A Tale of Two Murders

DrewM. passes on Michelle Malkin‘s post and column noting that the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller by a white “Christian” got scads more media commentary and more intense presidential attention than did the murder of Private William Long and maiming and attempted murder of Private Quinton Ezeagwula by a black “Muslim.”

It’s a fair point and very much worth noting that there are craziest on both sides.

At the same time, the first shooting naturally fit into an ongoing storyline whereas the second seemingly comes out of the blue.  Malkin’s done yeoman work over the years in rounding up little-reported incidents by leftist extremists targeting American troops but it remains a tiny, disaggrated fringe movement whereas the anti-abortion movement is massive and even its extreme elements, like Operation Rescue, are rather large and public.

Nutcases aside, there’s been a loud and bitter debate over abortion going on since at least decision in Roe v. Wade some thirty-six years ago. So, naturally, when an abortionist gets murdered, there’s a ready frame into which to plug stories, sidebars, and commentaries.  Columns from 1986 can be dusted off and re-run by changing a few names and throwing in a new quote or three.

By contrast, those who genuinely dislike American soldiers are so far into the lunatic fringe that they’re not part of the public debate.  Just about every liberal male politician over the age of 50 — John Kerry, Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, George McGovern, Ted Kennedy, Charlie Rangel — served in the military.  Hell, so did Jeremiah Wright.

To be sure, there are liberals who hate the way our military is used.   Others hate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  But, by and large, those are handled as debates over public policy.  It’s presidents who are the object of that wrath, not American soldiers.  Indeed, when someone dares criticize soldiers — as in the General Betray Us flap — they’re roundly slapped down, even by other liberals.

All that said, I agree with Michelle on the much narrower points.  Yes, President Obama should have said something about the recruiting station incident, especially after his comments on the Tiller murder.  He’s commander-in-chief, after all.  And it would have been good politics, too, earning credit for taking on left-wing crazies without alienating a significant part of his coalition.

And, yes, the press should have used the occasion of the latest shooting to point out that this was not a totally isolated incident.  The press really needs to get beyond its tired story frames and do broader reporting more often.

Photo by Flickr user DRB62 under Creative Commons license.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. GTFOOH says:

    I want Michelle Malkin to know that when she get’s murdered, I will work hard to make sure it makes page one!

  2. Eric Florack says:

    I’m not sure I accept the argument, James.

    (LOL… Notice I won’t call you a liberal, here…[/snark])

    It is worth noting, perhaps, that every mainstream pro-life group has denounced Tiller’s murder. So I doubt one could say with any sanity remaining that the action of one gunman was the work of the pro-life movement.

    At the same time, the first shooting naturally fit into an ongoing storyline whereas the second seemingly comes out of the blue.

    I regard this as a years… decades… long meme management situation.

    There have been plots by various individuals and splinter groups, following the ‘way of jihad’ on their own. We’ve been getting reports on such matters all along, when the Dinosaurs deign to tell us about it. Notice, please that the shooter in Little Rock was already on an FBI watch list… this stuff is out there. Perhaps we’re a victim of such as the FBI doing it’s job too well, guarding Americans from the reality of the plots out there by preventing them from happening?

    OTOH, As I pointed out the other day, since 1993, we’ve had seven abortuary workers killed, by one person or another. Each of these got months of coverage… and nobody called for an end to the coverage of the events, and their resulting trials.

    How many Americans have died as a result of Jiahd in that time frame? Literally, thousands. And yes, we did see some of the left screaming for a halt to the coverage of such deaths, and the events surrounding them. Remember?

    Could it perhaps be that the reason you take the Little Rock thing as having snuck up on us, is because such incidents have been under -reported, and they’re not nearly as fashionable to talk about?

    All that said, I agree with Michelle on the much narrower points. Yes, President Obama should have said something about the recruiting station incident, especially after his comments on the Tiller murder.

    I dunno. I don’t disagree that it would have sent the proper signals at home, James, particularly from the persective of even-handedness… but I’m almost willing to give Obama’s people some wiggle room on this. The timing seems key. To the largest of degrees the details of Little Rock didn’t come out until the momentum for his middle east Hind-Lick Maneuver was well underway… and making such a statement would make the task there that much the harder. I don’t agree with the reasoning they were doubtless using, but I do understand it.

