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Posted by on Jan 9, 2011 in At TMV | 0 comments

Arizona Shooting Spree Will Likely Alter American Politics

When alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner wounded Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six people at a grocery store in Tucson it was an act that will likely be a watershed moment in American politics.

At least in the long term.

In the short term, politicos of both parties are now talking about how perhaps it’s important to adjust the tone of American politics. And that would certainly be a nice, lofty goal: almost day by day, American politics on so many fronts is increasingly personal and toxic, where the operative goal seems to be to paint the other side as evil as possible. You see and hear it in Congress, on the radio, on TV, on the web and (most assuredly) in comments sections on web-logs of all political persuasions.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. You’ll turn blue.

Most likely, there will be a period where politicos, talk show hosts, bloggers, talking heads, newspaper columnists and partisan activists from both parties rein in some of the vitriol. But then place money in Vegas that it’ll be business as usual. There is now too much of an institutional and cultural vested interest in American politics in keeping the tone and pundit flow as it now exists: partisans and ideologues on both sides find that pushing “hot buttons” is a way to rally sympathizers to your side and talk radio and cable ideological shows and websites make money throwing red meat to an audience that shows up because they already agree with an opinionated host or info-outlet.

Within hours of the bloody tragedy in Tucson, some partisans were already sniping (…Were his posts on a conservative website beings scrubbed since the website went down?..Were they removed from a liberal website?…Wasn’t the media and weren’t liberals showing their true colors by mentioning Sarah Palin’s military/gun laced rhetoric earlier this year in talking about people she wanted to defeat?)?

But you’ll likely see the shootings have a long-term impact: on the style and perhaps venues of future American political debate.

Remember before John F. Kennedy was assassinated? Presidents often rode in open cars. Secret Service agents would be at their side as Presidents stopped to shake hands and there was always a threat but it seemed somehow more nebulous than real. The assassinations five years later of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Bobby Kennedy and the 1981 attempt on the life of Ronald Reagan changed all that.

Remember when you could drive right by the White House? 9/11 changed that.

Remember when you could get on a plane without taking everything out to be checked or when going to your plane didn’t mean a possible touchy-feely moment from an airport security guard? 9/11 and subsequent threats changed that.

The most likely impact of the shooting — whether it turns out that the shooter had some political motives, was a lone nut, or a combination of the two — will be this:

Never again will you likely see security quite as lax during an event when a Congressman or Congresswoman meets his/her constituencies. Security will have to be boosted.

And if there are more tragedies such as this when members of Congress try to connect with their constituents, look for this kind of meeting to go the way of VCRs.

Expect the 24/7, bitter, toxic war between partisans and competing ideologies to resume after a (brief) hiatus. Expect the comments of some members of Congress and talk show hosts to be as over the top as ever and sometimes veering on the edge of incitement to violence as always (you may even hear a talker say something outrageous on Monday to propel himself into the headlines, spark outrage and get ratings).

But don’t expect to see events with Congressmen ever to be quite the same.

Even if security is not beefed up, expect to be scrutinized by security people. And if it gets worse, you can even expect some touchy-feely admission requirements, TSA-style and for a good reason: the shooting wasn’t just an attempted assassination but took out a bunch of people including a judge and an innocent 9-year-old child who had not yet even savored teenage-hood. It was an attack on the system, the political class and Americans who assumed meeting a Congresswoman would not cost them their lives.


HERE IS A CROSS-SECTION OF NEWS AND WEBLOG REACTION TO THE SHOOTING:

Andrew Sullivan:

I have no expertise in this at all, but my impression of his writings and web presence does indeed suggest to me that some mental illness is probably a key part of this. But this does not exonerate violent or excessive rhetoric from the far right or far left: it’s precisely the disturbed who can seize on those kinds of statements and act on them. The danger of violent rhetoric, especially involving gun violence, is its interaction with the disturbed. That was Pelosi’s message last year…

….After today, it’s harder to ignore threats of violence from the far right, isn’t it? That a reader responded to this live-blog by hoping that I be shot is a sign of where we’ve come.

Glenn Reynolds:

And judging from the comments to this post, people are already trying to score political points. Well, they kind of telegraphed this strategy, didn’t they? Remember Bloomberg making a fool of himself by blaming the Times Square bombing on the Tea Party? How about waiting until we actually know something, this time? That’s likely to be soon enough.

