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The politics of the tragedy

“A day after the shooting of Ms. Giffords and 19 other people in Arizona focused the nation’s attention on the heat of its political culture, Republicans and Democrats began the delicate task of navigating a tragedy that has the potential to alter the political landscape,” the New York Times writes. “Leaders in both parties sought Sunday to project a nonpartisan civility, with President Obama, whose advisers were weighing the possibility of a national address, calling for a national moment of silence and the House speaker, John A. Boehner, replacing a contentious health care debate on Wednesday with a bipartisan security briefing for lawmakers.”

“Yet beneath that public sense of comity was a subtle round of jockeying — on cable news, blogs, Twitter and even Ms. Palin’s Facebook page — as both sides sought to gain the high ground and deal with the risks and challenges presented by the shootings.”

The Boston Globe quotes Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff of Arizona’s Pima County saying, “When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government -- the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous,” said Dupnik, noting that Arizona, roiled by the illegal immigration debate, has “become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

The Globe’s editorial adds, “This may be true about Arizona, but the shootings could have happened almost anywhere in the United States, given how thoroughly both ‘lock and load’-style gun metaphors and the demonization of opponents have saturated the nation’s politics… [T]he red-meat rhetoric -- the declarations of revolution, the casual depictions of people as unpatriotic, the brandishing of guns as a symbol of political resistance -- should be renounced across the political spectrum… No political leader or movement should be held responsible for crimes that appear to be Loughner’s alone, and all Americans would benefit from a culture less conducive to the fantasies of unstable minds. Liberals are justified in expressing alarm over the coarsening of the political dialogue. But those who have rushed to blame conservative causes or leaders for the killings should pause and consider whether they, too, are waving a bloody shirt and feeding a culture of denunciation. The responsibility for maintaining a civil dialogue starts in every home and with every individual.”

The Hill: “Reaction on the blogosphere was swift Saturday to the mass shooting in Arizona that killed at least six and critically wounded Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. But expressions of shock and sympathy for the victims of the shooting quickly gave way to a left-right battle over what may have motivated the gunman.”

Roll Call’s Bellantoni: “The stunning Tucson, Ariz., ambush during the most basic act of democracy — a Congresswoman meeting with constituents back home — has illuminated an ugly breakdown in American political discourse.” Here’s former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE): "Sarah Palin needs to apologize for putting gun sights on her website,” but added, "Wait a minute, I don't want to say that. Those of us who are appalled by it, those of us who are angered by it, we need to stop it." More: “The examples of inflammatory discourse abound, from gas lines being cut at the home of then-Rep. Tom Perriello's (D-Va.) brother when his address was posted on the Internet, to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) asking her supporters to get ‘armed and dangerous.’ Republican Sharron Angle referred to ‘Second Amendment remedies’ as she campaigned to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) in Nevada.” And: Giffords' 2010 rival held an event offering supporters a chance to shoot an M16 and ‘help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office.’”

And… Defeated Virginia Rep. Tom “Perriello told Roll Call he has less of a problem with Palin's target list (he was on it) than with the subtle "dehumanization" of political enemies that can spark violence. ‘To a crazed mind or a mind that might be prone to violence,’ name-calling can feed vitriol more than any campaign flier using cross hairs, he said.”