Asst. secretary of state blames Arizona shooting on public discourse 

It seems that secretary of state Hillary Clinton isn't alone in saying that Arizona shooter Jared Loughner was inspired by heated rhetoric and radical ideology. Assistant secretary of state for public affairs P.J. Crowley strangely inserted a reference to the tragedy in a speech about the importance of the media in democracy, implying that Loughner's actions were linked to poor public discourse. (The transcript -- typed up by the State Department itself, natch -- gets a few words wrong, so I fixed it according to the video.)

I am not going to speculate about what led that troubled man to do what he did, but we should recommit ourselves to improve public discourse going forward so that we can sustain a functioning democracy that is important both in the context of serving our national interests, but also to collectively solve global challenges for the benefit of our people and others.


Crowley points us to one of the worst features of the rhetorical climate of today, and no, I'm not talking about heated rhetoric. I'm talking about trite, lazy, nonsensical word soup from government bureaucrats like Crowley. His comments about the Arizona shooting are illustrative of clouded politically correct thinking.

So in the interest of improving public discourse, let's break this down. Crowley warns against speculating on the motives, but then speculates that this troubled young man was certainly not commited to improving public discourse. Well, sure. Being commited in general sure would have helped Loughner because he was a troubled young man. Nothing about our public discourse, going backward or "going forward," would have mattered.

And let's just get one thing straight. "Going forward" is bureaucratspeak for "this boring thought needs to sound like an action item." It's not an action item. It's an unexamined thought that wouldn't make it as a quote on a Starbucks coffee cup.

What's with the rest of this junk? "...So we can sustain a functioning democracy that is important..." How, exactly, will recommiting ourselves to improving political discourse sustain our functioning democracy? Our functioning democracy is sustained by principles, a Constitution, a Bill of Rights, the rule of law. Chip away at our rights, and you chip away at the functioning democracy. Political discourse, which has been abrasive from the very start, doesn't enter into it. (After all, the republic survived the period in which effigies of John Jay were burned from Philadelphia to New York, or the very existence of James T. Callender, and that was during a time when most everyone owned a rifle.)

Crowley then goes on to explain to us why it's important to have a functioning democracy...

"... in the context of our national interests, but also in our collective ability to solve global challenges for the benefit of our people and others."

Why the redundant second part? Don't "national interests" include "the benefit of our people and others"? And if it doesn't, doesn't that mean "going forward" we should really re-evaluate our "national interests"?

It sounds like the only people who need to recommit to improving public discourse are the speechwriters and their bosses at the State Department.

Calls requesting information about Crowley's salary were not answered.

About The Author

J.P. Freire

J.P. Freire is the associate editor of commentary. Previously he was the managing editor of the American Spectator. Freire was named journalist of the year for 2009 by the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). You can follow him on Twitter here. Besides the Spectator, Freire's work has appeared in... more
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