In the aftermath of the Giffords’ shooting, a debate over heated political rhetoric
Has the country's increasingly heated political rhetoric gotten dangerously out of control?
That's the debate in the aftermath of Saturday's shooting rampage in Arizona, that left 6 dead and 14 others wounded, including Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The Arizona congresswoman remains in a medically induced coma after being shot at point-blank range in the head by 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner.
While Loughner's exact motives remain unknown, the shooting quickly set off a back and forth about the toxic tone of the nation's political discourse and whether it may have played a role in the attack.
On Saturday, Arizona authorities suggested that's a theory they are pursuing.
"There's reason to believe that this individual may have a mental issue. And I think people who are unbalanced are especially susceptible to vitriol," Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said in a news conference Saturday. "People tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech, but it's not without consequences."
The sheriff's comments echoed remarks Giffords herself made last year during the height of the 2010 midterm elections. In an interview with MSNBC last March, the Democratic lawmaker, who had been the target of threats over her vote on health care reform, noted her inclusion on list of lawmakers Sarah Palin was targeting for defeat that featured gun-related imagery. "The way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district," Giffords said at the time. "When people do that, they have got to realize there are consequences to that action."
On Sunday, politicians from both sides of the aisle cautioned against inflamed rhetoric, but that didn't stop the finger-pointing.
On CNN's State of the Union, Richard Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, referred to the Palin map that listed Giffords as a target as a sign of "toxic rhetoric" that had gone too farâ€”though he insisted he wasn't making a "direct connection" between Palin and Saturday's shootings.
"Don't we have an obligation, those of us in public life and those who cover us to say, 'This is beyond the bounds?'" Durbin told CNN. "We owe it to our own in both political parties to have at least the good sense and common decency when people say these outrageous things to say, 'Wait a minute, that just goes too far,' whether it comes from the right or from the left."
In GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander said he agreed with Durbin that people should "cool it" and "tone it down." Still, he warned that people should be "very careful about imputing the motives" of the shooter—though he went out of his way to note that Loughner didn't appear to be a member of the tea party, which some have implied.
"What we know about this individual is that he read Karl Marx; he read Hitler. We know he was burning the American flag," Alexander said. "That's not the profile of a typical tea party member."
In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Rep. James Clyburn, the No. 3 Democrat in the House, reminded viewers of former Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle's call for supporters last year to take "Second Amendment remedies"
"What does that mean? That is a very vitriolic statement, and I think that somebody is responsible for speaking up and denouncing that kind of stuff," Clyburn said. "When you don't denounce it, people keep ratcheting it up and people get to a point where you cross the line. And I think that in this instance, this issue has crossed the line."
Still, the debate is likely to rage over the use of gun imagery in campaigns. As Politics Daily's Jill Lawrence writes, Palin is hardly the first politician to use gun imagery in politics. It's something that everybody--Democrats, Republicans and media--has done.
For her part, Palin offered her "sincere condolences" to the victims in a statement on Saturday. At the same time staffers removed the map from the ex-Alaska governor's political site, though it remained available on her Facebook page. Rebecca Mansour, a Palin aide, told a GOP radio host that the graphics on the map was not a gun sight but a "surveyor's symbol." (Palin, herself, referred to the graphic as a "bullseye.")
Per the Alaska Dispatch, Mansour said attempts to link Palin to the shooting were "obscene" and "appalling." She insisted that there is "nothing irresponsible about our graphic."
Briefing reporters Sunday, FBI Director Robert Mueller reiterated that it was still "premature" to say why Loughner targeted Giffords. But he acknowledged the vast amount of inflammatory rhetoric on the internet had made it more difficult for law enforcement agencies to identify and track potential threats.
"The ubiquitous nature of the internet means that not only threats, but hate speech and other inciteful speech is much more readily available to individuals than quite clearly it was eight or ten or fifteen years ago," Mueller said. "That absolutely presents a challenge for us, particularly when it results in what would be lone wolves or lone offenders undertaking attacks."
Cowboy's comment: How come every lunatic using a gun is associated by the liberal and socialist media as conservatives, republicans or tea party activists? This is a rhetorical question as the answer is obvious,....Conservatives are the true keepers of the Constitution therefore protectors of the rights, God given and otherwise, articulated by the Constitution. The Palin haters, the big government supports, the welfare advocates and the dyed in the wool socialists will try to turn this criminal act into something driven by Conservative speak.
Here's what some idiots are saying:
"I see Fox news as stirring up hate and fear, because that's what I see my more conservative friends and family watch. I don't see the liberal media as that." - from FIVENOTE on blog.
Cowboy's comment:Well FIVENOTE, you are an idiot. I guess everyone easily forgets about the hate speech from Democrats on George Bush, Dick Cheney,...oh yeah, and on the military - accusing them of murder in the Iraq war.
"What infuriating words have pushed this poor young person so far as to turning him into a big mass murderer? Do not blame him alone. Unfortunately he is the only one who is going to pay with his life, plus all the other people who lost theirs and also that congresswoman fighting to stay alive. All those preaching hate will be there watching and condemning him." - from MINE on blog.
Cowboy's comment:"Do not blame him alone?" What drugs have you been taking? Then who is responsible? Violent TV shows? Xbox games shows? Maybe somebody took the shooter's lunch when he was in grade school. How about some frigging personal responsibility?.....Oh, MINE - you're an idiot.
"Contact your House and Senate members. Insist on a bill that will reinstate the Equal Time law that was for years in effect in America. Then when these people on hate-radio and hate-TV spew out their violence-provoking diatribe, the other side must be represented with equal time in the immediate future. It won't interfere with free speech, but it will spread The Truth after all this insidious hate.- A Texan on blog"
Cowboy's comment:Here it is,..blaming talk radio. The reason there is little liberal talk show radio is because nobody will listen, therefore the radio station's revenue from advertising goes way down. Make no mistake about it, The Equal Time act is a radical infringement on the First Amendment. TEXAN - you must be transplanted from San Francisco. Go back home to your Momma, Nancy Pelosi, you idiot.
"This guy was mentally unstable, loves guns, listens to palin, and anti-establishment. He is a tea party member." - NOhl on blog
Cowboy's comment: NOhl, is you could read or if you pull the potatoes out of your ears, then you would learn that law enforcement found material written by Adolph Hitler and Karl Marx in the shooter's residence. Plus some sort of satanic worship altar in a tent! The shooter is a deranged lunatic. P.S. Reading Karl Marx makes him a Democrat,...P.S.2. you are a babbling fool. P.S.3. The Tea Party and the Conservative movement rejects criminal and violent acts. We advocate the ballot box. We have more than sufficient results from elections,....or did you sleep through November 2010?