Should members of Congress be afraid to meet the public after the Arizona shootings?

One of the reactions of the talking heads to the Tucson tragedy is a lot of chatter about how perhaps members of Congress won’t be able to meet and greet anymore. Rather conveniently, another Arizona congressman now announces that he cancelled his town hall meeting, an act for which he was criticized, because of threats. Why didn’t he say so at the time?    

But should our representatives be more sequestered from us? Well, there are some events that, terrible though they are, are just isolated and freakish occurences. As Steve Hayes observes in the Weekly Standard “sometimes a tragedy is just a tragedy.” Elaborate preparations to stave off a recurrence of such a one-in-a-lifetime event, beyond taking ordinary precautious, are silly. But here is why the talking heads don’t see it that way: they regard what happened in Tucson not as an isolated and freakish development but as a symptom of something deeply wrong in the body politic. Because these events are seen as stemming from something inherently flawed in our public debate, they are also viewed as something that is likely to happen again.

Or maybe I am being too kind. Less kind view: The people who are saying that the shootings are the result of the tenor of political debate, lax gun laws, Sarah Palin–take your pick–are really just trying to shut down debate. National Review’s Jay Nordlinger writes that the attempt to capitalize on tragedy in this way is something we see again and again:    

McVeigh and his helpers blew up the Oklahoma City building, killing more than 150. President Clinton strongly suggested that Rush Limbaugh and conservative talk radio were responsible. Do you remember his repulsive address at Michigan State University?

An extremist killed Yitzhak Rabin. People delighted in saying that this was all the fault of Likud, all the fault of conservatives, who had created the “atmosphere.” That was the big buzzword: “atmosphere,” alternatively “environment” or “climate.”…

When Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans with deadly force, many liberals pinned the blame on Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush….

It is always the right that is to blame, of course. The genteel folks on the other side call us murderers in the name of calming the waters! But as the U.K. journalist James Delingpole notes today, we Americans began our tradition of vociferous debate early on-it’s part of our DNA. Delingpole also sees in the blame game as nothing less than a contemptible ruse to silence one’s opponents: 

It’s in this context that we need to examine – or rather dismiss with proper contempt – the attempts by the American left (and, come to that, the European left) to co-opt the senseless, deranged killing of a 9-year old girl and five others in Arizona into its ongoing campaign to silence its political opponents.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t vote for anybody who felt the need to hide from the public.