Booman:

After Sarah Palin put a bullseye on the backs’ of twenty Democrats, it was only a matter of time before some lunatic would shoot one of them in the head at point blank range. That’s what happens when you tell people to “take your opponents out” and/or use “2nd Amendment remedies.” And that’s what happened today in Tuscon, Arizona, as Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-08) was meeting with her constituents at a Safeway supermarket.

-Reuters:

Even before the shooting of a congresswoman on Saturday, the state of Arizona was in the throes of a convulsive political year that had come to symbolize a bitter partisan divide across much of America.

The motives of the alleged shooter, who wounded Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six people in Tucson, are not known and they may not be political.

But after an acrimonious election in November that followed months of bitter exchanges, politics looms large in the wake of the shooting and a local sheriff pointedly blamed hateful political rhetoric for inciting violence.

“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government,” Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik told a news conference.

“The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

The spark in Arizona’s political firestorm was the border state’s move to crack down on illegal immigration last summer a bill proposed by conservative lawmakers and signed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer..

The New York Times:

The shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and others at a neighborhood meeting in Arizona on Saturday set off what is likely to be a wrenching debate over anger and violence in American politics.

While the exact motivations of the suspect in the shootings remained unclear, an Internet site tied to the man, Jared Loughner, contained antigovernment ramblings. And regardless of what led to the episode, it quickly focused attention on the degree to which inflammatory language, threats and implicit instigations to violence have become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture.

In the hours immediately after the shooting of Ms. Giffords, a Democrat, and others in a supermarket parking lot in Tucson, top Republicans from Speaker John A. Boehner to Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona quickly condemned the violence.

“An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve,” Mr. Boehner said in a statement. “Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society.”

Even the Pima County sheriff, Clarence W. Dupnik, felt moved to say in an evening news conference that this was no longer the country “that most of us grew up in,” and he called for the nation to do some “soul-searching.”

Crooks and Liars:

The presence of a second suspect, or involved person, suggests there is much more to this than an unbalanced person showering a crowd with bullets, but without details it’s just too early to tell. Just now on MSNBC, Eugene Robinson said that the violent rhetoric now is coming exclusively from the right wing, and they should be accountable for it.

Crooks and Liars also offers this remarkable video: Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik called out for an end to the violent rhetoric:


The Washington Post’s Stephen Stromberg:

. At this point, even if the shooter turns out not to have been politically inspired, this event will snap anyone watching politics back into worrying about the possible consequences of the hyperbole and half-truth that politicians, pressure groups and their supporters sometimes use.

Regardless of the shooter’s motive, also expect to hear about how the assailant shot Giffords using a pistol with an extended magazine in the context of increasingly lax gun laws. The Capitol Police has already warned lawmakers to take precautions, and the question of whether members of Congress should have security details will come up. Some will question whether resources should be diverted from fighting foreign terrorism to combating domestic terrorism.

As the speculation continues, it’s now impossible to avoid contemplating what this could mean. If this shooting was politically motivated, it’s a dual tragedy. It’s an attack on ten human beings, wounded or dead. And it’s an assault on among the most fundamental mores in any democratic society — the notion that men and women of good will can assemble, speak reasonably and take positions based on the force of argument, not on threat or brutality. Given the bare horror of the death and maiming, motive almost doesn’t seem to matter. But I still hope this wasn’t about health care or immigration or the federal government. That would be a new low in America’s recent political culture.

Michelle Malkin:

There is NO indication yet of the gunman’s identity, agenda, or motives, but my Twitter feed is already filled with Tea Party-bashing, Palin-bashing recriminations and accusations that I have “blood on my hands” for advocating border security and 2nd amendment rights.
They never learn.
***
While Republicans are being accused of murder, keep in mind that Giffords provoked the ire of Daily Kos liberals for refusing to vote for Pelosi for House Speaker earlier this week.

….Update
7:08pm Eastern – In one of his YouTube videos, Loughner claimed to be a military recruit. Stars and Stripes reports the Army found no record of any enlistment contract with Loughner.
This is not left or right.
He was a nut..

Pink is the New Blog:

Palin‘s official Facebook page, before this incident occurred today, featured the gun-sights target map above. As if crazy radicals need help with their deranged plans, now they have colorful maps to help them plan out their assassinations. I can’t even describe how horribly disgusted I am by this shooting. Rep. Giffords may lose her life just because she decided to go to a local grocery store to talk to supporters (i.e. for doing her job as an elected official). In my mind, this is a clear case of political assassination. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Giffords family and to the families of all of the innocent people who were killed or injured in today’s shooting. Let’s keep them all in our thoughts and prayers.

