The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others in Arizona has ignited a debate over whether sharp partisanship and anti-government rhetoric helped push the alleged assassin, Jared Lee Loughner, over the edge. Several liberal politicians said vitriolic rhetoric from Tea Partiers and others contributed to the tragedy by stirring up hatred and setting the stage for political violence. But conservatives say it's "disgusting" to politicize the tragedy by using it to "demonize" the right, especially since the motive remains unknown. Is it irresponsible to point fingers so soon? (Watch The Week's Sunday Talk show Briefing on the politics of the attack)
The right created a dangerous climate: It's "facile and mistaken" to blame this "madman's act" on Republicans or Tea Party members, says The New York Times in an editorial. But it's perfectly "legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger" that has produced threats against Giffords and other politicians, and against judges such as John Roll, who was one of the six people killed in the Tucson rampage. Words have consequences, and "the voices of intolerance" invite this kind of bloodshed.
"Bloodshed and invective in Arizona"
It is shameful to politicize this tragedy: After the mass-murder at Fort Hood 14 months ago, says Ed Morrissey in Hot Air, liberals in the media scolded anyone who suggested it was an act of terrorism fueled by radical Islam. Now those same people are rushing to use the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords to indict the right. Trying to smear the political opposition by linking it to "a tragedy and horror" is shameful and unwise, especially given that the suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, is reportedly a "paranoid schizophrenic" who appears driven by illness rather than ideology.
"The shame — and hypocrisy — of CNN"
It is time to cool the vitriol: Conservatives are right to reject the left's finger pointing, says David Frum in Frum Forum. "Yet as we acknowledge that extremist rhetoric did not incite this crime, it should also be acknowledged that the rhetoric has been extreme, and potentially dangerously so." The heated partisan "talk did not cause this crime," but the "crime should summon us to a quiet collective resolution" to reflect on the impact of our words. Let's all try to tone it down.
"Can we tone down the political rhetoric?"