    And, yes, the press should have used the occasion of the latest shooting to point out that this was not a totally isolated incident.

    Here, I’m more inclined to agree more fully.

    To be sure, there are liberals who hate the way our military is used.

    I wonder if there’s ever been polling done on this question… how much in the mainstream is the complaining when the military gets used for much of anything at all? It’s my perception that the number of leftists who will complaint about any expenditure of American Military power is far higher than you apparently think it.

  3. Janis Gore says:

    My sister’s daughter is finishing Navy basic training this week.

    No mother expects a son or daughter to be shot by unfriendly fire in their own community.

    Obama needs to speak up quickly.

  4. Both stories deserve attention.

    Still, I have to admit: partial birth abortion doctor killed at church while ushering is pretty darn dramatic, and the news loves dramatic.

    And I think that James it right–the broader context fuels the attention (i.e., what does this event mean for the abortion debate in a way that the other event does not).

  5. Boyd says:

    By contrast, those who genuinely dislike American soldiers are so far into the lunatic fringe that they’re not part of the public debate.

    But anti-abortionists who commit murder are a part of mainstream conservatism? What the hell are you saying, James?

    No, let me put that a different way: What you have said here is stunning, James.

  6. Imagine if it was the reverse. The TIller killing got a couple of inside page lines and then nothing. But the killing of a soldier on US soil by a muslim was played to the hilt as a terrorist attack in the US. Outside of the timing, it would have been entirely “reasonable” to have played it that way if the press was right wing and wanted to throw egg on Obama’s face (he can’t keep America safe from attacks on our homeland).

    If that was the scenario, would you write the same post? Would you not see a bias in how the news gets promoted?

    The bottom line is that the press is heavily biased to the left. The “terrorist attack on US soldier” would have sold papers/ raised ratings. But it doesn’t fit he mindset of the national press. If the handling of these two stories doesn’t show that to you, I shudder to think what pair of stories it would take for you to see reality.

  7. James Joyner says:

    But anti-abortionists who commit murder are a part of mainstream conservatism? What the hell are you saying, James?

    No, not at all. There are a huge number of Americans — of which I am one — who think late term abortion is almost always morally heinous. There’s a slightly smaller number — of which I am also one — that thinks most abortion is the taking of a human life. Only the lunatic fringe among us, however, would countenance the murder of an abortionist as morally justified.

    There is no counterpart group on the anti-troop side. Pretty much anyone who hates America’s soldiers — even those who wouldn’t do them any harm — constitute a lunatic fringe just by holding the position.

  8. An Interested Party says:

    To be sure, there are liberals who hate the way our military is used.

    A view shared by Ron Paul, who is quite far from the liberal viewpoint and I also seem to remember that there were paleoconservatives who hated the fact that our military intervened in the Balkans in the 90s…it does seem to work both ways…but, of course, hating the way our military is used is radically different from hating military personnel themselves…

  9. Janis Gore says:

    President Obama is responsible until I draw up in my beat-up Escort wagon and say, “Kyle, you was always some sorry son a bitch,” and draw the trigger.

  10. just me says:

    Still, I have to admit: partial birth abortion doctor killed at church while ushering is pretty darn dramatic, and the news loves dramatic.

    While I agree that this scenario is pretty darn dramatic, I also think a couple of soldiers who have just completed basic training being shot and killed outside a recruiting station-a place you would expect to be a safe place-is also pretty dramatic.

    The former just plays into the type of drams the liberal leaning media likes more.

    I find it appalling that Obama hasn’t really commented much on the deaths of two soldiers given his role as commander in chief.

  11. Christopher says:

    (first of all, Ron Paul is a nut. We don’t want him associated in anyway with conservatives.)

    James,

    You say that “leftist extremists targeting American troops…remains a tiny, disaggrated fringe movement”? Huh? Have you heard of a political party in the United States called the ‘democrats’? Have you heard of an American way of political thinking called ‘liberalism’? Start by researching the last 40 years of US history and comments made by their leaders. Sheesh James do readers have to do all of your work for you?!?

  12. James Joyner says:

    You say that “leftist extremists targeting American troops…remains a tiny, disaggrated fringe movement”? Huh? Have you heard of a political party in the United States called the ‘democrats’? Have you heard of an American way of political thinking called ‘liberalism’? Start by researching the last 40 years of US history and comments made by their leaders.

