty of American political culture also is exposed here. When Giffords and the others were gunned down, the American media had no problem running with the wild claims that Sarah Palin was responsible, just as it has no problem claiming Ron Paul is a threat to "freedom." (Mother Jones, while not a mainstream publication but nonetheless is a favorite among Democratic liberals, recently claimed that Paul was unfit to be president because, among other things, he was against the recent assassination of Osama bin Laden. Thomas Woods eviscerates that claim here.)

However, when one of their darlings engages in what only can be called an execution of a man who clearly was guilty of no crime, the media is silent or supports the murder. This hardly is a new development. When Janet Reno unleashed a military assault against the Branch Davidians in 1993, killing nearly 80 people, including 20 children and two pregnant women, the political establishment applauded her and her popularity soared, especially among Democrats.

(Not that Republicans have been defenders of liberty. The reign of George W. Bush and his use of torture as a political tool and the acquiescence of the GOP in this atrocity lets us know that, like their counterparts across the aisle, Republicans are defenders of civil liberties ONLY when it is to their political advantage.)

Keep in mind that even if Dupnik's statements are exposed as lies and his officers planted the AR 15 beside Guerena's body, nothing will happen to them, as the political classes in this country are nearly invulnerable. Yes, I predict that Guerena's widow will receive a future settlement from Pima County taxpayers, but no one — and certainly not Dupnik — will lose his job and no one, no matter how criminal his actions, will be charged with anything at all.

In the end, American political culture is utterly destructive. The Drug War, which exists because of entrenched political interests, leaves a wake of death and personal and physical destruction. Prosecutors and police regularly lie and knowingly bring false charges against innocent people, and the courts protect the worst of their conduct.

Men like Ron Paul, who speak out against this evil are vilified in the press and marginalized even by their own political parties. Conversely, the CIA sends out death squads around the globe and the former "civil libertarians" who condemned such actions suddenly find them necessary because Barack Obama is in the White House and must be supported no matter what atrocities he commits. The government goes on rampages to destroy productive entrepreneurs while spending hundreds of billions of dollars to promote political entrepreneurship and to prop up failed — but politically-connected — enterprises.

No decent society can survive this kind of multi-pronged assault. A political culture that holds up Clarence Dupnik as an example of "goodness" and "civility" is a political culture at war with the truth. When a good and decent man like Ron Paul is vilified and that same political culture praises Clarence Dupnik, who supports what at this time sure looks like a cold-blooded execution of a man not charged with any crime, then we have to understand that America the Decent no longer exists. America has decent people, but they increasingly are being overwhelmed by the Dupniks and others who see killing of innocents as a legitimate political tool.

June 4, 2011