Garance Franke-Ruta is a senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic. More
She was previously national web politics editor at The Washington Post, and has also worked at The American Prospect, The Washington City Paper, The New Republic and National Journal magazines. At The Prospect she won the 2007 Hillman Prize awarded to its group blog, "Tapped."
In 2006, she was fellow at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Mass., and in 2007, a summer fellow with The Iowa Independent, based in Des Moines, Iowa.
Garance has lectured at the Kennedy School, the Harvard Art Museums, Williams College, Wellesley College, Brandeis and Georgetown Universities, and taught in Georgetown's Master of Professional Studies in Journalism program. She also has made numerous appearances on national and regional television and radio programs.
Born in the South of France, Garance grew up in San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico; New York City, New York; and Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has resided in Washington, D.C., since graduating from Harvard in 1997.
Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, who is considering a bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, invoked President Obama's race during an interview with the conservative CNS News network show "Online with Terry Jeffrey" as a reason the president should oppose abortion.
"The question is -- and this is what Barack Obama didn't want to answer -- is that human life a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says no," Santorum said in the interview, which was posted online Wednesday. "Well if that person, human life is not a person, then, I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, 'we are going to decide who are people and who are not people.'"
Opponents of abortion in recent years have compared the status of fertilized eggs, even pre-implantation, to that of pre-Civil War slaves who were not considered fully human. For example, materials from the Illinois Right to Life Committee argue that "The court decisions on slavery vs abortion demonstrate an equivalent denial of personhood for two different categories of human beings, slaves and unborn children."
As well, opponents of abortion rights argue that legalized abortion has led to a "black holocaust" and that African Americans ought to be against abortion for this reason.
So while Santorum's words may seem a shocking playing of the race card likely to diminish his already slim shot at winning the GOP crown, they are consistent with the internal narratives of the contemporary abortion rights opposition movement and notable mainly for including a reference to the president, rather than to African Americans more generally.
Santorum himself made that argument midday Thursday in a statement released to CBN's "The Brody File".
"For decades certain human beings were wrongly treated as property and denied liberty in America because they were not considered persons under the constitution," he said. "Today other human beings, the unborn of all races, are also wrongly treated as property and denied the right to life for the same reason; because they are not considered persons under the constitution. I am disappointed that President Obama, who rightfully fights for civil rights, refuses to recognize the civil rights of the unborn in this country."
No big surprises. Priebus went into the balloting as the favorite, consistently gained votes in each round, and then won on the seventh and final ballot. The only real surprise is that it took him as long as it did to put the race away. But because none of his competitors started off with an embarrassingly low number of votes, there was little incentive for them to drop out in the early rounds, even if, as in the case of incumbent chairman Michael Steele, the odds of winning were extremely low. Steele appeared to need a demonstration of his low odds in the balloting, dropping out only after the fourth round and losing support along the way.
A graphic compiled Charles Franklin of Polls and Votes showed Priebus picking up steady support and then surging once Steele and political professional Ann Wagner dropped out of the race.
Guam didn't matter. After all the hubbub about Steele's visit to Guam and support for and from the Pacific Rim, it wasn't enough to get him anywhere he needed to be. America's day may begin on Guam, but the sun set on Steele in a generic-looking ballroom in his home state of Maryland.
Barbour vs. Boehner. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) may lead the House, but Priebus was boosted by early backing from Henry Barbour, the nephew of the Mississippi governor and Republican Governors Association head. Boehner threw his weight behind Maria Cino, making calls on her behalf and even holding a fundraiser for her in Washington this week. She never got above 40 votes.
Still no elected woman. Mary Louise Smith is the only woman to have served as RNC Chair; she was appointed to the position by President Gerald Ford and served from 1974-1977. Her appointment was very much a reflection of the times, in that her tenure predated the emergence of the Christian right and the conservative turn in the Republican Party, making it possible for a woman who supported abortion rights and the Equal Rights Amendment to serve in the party leadership role. No woman has ever been elected to the RNC chairmanship by committee members, and this year was no exception. Cino, for her part, was seen as a liberal among the candidates for RNC chair despite being firmly against abortion rights and supporting the party's opposition to gay marriage. Steele's support for Cino during the balloting only strengthened that impression.