    The post lists a goodly number of liberals, pulled just off the top of my head, who served honorably in the American military. Many of them in combat.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    You’ll have to forgive Christopher…he has a bad case of projecting to call anyone else a “nut”…

  14. Eric Florack says:

    AIP’s usual blather not withstanding, Chris has a point, James, among a number of the people you mention. Your cite of John Kerry seems to point to a reasonable example of it. As I’ve done before, I question the value of ‘service’ of someone whose focus was gaming the medal system for the benefit of his own political career, and yet someone who was so dedicated to the anti-war efforts that he tossed someone else’s medals over the White House fence.

  15. Arcs says:

    The post lists a goodly number of liberals, pulled just off the top of my head, who served honorably in the American military. Many of them in combat.

    You also list some who inarguably served the military dishonorably.

  16. James Joyner says:

    As I’ve done before, I question the value of ‘service’ of someone whose focus was gaming the medal system for the benefit of his own political career, and yet someone who was so dedicated to the anti-war efforts that he tossed someone else’s medals over the White House fence.

    The man’s got a Silver Star, which is more than either of us earned. And he’s never been anti-soldier even when he’s been anti-war.

    You also list some who inarguably served the military dishonorably.

    Who? Many of them served with distinction. Others simply served.

  17. Eric Florack says:

    The man’s got a Silver Star, which is more than either of us earned

    That he’s got one, is beyond issue. How he got it, isn’t, particularly given the clues given by his behavior subsequently.

    And he’s never been anti-soldier even when he’s been anti-war.

    So, calling soldiers ‘murderers’ as he did while making a name for himself in anti-vietnam war ‘testimony’ before congress, while halfway wearing his uniform, is pro-soldier? (And I’ll hasten to add that the pattern there, given Murtha, seems fairly well-established)

  18. James Joyner says:

    So, calling soldiers ‘murderers’ as he did while making a name for himself in anti-vietnam war ‘testimony’ before congress, while halfway wearing his uniform, is pro-soldier?

    I’m not a fan of what Kerry did at Winter Soldier. Some of it was clearly embellished. But his argument was that immoral goals and policies was making soldiers do horrible things. Some, in fact, were.

    (And I’ll hasten to add that the pattern there, given Murtha, seems fairly well-established)

    Murtha retired as a full colonel of Marines. The early evidence, obtained by the Marine Corps’ own investigations — which is what Murtha was relying on — pointed to a massacre at Haditha. Later investigations made the facts much murkier.

  19. Wayne says:

    James
    I think you underestimate the disdain many of the left has for the military and those who serve in it. Just because many are smart enough to know it is politically incorrect to outright bash servicemen doesn’t mean they don’t have disdain for them. Also having served doesn’t exempt one as well especially if it was for a short time.

    You have Jack Murtha who was willing to make false and outlandish accusations against our servicemen. You have many who are quick to take any isolated incident and play it up to hurt the military often implying the isolated incident is system wide. John Kerry repeating many of the lies as his own experience until he was cornered on it then it was “will that what I heard” excuse. It reminds me of those who claim to support their home team but constantly taking potshots at them and take pleasure when their home team loses.

    Try going to some of the “hippies” hangout in Seattle or the anti-war protest\concerts and listen to them. If you are daring enough tell them you are military which is OK if you support them and you support the war and see how they treat you. Baby killer and warmongers are still popular phrases used.

  20. Eric Florack says:

    James;

    frankly, neither of the two cases under discussions strikes me as coming from someone who is overtly ‘pro-soldier’.

    Wayne points this stuff up fairly well.
    The fact is in both cases, the screaming was for leftie political points, and really didn’t give a damn about the truth. In fact, as stuff came out about both situations, they specifically tried to avoid the truth so as to avoid the consequences of their back-stabbing.

    We’re still waiting for the apology from Murtha, for example.

  21. An Interested Party says:

    I was wondering who would jump on Christopher’s bandwagon with its ridiculous and untrue blanket condemnation of Democrats and/or liberals as “targeting” American troops…leave it to the usual suspects like Bithead to jump in to try to trash people like Kerry and Murtha…let’s just all forget that both men served this country while people like Bithead only “serve” in places like this…meanwhile, no one has any proof of Democrats and/or liberals en masse “targeting” American troops…oh, by the way, as long as you make foolish claims like this, you will be thought of as the loony right and convince no one…

  22. Eric Florack says:

    Untrue?

