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A fool with a badge is still a fool - Mike Reagan

When a would-be assassin shot my dad, President Ronald Reagan, nobody questioned the fact that the shooter was certifiably nuts.

Authorities recognized that fact and put him in a mental institution, as his obvious, disturbed mental state demanded.

Now, we have another attempted killing of a public official, Arizona's widely admired Rep. Gabby Giffords, and just about everybody recognizes that the shooter, one Jared Loughner, apparently has mental problems.

Moreover, that Loughner is probably mentally unstable, and perhaps, dangerously so, could not have escaped the attention of local law enforcement authorities, such as Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who already had Loughner in his sights, yet failed to do anything to prevent Loughner's obviously, foreseeable killing spree.

Yet, we don't hear a word of repentance for his failure to foresee what transpired in Tucson two Saturdays ago. Not a word, mainly because Sheriff Dubnik is too busy attacking Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives to turn his rhetoric loose on the shooter.

In Dubnik's twisted logic, Loughner may be a murderer, but somehow or other, it's all Rush's fault for his unforgivable habit of calling a spade a spade and referring to liberals as being mentally disjointed, as the majority of them are.

This kind of ridiculous response to a tragedy is becoming what the French would call de riguer -- the liberal's order of the day when one of their failures to recognize reality results in people getting killed.

As my more plainspoken friends would put it, Dubnik shoulda seen it coming, and he's now trying to obfuscate that fact by striking out at people who had not a single thing to do with Loughner's deadly actions.

"All I can tell you is that teachers and fellow students were concerned about his bizarre behavior in class to the point where some of him (sic) were physically afraid of him," Dupnik admitted to ABC News.

"He was acting in very weird fashion to the point where they had several incidents with him to the point where law enforcement at Pima College got involved and they decided to expel him. And they did."

That should have alerted the sheriff and compelled him to keep a close eye on the Loughner. Tragically, it didn't, so the killer was free to slaughter some of the sheriff's constituents without interference from Dubnik.

The sheriff is now busy trying to distract the public from recognizing his failure to protect his own member of Congress, a highly respected federal judge on his way home from daily Mass, and other innocent people from being attacked by a man he had to know was dangerous, especially when he was allowed to get within point-blank range of the congresswoman.

So in the strange world of Sheriff Dubnik, Rush Limbaugh's use of his freedom of speech in warning against the destructive policies of liberalism is "irresponsible," while his own poisoned rhetoric is permissible.

Incredibly, Dubnik has suggested that Uncle Sam put a gag on Americans by setting up a Goebbels-like "kind of commission" that would apparently "deal with civility and make recommendations on how to get it back."

That's apparently his view of what freedom of speech means - freedom to have it regulated by Big Brother. Yet, he insists he has nothing against what he called "heated arguments."

There's one consolation for having to put up with the rants and ravings of possibly senile public officials, and that is the fact that this guy is an elected official and the public can dump him, if he stands for re-election. At that time, they will have an opportunity to replace him with a new sheriff more like his colleague, fellow Arizona lawman Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Michael Reagan is the elder son of President Ronald Reagan and a political consultant. He is the founder and chairman of The Reagan Group and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. E-mail comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com.