Tea party comes in from the cold. Priebus helped bridge the chasm between tea party supporters and more longstanding Republican figures in Wisconsin, and has promised to do it again as RNC chair. Not all tea party groups are happy with his win -- the Tea Party Nation tweeted out "Priebus elected chair of RNC. Welcome to Michael Steele 2.0." after the final votes were tallied -- but Priebus has promised to soothe such divides.
SEE ALSO: "How to Pronounce Reince Priebus"
Priebus was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee Friday on the seventh round of balloting.
"White House Case" is the term of art used by psychiatrists since the at least the 1960s to describe a distinct subset of the mentally ill who become psychotically preoccupied with the inhabitants of the White House or other government offices.
The term originated at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Southeast Washington, where members of the Secret Service would dump floridly delusional individuals from across the country and even the world who washed up at the White House gates, having incorporated the president into their distorted thinking as villain or savior.
The centrality of political figures in the deluded thinking of the psychotic is a problem Washington has been dealing with as long as there have been political figures and mentally ill -- and one it still grapples with today.
"Washington has a magnet effect," observed Robert Kiesling, the medical director of Pathways to Housing and a former medical director at St. Elizabeth's. "We get a lot of folks from all over the country -- all over the world for that matter -- who come here to do business with the government for various delusional reasons. They make up a high percentage of the homeless population in DC."
Most psychotic visitors drawn to the nation's capital by their political obsessions or delusions, according to a 1943 report by Dr. Jay L. Hoffman, who reviewed cases from 1927 to 1937, came seeking relief from a sense of persecution. A 1965 article from the American Journal of Psychiatry on "Psychotic Visitors to the White House" sought to follow up on Hoffman's contention that the personality of the president and current problems of the government influenced the type of person who showed up and the number of hospitalizations.
The study authors founds that this seemed to be the case, with the greater celebrity of President Kennedy leading to far more hospitalizations than were made in the final year of Eisenhower's presidency.
"In 1960, when Mr. Eisenhower was President, only nine patients were admitted, but 32 were hospitalized in 1961, Mr. Kennedy's inaugural year. This would suggest that some personal characteristic of the President was important," the authors concluded.
A fresh groups of researchers returned to the topic in the 1985 journal article, "White House Cases: psychiatric patients and the Secret Service":
Delusional visitors to the White House or other government offices (often seeking a personal audience with the President) are interviewed by the Secret Service and then sent to Saint Elizabeths Hospital if they are considered mentally ill and potentially dangerous to themselves or others. A review of the demographic characteristics and diagnoses of 328 of these 'White House Cases' treated at the hospital between 1970 and mid-1974 showed that these patients were most commonly unmarried, white, and male, and most had a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. Although 22% of this group have threatened some prominent political figure, to date none of this study's patients has attempted to assassinate any such government official.But a 1990 survey on "Violent crime arrest rates of White House Case subjects and matched control subjects" came to a different conclusion, finding that in a sample of those "psychotically preoccupied with a prominent political figure" and discharged from psychiatric hospitals in the early 1970s, "White House Case subjects with prior arrests had a significantly higher rate of total posthospitalization violent crime arrests than the matched control sample."
Is the a lesson to be learned from Washington's experience with White House Cases in the wake of the Tucson shooting?
If so, it is a very straightforward one.
"The lessons from the shooting is the lessons from Virginia Tech and various other incidents that have happened like this," says Kiesling. "People need treatment and if they are experiencing symptoms, they need to get into treatment as soon as possible or they have bad outcomes."
They are not for the dead, but for the living who, through communal and public expressions of grief and shared emotion, honor the lives of those who have passed, and the fleeting majesty of existence, which they recommit themselves to cherishing.
President Obama tonight in Arizona not only did what he needed to do, he did what the nation need him to do, which is to let its members -- like members of a dysfunctional family whose brittle cousins spent the last five days snapping at each other -- finally break down and feel, together, what they were really feeling, the full weight of awfulness of the national tragedy and crimes that were committed in Arizona.
And the value and values of the lives that were lost.