–A related post on Crooks and Liars:

Fox News started covering a vigil that was happening at the steps of the capitol in Arizona in honor of Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot earlier today. As soon as a young man mentioned Sarah Palin’s name, FOX News abruptly cut to commercial. It’s sickening. FOX News will do anything to protect the investment they have made in Sarah Palin, even at the expense of Rep. Giffords.

Ed Morrissey:

Update (AP): I suspect this story’s going to shift very quickly from an “ideological nutjob” narrative to one about an obviously ill man not getting the help he needed.

-Atlas Shrugs:

Here’s a screen shot (maybe evidence), now pulled, from the DailyKos, dated from January 6, 2011, that may be related to the Arizona shooting, 6 dead, 19 injured. The headline of the page is :

My CongressWOMAN [Gabrielle Giffords] voted against Nancy Pelosi! And is now DEAD to me!

John Cole:

I’m begging you. Please stop with the speculation until we know something. All we know is that many people are dead, and it is a horrible situation.


A quick cross section of Tweets:

ArronOberholser #Guncontrol activists slam #Arizona over #Giffords shooting: http://politi.co/eD8TUh” guns don’t kill people, crazy people w/guns do.
half a minute ago via Twitter for iPad

bartleby6 So… does this qualify as a “2nd Amendment Solution”, Ms. Angle? http://goo.gl/r6kqn
half a minute ago via web

copperhead7903 RT @mbruning81: Blame anyone you want, but the only person responsible for today’s shooting in Arizona is the gunman.
half a minute ago via TweetDeck

KalimanGuard The Arizona shooting is the harvest of of the mentally deranged TEA PARTIERS & MENTALLY DEFICIENT REPUBLICANS!
half a minute ago via web

Kokolet90 smfh this arizona shooting is so sad ; pray for tha ppl & families involved .
half a minute ago via Mobile Web

Nick603 RT @donnabrazile: RT @whitneypitcher Wow. What love. In protecting his wife, a man takes a sacrificial bullet during today’s atrocities: http://bit.ly/f5S4y9
half a minute ago via Twitterrific

graceawong RT @starkravingmadM: Great post by @mom-in-a-million about the shooting in Arizona today: Don’t Reload. Don’t. http://goo.gl/fb/pTcXG
less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

RealAdrianC RT @Politico: #Guncontrol activists slam #Arizona over #Giffords shooting: http://politi.co/eD8TUh
less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

jlkn RT @39forks: If this was a school shooting, the student who posted the cross-hair map would be in custody right now. (Rep Gabrielle Giffords) #Arizona
less than a minute ago via web

sashi__ Reading about the tragic shooting in Arizona. This is what happens when hate takes over in politics…..
less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

vergisst reading comments from people saying that the Arizona shooting was orchestrated by the CIA/Mossad makes me a sad, sad panda
less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

WhitePaw2012 RT @abc: Sheriff Clarence Dupnik on Arizona Shooting: “We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.” (via @MichaelPFalcone)
1 minute ago via HootSuite

Talking Points Memo:

Tucson Tea Party founder tells TPM that her group is “deeply saddened” by today’s shooting spree but will not tone down its rhetoric.

-Hill Buzz:

The Left is furiously trying to blame conservatives and the Tea Party for the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords…a conservative Democrat at odds with Nancy Pelosi who is a committed proponent of illegal alien crackdowns and a dedicated opponent of the reconquista movement and other Leftist causes. Daily Kos and other Leftist sites hate Giffords, but the Left is trying its best to claim the Tea Party is somehow involved in the assassination attempt on her.

This flies in the face of basic reason, as the most likely motivation for an attack on her is in the ranks of the Left, who are angry at her for cracking down on illegal immigration.

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein has a post that needs to be read in full. Here is part of it:

A lot of the attention focused on Sarah Palin’s call to “Commonsense Conservatives and lovers of America: Don’t retreat, Instead — RELOAD!” That was linked to a map in which gunsights were placed on the districts of various vulnerable Democrats. One of them was Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s. “It’s time to take a stand” was written across the top of the map. But Palin wasn’t alone in using violent imagery and rhetoric to rouse her supporters.

