- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 9, 2011

The assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords over the weekend prompted lawmakers on Sunday to blame, in part, the nation’s political rhetoric as overheated and also push such issues as congressional security and gun-control laws.

“We need to stop, pause and reflect,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican, said just hours after leaders of the Republican-controlled House announced there will be no votes this week in the chamber, including one scheduled to repeal the health care law.

The man accused being the gunman, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, has been linked to Internet postings about reading the works of Adolf Hitler and Karl Marx, but there are no official comment on a motive in the shootings Saturday at a Tucson, Ariz., shopping center in which six people were killed and 14 others injured.

Still, Democratic leaders suggested the news media and politicians — particularly 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin — played a part in the incident.

“We live in a world of violent images and violent words,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat. “But those of us in public life and the journalists who cover us should … try to bring down the rhetoric, which I’m afraid has become pervasive in our discussion of political issues. The phrase ‘don’t retreat, reload,’ putting cross hairs on congressional districts as targets … invite the kind of toxic rhetoric that can lead unstable people to believe this is an acceptable response.”

Two people embrace each other Saturday at the scene where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Democrat, and others were shotoutside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Ariz. (Associated Press)
Two people embrace each other Saturday at the scene where Rep. Gabrielle ... more >

Both Mr. Durbin’s phrases referred to Mrs. Palin, who exhorted conservatives back in March via her Twitter and Facebook accounts “don’t retreat, instead - reload” in all capital letters after the health care bill passed.

The “cross hairs” reference was to a map she put up months ago that targeted Mrs. Giffords and 19 other lawmakers for defeat over their votes in favor of President Obama’s health care plan. Mrs. Palin’s SarahPAC site took down the map.

There is no evidence from Mr. Loughner’s political postings on the Internet or any official word that he had seen the Palin map or phrase or wanted to punish Mrs. Giffords specifically over the health care bill.

Mrs. Giffords, a moderate Democrat in Republican-leaning Arizona, won her third term in November in a close race.

For her part, Mrs. Palin offered “my sincere condolences” Saturday “to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today’s tragic shooting in Arizona” and a spokesman took to the airwaves Sunday to deny any link to the shooting.

“We have nothing whatsoever to do with this,” Palin aide Rebecca Mansour said Sunday in an interview with radio host Tammy Bruce.

Despite the contention, politicians in both parties pulled together to praise their colleague and trim back much of their own politicking in favor of more somber actions.

House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio told lawmakers in a conference call Sunday to “pull together as an institution,” and the flag over the U.S. Capitol was at half-staff.

“What is critical is that we stand together at this dark time as one body,” he said. “We need to rally around our wounded colleague, the families of the fallen, and the people of Arizona’s 8th District. And, frankly, we need to rally around each other.”

President Obama called for a national moment of silence at 11 a.m. on Monday, saying, “It will be a time for us to come together as a nation in prayer or reflection, keeping the victims and their families closely at heart.”

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