He began his speech, as he so often has begun speeches in the past, in a dry voice whose flat tone failed to fully communicate the import of the weighty words he spoke. And, then, toward the final third of his speech, his chin wobbled, his voice changed and he resonantly inhabited each word he relayed. He moved from professorial Obama to Obama the orator, the man who won America's vote and has too often been hidden of late behind the face of Barack Obama, worried head of state and hard-charging bureaucrat.
It was interesting to watch the debate on Twitter and on television, and to see complaints about the T-shirts handed out at the University of Arizona and about how loudly the crowd of students cheered give way to cheers of 140 characters or less from conservatives and liberals alike for Obama's speech.
Tomorrow, the cousins may renew their squabble.
But for tonight at least, and with an assist from their president, they grieved.
Every day new details emerge that threaten to turn us all into the John Boehners of our offices, misting up over our Twitter feeds. Nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green will be buried in a special coffin built and blessed by Trappist monks from Peosta, Iowa. Dorwan Stoddard, who was murdered, was the elementary school sweetheart of his wife, Mavy; they reunited after their life-long spouses died. Jared Lee Loughner's father chased him into the desert the morning of the shooting, and then the 22-year-old was pulled over by "a wildlife officer" for running a red light just hours before going on the rampage that killed six and wounded 14. Daniel Hernandez is awesome, a model of youthful composure.
The Tea Party Express is raising money off the tragedy and full of outrage about liberals. Tea Party Nation blames the shooting on liberals, calling Loughner a "leftist lunatic." Sarah Palin makes the story all about her, issuing a video -- with the comment function turned off, natch -- to defend free speech, in which she also accuses her critics of "blood libel." Jewish groups are outraged, and the Nathan Diamant, public policy director of the Orthodox Union of Jewish Congregations of America, says Palin's "response keeps our political and civic discourse in the gutter."
Four Arizona Republicans resigned local party positions out of fear for their lives after the shooting. The Tucson Tea Party leader says threats have made him afraid to go to the Obama speech tonight.
Most of the country does not believe politics were a major factor in the shooting, and a USA Today/Gallup poll reports that 53 percent agree "that commentators who allege conservative rhetoric was responsible were mostly attempting to use the tragedy to make conservatives look bad."
This is a horrible story, sparked by a horrible person who did a horrible thing, and provoking horrible and honorable people alike into saying horrible things.
As Obama gets ready to address the nation, one thing is clear.
The bar for delivering a unifying and healing speech this evening could not be lower.
Did Sarah Palin pull her video response to the shooting in Tucson following widespread outcry from Jewish groups and political observers?
Though the video became temporarily unavailable on Vimeo midafternoon -- the version embedded here at The Atlantic stopped working and gave instead the warning, "The creator of this video has not given you permission to embed it on this domain. This is a Vimeo Plus feature" -- it turned out to just be a tech glitch on the user end.
Team Palin has not removed her video. Not at all.
But someone did tweak the controls, perhaps accidentally.
"The temporary disabling of the Sara Palin video was done by the video creator. Vimeo did not experience any glitches, nor did we alter the video in any way," said Deborah Szajngarten, a spokesperson for Vimeo.
The former GOP vice presidential nominee, who has been little heard from since making a brief Facebook statement on Saturday and later passing a note to Glenn Beck to read on air, released a seven-and-a-half minute video Wednesday morning defiantly defending the right to free speech and seeking to shift debate over responsibility for the shooting from the consequences of heated political rhetoric to the actions of the shooter, alone.
"Like many, I've spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event," Palin said.
"President Reagan said, 'We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.' Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election," she continued.
"Within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible," she said.
The term "blood libel" has been used by a number of conservative pundits -- such as Glenn Reynolds, writing in the Wall Street Journal Monday -- to reject liberal criticism as part of the fierce debate that has raged these past few days over what constitutes responsible political speech. But it is nonetheless a term with a specific historic meaning that sits uncomfortably in Palin's video and is bound to open the former Alaska governor to a fresh round of criticism, distracting from the rest of her message in the video. The blood libel is an anti-Semitic myth dating to the middle ages that Jews murder Christian children to use their blood in religious ceremonies; it served as the basis for centuries of genocidal persecution.
