No one wants to politicize the Boston Marathon bombing. But a political opponent politicizing the Boston Marathon bombing? Well, that might be useful!
Politicizing a tragedy is tasteless. Attacking the other side for politicizing a tragedy makes you look like a caring sober commonsense voice of the people. But no one immediately politicized it. Washington was quiet. Poor old Texas Rep. Steve Stockman was reduced to being outraged at CNN's Wolf Blitzer, a mere cable news anchor, for something Blitzer did not do. After the attacks, Blitzer said, "It is a state holiday in Massachusetts today called Patriots' Day, and who knows if that had anything at all to do with these explosions." An outraged Stockman tweeted Monday afternoon, "Wolf Blizter should immediately apologize. The mainstream media once again exploit killings to attack political opponents."
The next only quasi-political thing that happened Monday was that in his first statement on the bombing, President Obama did not call the attack "terrorism." This made some people mad. When Obama made his second statement on the bombing on Tuesday morning, he offered no new information or sentiment. It appears the whole point was so he could say the word "terrorism" out loud. (Designating an event an act of terrorism actually has legal consequences, as The Wall Street Journal's Jacob Gershman explains, though it's hard to say the bombing was "unlawful violence intended for political effect" if we don't actually know who did it.)
Doubtful political types were hoping for some politicization to be outraged against? Politico's Mike Allen reported Tuesday:
EMAIL DU JOUR, from a top Senate aide: "Who will be the first to ... invoke Boston to bolster their argument in the gun control debate? Something to keep an eye on."
Top Senate Aide was not the only one wishing for such a gift. The Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper posted a video of Obama's former top strategist under the headline, "Axelrod: Obama Thinks Boston Bombings Could Be Related to 'Tax Day.'" But David Axelrod did not quite say that. On MSNBC, he rambled into speculation about why Obama hadn't used the word terrorism, and stopped himself:
"You use those words and it means something very specific in people's mind. And I'm sure what was going through the president's mind is -- we really don't know who did this -- it was tax day. Was it someone who was pro--you know, you just don't know. And so I think his attitude is, let's not put any inference into this, let's just make clear that we're going to get the people responsible."
Then former Rep. Barney Frank said on MSNBC Tuesday that he hoped the federal government would give funds to Boston to pay for security so the city didn't have to pay for it itself. "Do you feel that you're making a political argument?" his interviewer asked, excitedly. "I'm talking common sense," Frank said. "I’m saying that, if the sequester had gone through and we had not had enough money, we couldn’t be able to do this." Then, Tuesday afternoon, a real live sitting member of congress politicized the Boston bombing. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said it proves the sequester is a bad idea, that Congress shouldn't "pursue an irrational, across-the-board policy of cutting the highest priorities and the lowest priorities essentially the same percentage." (Update: Hoyer's office emails to say, "Mr. Hoyer was simply responding to a question posed by a reporter.") In an interview with The National Review Tuesday, Iowa Rep. Steve King noted that a Saudi student burned in the bombing had been questioned by police. (The Saudi man is not a suspect.) King said, "Some of the speculation that has come out is that yes, it was a foreign national and, speculating here, that it was potentially a person on a student visa... If we can’t background-check people that are coming from Saudi Arabia, how do we think we are going to background check the 11 to 20 million people that are here from who knows where?" At last!
Rush Limbaugh picked up on these comments -- plus some reporters' essays -- as proof of the left's cynicism and that the media is trying to "advance the left's political agenda." "Don't ever tell me that these people don't politicize everything," Limbaugh said. He aired New York Rep. Peter King saying on MSNBC the attacker could have been al Qaeda or a homegrown right-wing terrorist. "A Republican congressman holds out the possibility that it was a 'right wing' extremist!" the radio host said. "Nobody is holding out the possibility that it was a left-wing extremist!" Limbaugh just wants to make sure the media is speculating accurately. "The environmentalist wackos are the No. 1 -- or close to it! [Note: nice out] -- terrorist group!"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.