Mr. Limbaugh pre-emptively complained that the "drive-by" media will pick up on his comments and accuse him of comparing liberals to psychopathic killers. That may not have been the substance or intent of Mr. Limbaugh's comments. But even if one takes pains to appreciate the context and nuances of the remark, the question has to be asked: "What good does it do anybody to guess at the shooter's politics?" Even if he were known to vote one party or the other, what would that have to do with this case that seems fundamentally about untreated mental illness? Hid political affiliations seem about as relevant as the killer's preferred athletic shoe or soft drink. The reflexive calls for and against sticter gun control laws are crass and premature this soon after the tragedy, but at least at some appropriate time they will form the basis of a useful debate. The same cannot be said of Mr. Limbaugh's characterization of Mr. Cho's political leanings.
Mr. Limbaugh makes a comparison to remarks made by president Clinton in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing. President Clinton suggested that the incendiary rhetoric of the right may have played a role in inspiring such crimes, or at the very least fomenting a political culture that facilitated them. Mr. Limbaugh obviously feels the remarks were directed (wrongly) at him, that it would have been wrong to associate his relentless verbal assaults on "big government" with Timothy McVeigh's physical assault on same. The problem with that view is that McVeigh's crime was explicitly a political crime, and McVeigh's politics were explicitly known and explicitly in agreement with Limbaugh's expressed views. McVeigh made no secret of his politics and chose a political target for his attack. Cho Seung-hui did not put himself on one side or another of any political debate, at least not in the process of justifying his crimes. He never identified himself as liberal or conservative, republican or democrat. He said he acted in part to avenge some class of victims, but he never identifies them as victims of big government or big business or any of the standard bogeymen of either political pole. He availed himself of, and defiled, both the First and Second Amendments.
A special shout-out goes to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for exploiting this tragedy in only a slightly more intelligent way than Limbaugh. Gingrich blames the culture of liberalism of the last 40 years for the rampage, but refrained from aligning Cho with the political forces that created that culture.
Both men have displayed remarkable insensitivity, ignorance, and/or cynicism. I hope both men receive stern rebukes from Virginia governor Tim Kaine, who warned against just this sort of political exploitation in the days following the shooting.