Sharron Angle, in a January radio interview, warned that “if Congress keeps it up, people may find themselves resorting to Second Amendment remedies.” Rep. Michele Bachmann said she wanted Minnesotans “armed and dangerous” in opposition to cap-and-trade. Jesse Kelly, who ran against Giffords in 2010, held a gun-themed fundraiser. The pitch read: “Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office, shoot a fully automatic M-16 with Jesse Kelly.”

I’m not suggesting that any of these individuals really meant to advocate for acts of violence. In fact, I’m sure all of them are sick to their stomachs tonight. And there is, for us and for them, comfort that today’s events do not seem to have been an act of calculated political intent so much as an act of mental derangement. But today’s shooting was a reminder of what real political violence in this country could look like, and the awful recognition that it could’ve easily fit with comments made by trusted political figures should stop us cold. We’re lucky to live in a country where political violence is rare. We’re lucky that that doesn’t appear to have changed. But that may be dumb luck that we’re benefiting from. It is hard to look through those statements and believe that we’re doing enough to keep our political system peaceful.

The Nation:

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a moderate Democrat who stirred the wrath of right-wingers with her vote for health care reform but was narrowly reelected in November, was shot by a gunman Saturday in what appears to have been as assassination attempt at a community event in Tucson….

…The target of a highly controversial campaign for her defeat in 2010 by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Giffords was one of 20 House members whose district was marked with a gunsight target in a SarahPAC message that had Palin telling her ardent backers: “It’s Time to Take a Stand.”

Despite the targeting by Palin, Giffords was reelected.

Now, she is apparently struggling for her life. Initial reports said the congresswoman had been killed; now, the latest reports from Arizona say she remains in surgery.

The New York Time’s Paul Krugman:

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.

Update: I see that Sarah Palin has called the shooting “tragic”. OK, a bit of history: right-wingers went wild over anyone who called 9/11 a tragedy, insisting that it wasn’t a tragedy, it was an atrocity.

Update: I’m going to take down comments on this one; they would need a lot of moderating, because the crazies are coming out in force, and it’s all too likely to turn into a flame war.

Time Magazine:

Sometimes, rumors of violence beget actual violence. Saturday’s mass shooting at a Safeway on North Oracle Road in Tucson, which left Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition and at least nine others wounded, may well be one of those occasions.

It’s impossible to know this early what the motivations for the attack were. Was the alleged shooter — who, according to the AP, has been identified as man in his 20s named Jared Loughner — angry about immigration? Or perhaps another hot-button issue? Last March, at the height of the health care reform battle, Giffords’ office was vandalized. She mentioned in an MSNBC interview that a Sarah Palin mailer had depicted her district in the crosshair of a gun sight. “They’ve got to realize there are consequences to that,” she said. “The rhetoric is incredibly heated.” The corner next to her office had also become, she said, a popular spot for Tea Party protests.

Digby:

So, this gunman has been identified and from his Youtube page it appears he a schizophrenic young man who’s been under the influence of extremist right wing rhetoric. Political assassins are often mentally ill — history’s full of them. So let’s not kid ourselves — it’s not a coincidence that he shot a congresswoman. His videos are full of right wing political gibberish and from what he said in his bizarre videos, it’s clear that all the looney tunes anti-government talk flying around the ether and an excessive gun culture fed into his paranoia.

What sparked his actions today are still unknown.

Newshoggers:

Various individuals are frantically trying to make connections between Loughner and either the right-wing Palinite tea party movement or ultra-left radicals, depending upon their own partisan bias.

We at Newshoggers will try not to do that. It’s way too early to make such pronouncements, both in terms of evidence and of good taste. Apparenty the shooter was arrested so we’ll all find out in good time.

Our deepest condolences to the bereaved and best wishes to the injured and their families.

The Daily Kos has this excellent roundup of the reaction from bigwigs in Washington.

The Boston Herald:

Even before the name of the shooter was known, a fierce debate spilled out across blogs and social media, with liberal commenters blaming the attack on the violent imagery evoked by some tea party candidates and conservatives during the recent midterm elections.

They noted that Giffords’ tea party-backed opponent, Jesse Kelly, held a fundraiser at a shooting range in which he invited supporters to “help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office” by shooting an M16 with him. They pointed to an online map Sarah Palin posted during the midterm elections that used gun sites to mark each congressional Democrat she wanted to defeat, along with her frequent use of shooting metaphors on the campaign trail…

….Thomas Hollihan, who teaches political rhetoric at the University of Southern California, said people on the political fringe “get affected by a kind of toxic political culture that makes them angry and paranoid that their government is being taken away,” he said.