    I don’t think so.Let’s take a recent example… Obama’s Cairo Hind-Lick, this monring.

    Marc Thiessen at The Corner:

    He said he is committed to helping Iraqis stand on their own. But he failed to mention that they have that opportunity because of the blood spilled by American troops who sacrificed to give them their freedom. He failed to mention that from Iraq and Afghanistan, to Bosnia, Kosovo, and Kuwait, over the past two decades our military has done more to free Muslims from oppression than any power in history. In fact, there was not one word of praise for our troops and what they have done for the people of the Middle East in the entire address.

    To the contrary, he threw the men and women of our military and our intelligence community under the bus when he declared, in front of a Muslim audience, that the attacks of 9/11 “led us to act contrary to our ideals.” On foreign soil, he accused our intelligence professionals who stopped the next 9/11 of committing torture — validating years of al-Qaeda propaganda. He talked about closing GTMO without any defense of the good men and women who run it — even though his own attorney general, Eric Holder, has admitted it was a model prison. If he was going to discuss these topics in the Middle East, he at least owed it to our troops and intelligence professionals to say what dozens of investigations have proven: that there was no systematic abuse of detainees at GTMO or anywhere else. Instead, Obama echoed al-Qaeda’s calumnies against them — and did so in a foreign land. This is unprecedented. It is shameful. And they deserve better.

    In short, more of the same pattern. All you’ve come up with to counter it is baseless insult, AIP. Let’s see if you can come up with something more substantial. I doubt you can.

  23. Wayne says:

    Here is a partial list of Liberals quotes bashing the military.

    http://rightwingnews.com/mt331/2008/05/liberals_vs_the_troops_in_quot.php

  24. Rick Almeida says:

    I question the value of ‘service’ of someone whose focus was gaming the medal system for the benefit of his own political career, and yet someone who was so dedicated to the anti-war efforts that he tossed someone else’s medals over the White House fence.

    Eric,

    I’m very interested in hearing about your own military service.

  25. An Interested Party says:

    re: Eric Florack | June 4, 2009 | 03:22 pm

    It is hardly surprising that you would favorably quote a torture apologist as you are one yourself…here’s a little newsflash for you, though…criticizing the use of torture and talking of closing Gitmo are certainly not “targeting” the troops, better luck next time…

  26. anjin-san says:

    I’m very interested in hearing about your own military service.

    I think talking tough on blogs is about all there is.

    Bit has a long track record of trashing serving military members and vets when it is politically expedient to do so. Reference his recent remarks about Lt. Choi as one example.

  27. Eric Florack says:

    And how on earth would that make any difference whatever to the central point? You can’t argue the central point so you try the ‘kill the messenger’ routine?

    You’ve labeled your own position as ineffective when you try that one. Sorry, no sale.

  28. Wayne says:

    As I stated in the past the “if you haven’t served, you can’t talk tough” argument is B.S. However I am agreeing with Eric on this one and if Anjin or AIP want to compare military service, I will compare mine to theirs. Of course when that happens it usually result in “it doesn’t matter now” attitude.

  29. An Interested Party says:

    It’s not so much about the “if you haven’t served, you can’t talk tough” argument as it is that the military records of Kerry and Murtha are being impugned by people who never served…how can anyone who never served in Vietnam understand the complexities of what happened there and automatically come to the conclusion that these men were somehow dishonorable in their service to the country? The worst part of these attacks is that the difference that some have with these men is political, and so to score some cheap political points, an attempt is made to denigrate their military service…of course the larger point is that no one has yet to provide any proof that the Democratic Party and/or liberals as a whole are “targeting” the troops…

  30. Rick Almeida says:

    It’s not so much about the “if you haven’t served, you can’t talk tough” argument as it is that the military records of Kerry and Murtha are being impugned by people who never served.

    This.

    When someone who never deigned to serve actively impugns the record of decorated combat veterans, viz., “gamed the system for medals,” that’s offensive, not to mention the hypocrisy, given contemporary conservatives’ oft-professed love for the troops.

    So again, Eric, I’m interested in your history of military service.