What Part of 'Sarah Palin' Do You Not Understand?

Howard Kurtz laments her invocation of "blood libel":


Blood libel, for those who are not familiar, describes a false accusation that minorities--usually Jews--murder children to use their blood in religious rituals, and has been a historical theme in the persecution of the Jewish people. 

Had Palin scoured a thesaurus, she could not have come up with a more inflammatory phrase.

As someone who has argued that linking her rhetoric to the hateful violence of Jared Loughner is unfair, I can imagine that the former governor was angry about how liberal detractors dragged her into this story. But after days of silence, she had a chance to speak to the country in a calmer, more inclusive way. She could have said that all of us, including her, needed to avoid excessively harsh or military-style language, without retreating one inch from her strongly held beliefs.

No she couldn't have. There is no evidence, anywhere that Palin has any interest in being calm or inclusive. This is who she is, and it's what she does. And it's not especially new. More than anyone Palin understands this:

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. But when was it less heated? Back in those "calm days" when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols?

For once, I agree with Sarah Palin. Calling herself a victim of "blood libel," is really only a notch above Clarence Thomas claiming he was being subject to a "high-tech lynching." Or John C. Calhoun claiming that Northerners were hell-bent on taking away the liberty of slave-holders. 

This is what populist demagogues do. This is who they are.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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