The good news is that it appears Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is going to pull through, but six people were killed (including a federal judge and a young girl) and 11 others were injured. No doubt, some will try to exploit this event for political gain. In fact, even before the shooter was identified, Paul Krugman was already blaming the incident on Sarah Palin, Tea Party activists, and opposition to national health care. But with details starting to trickle in on the alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, it’s looking like it will be hard to identify him with any given ideology (not that violent acts by nut jobs should ever be blamed on others who share a few political views that they express peacefully). Assuming this is the YouTube page of Loughner, his views look completely incoherent. Among his favorite books: Mein Kampf, the Communist Maniefesto, Animal Farm, and Ayn Rand’s We the Living. Unless he’s the first Nazi Randian communist, it’s hard to identify him with any political movement. The videos themselves are filled with random pseudo-intellectual gibberish about currency and English grammar. I think Finnegans Wake was more comprehensible.
With the story quickly evolving, there’s a limit to what we can say about the shooting. But one thing we can say is that beyond the lives that were directly affected, another upsetting element is that this incident could have the affect of creating more distance between members of Congress and their constituents. There was a time when citizens were able to walk up to the doors of the White House, wait on line, and give the president a piece of their mind. That obviously became impractical and too risky as time went on. But members of Congress, of all public figures, are the most accessible of public officials. To the extent that new security concerns will begin to make members of the “People’s House” more distant from the people, this is a tragedy in more ways than one.