But he cautioned against coming to any conclusions about the motivations of the shooter in Tucson. “People who commit crimes like this are often just unhinged,” he said.

MLIVE.com:

GRAND RAPIDS – Former Congressman Pete Hoekstra said the shooting of an Arizona Congresswoman today has the ability to “fundamentally change the way that congressional members go about doing their work in their districts.”….

…..“Over the past few years, politics has become mean spirited and personal,” said Hoekstra, a Holland Republican who retired after 18 years in Congress.
He said he didn’t know Giffords well, but “at the end of the day, we are all family. This is absolutely tragic.”

–The early CNN report:

–Gifford’s interview before her event:

–Raw Video of the aftermath of the shooting:

Jim Lindgren:

When a very probably mentally ill person kills a judge and a young child, that person’s politics are not terribly relevant. The cause is usually mental illness, not political ideology. But even if you don’t agree with me on that point, the current attacks on conservatives over this shooting are at least premature, since we don’t yet know what Jared Loughner’s politics were.

-Mike Thompson:

This will upset a lot of people who are itching to mold Saturday’s tragic shooting in Tucson, Ariz., into a club to be used for political advantage: we don’t yet know what motivated the alleged gunman, Jared Lee Loughner. But don’t tell this to writers in the blogosphere where blame for the shooting has already been assigned to everyone from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to Tea Party activists, as Howard Kurtz noted on “The Daily Beast” in a great piece on the rush to score political points that routinely follows tragedies: http://bit.ly/dTFytV…

….Yeah, I know it’s been said that we live in a world where we expect instant answers to our questions – we want everything to be just a Google search away and we want all dilemmas to be resolved as quickly as they are in sitcoms on TV. This tragedy, however, doesn’t lend itself to any quick conclusions. So resist the urge to jump to any.

-Jay Tea:

My initial theory was based on the use of automatic weapons, reports of a possible second gunman, the targeting of a government official, and the proximity to the Mexican border. My newer theory is this guy was a complete psycho, not a political ideologue; he didn’t exclusively target the Congresswoman or the judge, but was shooting any and all present.

The suspect is in custody, apparently unwounded.

Update: what I should have said from the outset is something I’ve said before, but let myself forget:

Crazy people do crazy things for crazy reasons. And self-censoring to avoid giving the crazies their excuse is futile; they’ll find something to set themselves off.

-Dean Esmay:

Let us just grieve for these people, and for the United States, a country where we are blessed to hold free and fair elections regularly, and wherein one elected public servant just apparently paid a heavy price, which hurts all of us.

*Update*: Voice of America reports that reports are conflicting, some say she’s dead but others claim she’s alive but in surgery.

*Update 2*: The coverage continues to evolve. I curse what we used to call the 24-hour news cycle; it’s not even an hourly news cycle anymore. Now the stories are that the Congresswoman alive, Judge John Roll and a nine year old child are dead, at least 18 people were shot. The suspect had a whitebread name of Jared Lee Loughner and had postings on YouTube and MySpace. Apparently his MySpace page is down, but this is his YouTube channel. Some basic vaguely rightwingish nuttery stuff about the Constitution not being followed and the money being no good if not backed by gold and silver, but overall looks like the incoherent ramblings of a schizophrenic to me.

Powerline’s Scott and Paul:

Initially, some news outlets reported that Rep. Giffords was dead. But the latest report is that she’s expected to recover. However, a federal judge reportedly was killed in the attack, as was a nine-year-old girl.

Words cannot convey how monstrous this attack is.

MORE (by Paul): The shooter is said to be Jared Loughner. Not surprisingly, he’s written on the internet. Not surprisingly, his writings amount to senseless ranting, sometimes in the form of attempts at syllogisms. Not too surprisingly, Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto are among his favorite books.

In all likelihood, Loughner’s disjointed political musings will become the subject of intense analysis. I expect many on the left to attempt to link his anti-government raving to the Tea Party and/or to the “right” in general. Some on the right will describe him as an anarchist and perhaps point to evidence of his atheism.

The entire exercise is a fool’s errand at best. His writings are those of a nut. They barely merit being read, never mind analyzed.

Of more interest are reports that Loughner may not have acted alone. The belief systems of crackpots don’t matter. The extent to which they are banding together to commit crimes does.

–Read the comments on this Washington Post post

–Here’s Giffords reading the constitution in Congress earlier this week.