"There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently," Palin says in her statement. "But when was it less heated? Back in those 'calm days' when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial. But our Founding Fathers knew they weren't designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government. Our Founders' genius was to design a system that helped settle the inevitable conflicts caused by our imperfect passions in civil ways. So, we must condemn violence if our Republic is to endure."
"Public discourse and debate isn't a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional," she said, adding later:
"We will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults."
Palin's full statement, "America's Enduring Strength," can be read on her Facebook page or here, at HyperVocal.
SEE ALSO: From Jeffrey Goldberg, "Why Sarah Palin's Use of 'Blood Libel' is a Great Thing."
"This is a very difficult time for us. We ask that the media to respect our privacy. There are no words that can possibly express how we feel. We wish that there were so that we could make you feel better. We don't understand why this happened. It may not make any difference, but we wish that we could change the heinous events. We care very deeply about the victims and their families. We are very sorry for their loss."
Where were they?
And where have they been since the shooting?
For more than two days members of the chattering class have talked about the alleged culpability of Sarah Palin, tea party groups, right-wing pundits, left-wing writers, and the incendiary political environment more generally.
This despite the fact there is no evidence Loughner ever read Sarah Palin's target list; that he was not on the e-mail list or membership rolls of the Tucson Tea Party; and that he appears to have been obsessed with Giffords, reports Mother Jones, ever since she failed to answer a question he posed to her in 2007, "What is government if words have no meaning?"
Jared Lee Loughner was so obviously disturbed a classmate warned a friend about him, writing in an e-mail before he was forced from college last fall, "He scares me a bit.... Hopefully he will be out of class very soon, and not come back with an automatic weapon."
A neighbor was afraid enough of the foreboding house where he lived with his parents, Amy and Randy Loughner, that she wouldn't go there with her daughter to sell Girl Scout cookies.
According to pictures tweeted out by reporter Meredith Shiner -- really, you must look at them, and compare the Loughner house to his neighbor's and the rest of the block -- Loughner lived in a house obscured by a wild jungle of plants, in the middle of a neat desert community where neighbors had cacti and plain desert-dirt yards.
Tucson is not big. Its population is just over half a million people, according to the 2008 population estimates, making it smaller than Washington, D.C.
But as Arizona's second-largest city, it's also no small town. It has excellent medical services, as the survival of so many shooting victims who arrived at hospitals alive attests. And it has one of "the most progressive mental health laws in the country," according to The Washington Post, permitting "[a]ny person, including any of the students in Loughner's classes ... or any of his teachers" to petition "the court to have him evaluated for mental illness."
Its students and educators were attuned to the threat Loughner posed, and reacted appropriately in barring him from classes in an effort to protect themselves.
The systems he encountered worked to flag him. The military kept him from enlisting after he failed a drug test. His philosophy teacher identified him as "someone whose brains were scrambled" and tried to get him to seek help. Ultimately, his behavior grew so erratic his community college responded to the widespread concerns of his teachers and classmates by demanding he receive a mental health evaluation before returning to class.
According to The Arizona Republic, his parents were aware of the university's concerns:
Pima Community College officials said that beginning in February, Loughner had the first of five contacts with police at the college. In September, officials said Loughner posted a YouTube video declaring Pima Community College illegal under the U.S. Constitution along with other statements about the college.Did he ever get help after this?
"College administration issued a letter of immediate suspension," officials said in a statement. "Two police officers delivered the letter of suspension to the student at his and his parent's residence and spoke with the student and his parents."
According to Pima Community College officials, Loughner and his parents met with Northwest Campus administrators Oct. 4.
"During this meeting, Loughner indicated he would withdraw from the college," officials said. "A follow-up letter was sent to him Oct. 7, 2010, indicating that if he intends to return to the college, he must resolve his code-of-conduct violations and obtain a mental-health clearance indicating, in the opinion of a mental-health professional, his presence at the college does not present a danger to himself or others."
If Loughner had attacked the school, instead of Giffords, we'd be asking about this, instead of Sarah Palin's 2010 target map.
We should do so anyway.
Whatever Loughner's relationships were with what he read on the internet, it was nonetheless the relationships inside the world he physically inhabited that doubtless did -- and had the potential to -- shape him more.
