Was Shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Political?

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Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was among 18 people shot Saturday morning at a public meeting the Arizona Democrat was holding with constituents outside of Tucson. At least five people were killed, including U.S. District Court Judge John Roll and a 9-year-old child. Giffords was taken to a nearby hospital, where officials describe her condition as very critical but said they were "very optimistic" she would recover from the shot to her head. The shooter, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, is in police custody. Andrew Sullivan and Garance Franke-Ruta are regularly updating at TheAtlantic.com as the story develops. Here is what commentators are saying about the shooting's implications and larger meaning. Initialy debate largely focuses on Giffords' record of opposing Arizona's controversial anti-immigration law and whether some conservative rhetoric -- such as Sarah Palin's controversial "target" map, which included Gifford -- could have played a role. Though several liberal writers raise this point, conservatives are so far mostly silent on the accusations.

  • The Ugly Political Context  Slate's David Weigel explains, "Last year, some Republican politicians used Second Amendment references (remember Sharron Angle and 'second Amendment remedies' if Harry Reid didn't lose) and revolutionary talk to express how angry they were about the state of their country. They strongly and vehemently rejected the charge, from Democrats, that they were encouraging an atmosphere of violence -- especially in the week after the health care vote. When Giffords's opponent held a fundraiser and pitched it as 'help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office, shoot a fully automatic M-16 with Jesse Kelly,' Democrats saw the specter of violence, and Republicans saw political posturing."
  • Did Extreme Political Rhetoric Contribute?  The Atlantic's James Fallows writes, "We don't know why the killer did what he did. If he is like Sirhan, we'll never 'understand.' But we know that it has been a time of extreme, implicitly violent political rhetoric and imagery, including SarahPac's famous bulls-eye map of 20 Congressional targets to be removed -- including Rep. Giffords. It is legitimate to discuss whether there is a connection between that tone and actual outbursts of violence, whatever the motivations of this killer turn out to be. At a minimum, it will be harder for anyone to talk -- on rallies, on cable TV, in ads -- about 'eliminating' opponents, or to bring rifles to political meetings, or to say 'don't retreat, reload.'"
  • Avoid Ideological 'Shoehorn'  The National Review's Jonah Goldberg sighs, "I’ve been trying to filter out the urge to vent my rage at those who immediately shoe-horned these awful crimes into their ideological prism. There have been some truly disgusting displays of opportunism out there. I will confess to having made those kinds of mistakes in the past and I try very hard to learn from those mistakes. If I had my druthers, the news networks would ban political commentators of all stripes for the first 24 hours after these kinds of tragedies. The rush to be wrong first is just too hard for some to resist."
  • 'Climate of Hate'  The New York Times' Paul Krugman writes, "You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate. And it’s long past time for the GOP’s leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers."
  • Fire Krugman; Shooter Is Liberal  Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft fumes, "If The New York Times was a respectable news organization Krugman would be reprimanded or fired. ... Of course, Krugman wrote this before we found out that the shooter Jared Loughner is a left-winger who considers the Communist Manifesto one of his favorite books. It’s time for Krugman to go!" However, as Reason's Radley Balko notes, "Alleged shooter's fave authors include Rand, Marx, Hitler, Harper Lee, Plato, Aesop, Orwell. Should be enough to confirm all biases."
  • Signs of Paranoid Schizophrenia  A reader emails Andrew Sullivan, "I'm a licensed psychologist with 20 years experience. I've watched the Jared Loughner Youtube videos. They show evidence of delusions of persecution. Loughner's less than coherent language also suggests a formal thought disorder. While Loughner can't be diagnosed without a full exam conducted in person, there are significant indications in the videos that he suffers from a psychotic disorder. ... If I had to guess, I'd go with paranoid schizophrenia. If that's the case, his politics are irrelevant."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.