Obama is right.  None of us can know what triggered the vicious attack.  So why, asks Rex, did spurious political speculation overshadow the tragic loss of life and injury in Arizona?

Read the transcript of this point of view

Rex Murphy Point of View

January 13, 2011

The act of a sadly deranged man in Arizona last weekend, leaving 6 dead and 13 injured was surely a tragedy and a thing to mourn in and of itself. Murder and injury occupy their own universe of grief and misery.

However, under the deplorable partisan rubric – any old stick will do – some politicians and commentators used the horror – as mere raw material to stir up clouds of anger, accusation and calumny against political foes.

The tragedy was mined and picked over for feverish exploitation and unconscionable finger-pointing by political partisans, and – what is often the same thing in the US – members of the media and online commentators, some of whom in the treating of this were prodigiously offensive and irresponsible.

Obama in his speech last night got the one essential point right: Quote "…the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack." End of quote. The attempts to find and fix an all-purpose, self-serving, demonizing political 'explanation' was therefore illogical and spurious.

This deep truth rolled by unsaluted by whole packs of frothing pundits and politicos, jawboning on talk shows and blogs, in newspapers and online comments. They, the rabid cognoscenti, leaped to judgement almost as the shots were echoing, and spun a bundle of bile and vacuous accusation against their opponents. They slandered Sarah Palin, libeled a citizens movement, and pushed ever more lurid theories to prove how the actual shooter, the man who got the gun, filled it with bullets, and pulled the trigger over and over, was nothing but a puffball blown by the real villain: "a climate of hate," "harsh language about Obamacare" or some imagined falling off from some "standard of civility."

Madness doesn't rest on a pillar of civility and the deeds of madness cannot be charted by the rules of cause and effect.  And as for the murderer's actual, real political interests -a close friend of his gave the definitive picture yesterday:  "He did not watch TV. He disliked the news. He didn’t listen to political radio. He didn’t take sides. He wasn’t on the left. He wasn’t on the right."

Rocks have more political interests than this guy.

And there in six curt sentences is a total utter dismissal of all the unseemly, vile and overblown speculation put up by morbid and unruly partisans since the first hour of the shooting.

The dead could not be allowed to rest, or the injured to repair, while at great cost to the dignity and reputation of the United States the slanders multiplied and a brutally painful occasion was desecrated.

I’m far from optimistic that Obama's speech last night will really change matters.  Politics and rhetoric, posturing and plotting in the United States too often reaches levels of frenzy, hatred and passionate irrationalism.  The country is cutting itself up with the savagery of its partisanship.  Has been since Clinton, through Bush, and now with Palin and Obama, and the Arizona murders, is at the top of a very dark summit.

For The National, I’m Rex Murphy