Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

A Master

Jvh5bkdlxmejmtraiirg
AP Photo

I want to take a moment to discuss Palin's decision to blame the incident on PTSD or her son's wartime service in the Middle East - both as a substantive matter and an editorial decision for us.

Substantial numbers of soldiers (in the broad sense of the word, inclusive of all branches) suffer PTSD. And it would be wrong to make too fine a distinction between those with a formal diagnosis and the large numbers who have more limited difficulties transitioning back into civilian life. And while the major symptoms of PTSD are depression, alienation from loved ones and various sorts of inward anguish and self-destructive behavior, when it spills out it is often in the form of impulsivity and violent behavior. So even if we dislike Palin and tire of her penchant for blaming others and always seeing herself as a victim, we can't rule out the possibility that some level of psychological damage suffered on duty contributed to this incident. This isn't a matter of saying violence against women is "okay" if it's tied to PTSD or psychological trauma any more than it's "okay" when some damaged person goes out and kills someone - or much more often kill themselves. Understanding the causes or triggers of criminal behavior does not condone it. Indeed, it's a key way to learn ways to prevent it in the future.

At the same time, when someone gets drunk, beats up a girlfriend and starts brandishing a firearm with threats all around, our default assumption should be that they've committed a very serious crime - not that they're a victim in need of support. It may turn out to be a mix of the two. It can be. But doing the opposite is no less a sick parody than those liberal caricatures we think of seeing a brutal gang homicide and having their first thought be how the killer's childhood poverty (whether they even actually grew up poor or not) gave them no chance at life. Palin's attitude seems to be that beating the crap out of his girlfriend almost amounts to an extension of Track's military service for which we should all be proud and thank him. And this doesn't get into her almost comically hideous decision to blame President Obama for her son's behavior. PTSD, known as 'shellshock' a century ago and under various other names through history, long predates this presidency or these wars. A possible - I stress 'possible' since there is little or not public evidence for this at all - factor in the incident becomes a catch-all justification, an alchemical process transforming him from perpetrator to victim lickety-split.

We can't really know what led to this, without finding out much more information which we probably will never get and really have no business getting. What's clear enough from this and numerous other incidents is that for Sarah Palin it's always someone else's fault, someone else's blame or bad behavior and never her or her family or any role of hers in her family's problems. Grievance and resentment are the alpha and omega of Palin's emotional range and political message. There may be something to this latest claim that Track's suffered psychological damage in Iraq. Or it may not. But it can only be understood in the context of her always blaming someone else for everything that ever happens.