Who is 'using tragedy'?

After the horrifying killings at Virginia Tech yesterday, this morning I flicked around the radio dial to see what the professional talkers had to say on the matter. I landed on WRDU 106 FM "The Rooster" -- a country station and affiliate of airwave goliath Clear Channel Communications -- specifically their popular morning show "John Boy and Billy."

After a few standard minutes of expressing shock and dismay, the hosts fell into a surprising diatribe -- against Democrats (especially Sen. Kennedy, D-MA) and "the left" in general, and in favor of making sure all students at major colleges are well-armed so they can "take out" the next would-be shooter.

But the most interesting statement of all came during a "discussion" on gun control, which John Boy and Billy believe Democrats are now scheming to push through Congress in the wake of the shootings. I can't find a transcript, so here's a paraphrase from memory:

"These Democrats, they always use tragedy to advance their agenda. [Hurricane] Katrina, 9/11 -- they need to take these horrible tragedies and use them for their own political purposes."

Democrats used 9/11 "to advance their agenda?" I'm not sure where John Boy and Billy get their information -- maybe it's Fox News, which a recent Pew Center study found was the news source most likely to produce uninformed viewers (those most up on current events, Pew found, where watchers of The Daily Show and Colbert Report on Comedy Central).

But one can find plenty of examples of JB&B's ideological kin "using tragedy to advance an agenda" this week. For example:

* Conservative pundit Debbie Schlussel used the shootings to fuel hysteria about Muslim terrorism, "speculating" in an April 16 blog post that the shooter, who had been identified at that point only as a man of Asian descent, might be a "Paki" Muslim and part of "a coordinated terrorist attack."

* Fellow right-wing commentator John Derbeyshire of National Review seized on the tragedy to essentially call the victims wusses, writing "[Why] didn't anyone rush the guy? It's not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness' sake-one of them reportedly a .22."

* Rush Limbaugh jumped straight to the point, his commentary today featuring this headline: "Could We Blame Lack of Religion and the Liberal Culture of Death?"

But back to gun control -- who really was the first to "use the tragedy" for their "agenda" on this issue? Monday afternoon, in the White House's first statement on the killings, President Bush's spokesperson Dana Perino included this odd comment:

"The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed."

It wasn't until much later in the day -- after 10 pm Monday -- that Congressional Quarterly posted a piece, widely quoted on right-wing websites, reporting that Democrats in favor of gun control were pointing to the killings "as evidence of the need for tighter firearm restrictions." Looks like Bush beat the gun control advocates there.

The conservative website Red State railed against Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) in a post with this lead:

Less than 24 hours after the deadliest shooting spree in U.S. history, liberal Rep. Jim Moran took to the airwaves to launch a political attack against President Bush, congressional Republicans and the National Rifle Association.

"Less than 24 hours?" Even if it took Rep. Moran just 20 hours to call for gun control, that still puts him at least 12 hours -- and probably more like 15 -- behind President Bush's campaign to oppose gun restrictions.