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Sunday, January 09, 2011

Arizona Assassination Attempt

Saturday, a young gunman shot and killed 6 people at a scheduled political appearance by a Democratic member of Congress. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head, but is apparently expected to recover.

The local Sheriff of Pima County, Clarence Dupnik, took advantage of the national media audience to condemn the state of political discourse in his state -- though many of his arguments apply nationally as well. From CNN:
"We need to do some soul searching," Dupnik told reporters. "It's the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.

"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 county is getting to be outrageous. Unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital," Dupnik continued.

"We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry," Dupnik said.
He continued:
"People who are unbalanced may be especially susceptible to vitriol," Dupnik said. "It's not unusual for all public officials to get threatened constantly, myself included. That's the sad thing that's going on in America. Pretty soon we're not going to be able to find reasonable people to subject themselves to serving the public."

Dupnik returned to the theme later in the press conference.

"People tend to pooh-pooh this business about the vitriol that inflames American public opinion by the people who make a living off of that. That may be free speech but it's not without consequences," Dupnik said.
Representative Giffords herself condemned the political discourse early last year when she pointed out the framing of Sarah Palin's rhetoric after the health care bill passed:
Last March, Giffords raised concerns about inflammatory rhetoric after her office was vandalized, and she cited how her name appeared on a website titled "take back the 20" as part of a list originally issued by Sarah Palin against vulnerable House Democrats.

A map on the site showed crosshairs over the contested Democratic districts.

Palin first posted the list in March 2010, naming 20 House members who voted for health care reform and represented districts that Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona won in the 2008 presidential election.

"The thing is, the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district," Giffords said in March. "When people do that, they've got to realize there's consequences to that action."
Palin's map created a minor-firestorm at the time -- the women on "The View," for example, were very critical of Palin, including outspoken conservative Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

You can see the bullseye/gunsight map yourself on Palin's Facebook page -- or reproduced by others, in case Palin takes it down. On Twitter, Palin wrote,
"Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" Pls see my Facebook page.
As Firedoglake has already noted, Giffords's Republican (tea party) opponent Jesse Kelly (shown in "military garb holding his weapon") announced a June campaign event with this ad:
Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M15 with Jesse Kelly.
Rachel Maddow has reposted a photo from the event, which showed participants aiming guns at human silhouettes.

Here's video from last March of Giffords raising her concerns about Palin's target map on MSNBC -- see especially the section beginning 2:10 into her interview:
The CNN piece includes a number of other quotes from political analysts and public officials criticizing the state of political discourse in this country -- and condemning the attacks. The latter point is bipartisan (who doesn't condemn the shootings?), while the concerns about the rhetoric are coming almost exclusively from Democrats.

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