‘MCCARTHYISM’ IT ISN’T…. I expect conservatives to circle the wagons during a tense time, but Bill Kristol is throwing around some odd rhetoric.

A conservative pundit on Monday ripped liberals who have suggested that Sarah Palin is to blame for the shooting tragedy in Arizona.

During an appearance on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal,” Bill Kristol of the conservative-leaning Weekly Standard magazine called the criticism of the former Alaska governor “a disgrace.”

He said there is no proof that Jared Loughner, the suspect, was a fan of Palin or went to her website, which had labeled Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and other Democrats a political target last year; it was illustrated with a graphic of crosshairs that has triggered a political debate. […]

Kristol said those who are blaming Palin, such as Paul Krugman of The New York Times, are practicing “McCarthyism.”

For the record, I think blaming Palin for the massacre is absurd. I found her crosshairs effort to be wildly inappropriate; I think her “reload” rhetoric is distasteful; and I find the former half-term governor to represent the very worst American politics has to offer — but I haven’t seen any reason at all to hold her responsible for Saturday’s violence.

That said, I also don’t know of any prominent political figures who have blamed Palin. I’ve seen plenty of pieces arguing that she contributes to the ugliness and toxicity of our discourse — a point that seems more than reasonable — and that there can be consequences for her brand of right-wing politics. I’ve also seen pieces argue that conservatives need more sensible leaders than a clown like Palin, and that the media has a responsibility to call her on her routine garbage.

But that’s not what Kristol was referring to. He said the left is blaming Palin for Saturday’s shootings, and on this specific point, Kristol appears to be swinging at a straw man.

But putting all of that aside, “McCarthyism“? Didn’t the right decide recently that they like McCarthy?

Besides, as Adam Serwer explained very well, Kristol’s criticism isn’t just wrong; it’s ironic.

McCarthyism is a form of political discourse at which Kristol excels — having personally been involved in accusing Justice Department lawyers of being sympathetic to terrorists and Pennsylvania Democrat Joe Sestak of being a friend of Hamas. McCartythism is William Kristol’s native language.

If Palin’s allies want to defend her from allegations she incites violence — if such allegations exist — fine. But Kristol’s defense clearly needs some work.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.