"You try to say something, they'd just ignore you and turn around and walk back into the house," Ron Johnson, who lives opposite the Loughners, told The Washington Post about the parents. "The kid -- I never talked to him. He acted just like his parents and ignored you."
Perhaps we will learn in the days and weeks ahead that Loughner's parents lived in fear of their son, too, seeking and failing to find him the help he clearly needed.
His father was observed sobbing in the driveway as police swarmed their home, collecting evidence.
Either way, if the shooting had found a different target, what happened between Loughner's expulsion from college and the moment on Nov. 30, 2010 when the 22-year-old purchased a Glock 9 mm pistol would be among the most important questions we'd seek to answer.
As it should be, even now.
A spokesman for Western Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.) e-mails:
We can confirm that there was a threat against Senator Bennet's office and that the FBI working with the Capitol Police have arrested the individual responsible for the threat. Per their advice, we are referring inquiries related to this matter to the Capitol Police. Michael has full confidence in the law enforcement agencies handling the case and remains focused on his job serving the people of ColoradoThe Denver Post has more:
Federal authorities have arrested a man accused of repeatedly making threats to Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet's staff.(Disclosure: Sen. Bennet's brother James Bennet edits The Atlantic.)
The most recent threats allegedly came on Thursday, two days before a gunman in Arizona killed six people and wounded 14 others, including a congresswoman.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, John Troy Davis called Bennet's Denver office Thursday upset over his social security benefits and during the call said he, "may go to terrorism." He also allegedly said, "To get your attention, I will go down there and set fire to the perimeter," according to the affidavit.
During a call several days earlier, Davis, who lives in the metro area, told another Bennet staffer, "I'm just going to come down there and shoot you all," while complaining about social security benefits, according to the affidavit.
Sarah Palin new media aide Rebecca Mansour sought to deflect attention from an electoral map Palin posted on her Facebook page last March in an appearance on Tammy Bruce's radio show Saturday. The images long described as crosshairs or rifle sights were actually just surveyor's symbols, Mansour said.
The exchange, via Weigel:
MANSOUR: I just want to clarify again, and maybe it wasn't done on the record enough by us when this came out, the graphic, is just, it's basically -- we never, ever, ever intended it to be gunsights. It was simply crosshairs like you see on maps.While there is no evidence the alleged Tuscon shooter ever saw the electoral target list of SarahPAC, Palin's political action committee -- let alone took it to heart as an instruction -- what is clear is that Palin's history with weaponized rhetoric and imagery will be -- and already has been -- cast in a new light by the shooting in Arizona. And the former Alaska governor seems certain to continue to draw unflattering attention in the months ahead, if only because martial metaphors have been such an essential part of the Palin rhetorical quiver and we are now entering a moment of reflection on the wisdom of brandishing such tropes.
BRUCE: Well, it's a surveyor's symbol. It's a surveyor's symbol.
MANSOUR: It's a surveyor's symbol. I just want to say this, Tammy, if I can. This graphic was done, not even done in house -- we had a political graphics professional who did this for us.
Whatever her aide now says about the target list, there is no question that Palin has reveled in creating a political image bristling with weaponry and gun talk, from her support for aerial wolf-hunting to her hunting and halibut-clubbing adventures on TLC's show "Sarah Palin's Alaska."
Indeed, the same day Palin posted the image with the scopes over congressional districts on her Facebook page, she tweeted, "Don't retreat, Instead - RELOAD" and asked her followers to check out her Facebook page for details.
As well, there has been no national political figure in American life more eager to correct media misconceptions in real time that Palin, raising questions about why she did not object in the spring of 2010 when controversy erupted over her imagery, which even Giffords described on national television as representing gun "crosshairs."
One clue to Palin's actual intent comes from a Nov. 4, 2010 Twitter posting where she crows about her record using the targeting map. "Remember months ago "bullseye" icon used 2 target the 20 Obamacare-lovin' incumbent seats? We won 18 out of 20 (90% success rate;T'aint bad)," she wrote.
What do you think of Mansour's explanation? Please leave your thoughts in the comments, below.
Sign up to receive our free newsletters