Why the Arizona Shooting is Unlikely To Be a Repeat of Oklahoma City

Tuesday, January 11, 2011
By Paul Martin

By Philip Klein
The American Spectator.org
1.10.11

In the wake of last November’s defeat in the midterm elections, Democratic strategist Mark Penn, appearing on “Hardball,” suggested that President Obama would need an event like the Oklahoma City bombings to “reconnect” with the American people as Bill Clinton did following the 1994 GOP takeover of Congress. Back then, Clinton cynically (and successfully) associated the anti-government rhetoric of his political opponents with the terrorist attack. This aided his strategy of portraying the newly elected majority as a bunch of extremists, allowing him to come across as reasonable by comparison, and helping to curtail their agenda. Democrats and their liberal allies in the media wasted no time on Saturday, seizing on the tragic Gabrielle Giffords shooting to condemn Sarah Palin, Fox News and tea parties — even, in some cases, before the identity of the shooter was known. It’s their hope to exploit Tucson the way Clinton effectively exploited Oklahoma City. But there are a number of key differences that make it unlikely Democrats will derive as much political benefit from this event.

To start with, taking nothing away from the importance of Saturday’s events, the sheer scale of the Oklahoma City bombing — 168 people dead, a federal building destroyed — was much larger. As a nation, we have seen assassination attempts and shooting sprees before, but the 1995 bombing was completely unprecedented. Prior to Oklahoma City, terrorist attacks were something that happened in other countries, on airplanes, or at high-profile targets (such as the World Trade Center in 1993). Beyond the mass casualties, the shock of Oklahoma City was the idea that white guys would blow up a building in America’s heartland, and thus it set off fears that this was the sort of thing that could happen anywhere. So as horrible as the Tucson shooting was, it’s unlikely to be as transformative.

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