Arizona shooting raises questions about tone of U.S. politics

Evidence suggests shooter had planned attack on Democratic congresswoman in advance


Americans were plunged into a state of national mourning this weekend when reports of a mass shooting outside a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona surfaced on Saturday. In the end, six people were killed, including a federal judge and a 9 year-old child born on September 11, 2001, and 14 were wounded. The target of the attack is believed to be U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head when the alleged shooter, 22 year-old Jared L. Loughner, went on a rampage that authorities are calling a premeditated assassination attempt. It has even been described as the worst instance of domestic terrorism since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

After being shot in the head at point-blank range, the Democratic congresswoman is in critical condition, but against all odds is currently expected to survive. According to Ms. Giffords’ neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Lemole, the bullet avoided critical areas of the brain when it entered from the back of her skull, passed through the left side and exited through the front of her head.

Police say Loughner, described as a social outcast with ties to hate groups, has so far refused to cooperate with investigators. However, an envelope found in his home had the words “I planned ahead,” “my assassination,” and “Giffords” handwritten on it. He will appear in a Phoenix courthouse on Monday.

While it is believed that Loughner acted alone, the shooting rampage has set off a national debate about the vitriolic tone of U.S. politics. Ms. Giffords’ name had appeared on Sarah Palin’s list of 20 Democrats who had voted for health care reform with crosshairs appearing over their districts. Sherriff Clarence W. Dupnik sparked further partisan controversy when he called Arizona “the Tombstone of the United States of America,” and criticized the state’s firearms law during a press conference.

President Obama led the nation in a moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House at 11 a.m. EST on Monday.


The New York Times

The Globe and Mail

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Arizona shooting raises questions about tone of U.S. politics

  1. Our prayers go out to Ms. Giffords and hopefully she will recover fully.
    To blame this on the tone of politics in the U.S. is foolish. This is a country of 300 million people comprised of all kinds of people most sane, some not. Anybody who walks into a crowd and begins shooting is not normal. Lets not get too carried away about making this something it is not. This is the action of someone who is not in charge of his mind.

    • No. But several politicians and governent officials have been speaking out in favor of violent revolutions lately. Maybe people should think about their words a little more.

    • The House of Commons can be very raucous during the Questions and Answers session, but you don't hear the leader of the Liberals, Michael Ignatieff, comparing Prime Minister Stephen Harper with Adolf Hitler like Rush Limbaugh did with Barack Obama. Nor does Mr. Harper call Elizabeth May "an environmentalist wacko" like Limbaugh has called Al Gore.

      There's a tone in American politics that you don't find in Canadian politics, and it mostly comes from people like Glenn Beck, Anne Coulter and Rush Limbaugh on the Right. When Harper eventually calls for elections in order to obtain a simple majority in the House of Commons, it's unlike that his political opponents will accuse him of making a grab for absolute power like Obama's enemies have accused him.

      That being said, let us not blame Sarah Palin for the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords this past Saturday. The FBI is already sure that Jared Loughner acted alone, like Lee Harvey Oswald probably acted alone in assassinating John F. Kennedy.

      Loughner was a loner with delusions of grandeur who thought that he was taking the stage as one of the great figures of American history. He wasn't the type who would be interested in joining the Boston Tea Party unless he could become one of its leaders.

      However, people in the States badly need to tone down the rhetoric, because young and impressionable minds could think that the crosshairs on Sarah Palin's website are an invitation to assassinate public figures rather than a list of congressional districts that Palin and her supporters would like to win in the next election.

      • The democrats used crosshairs too on a political map. Why don't you mention that? And this guy's favorite book was 'Mein Kampf'. Doesn't sound that Republican to me.

        • he also had a copy of Ann Rand(sp) and several other books of notoriety…

  2. I have to wonder if this is the way it'll be from now on. Every time some disturbed individual goes crazy, people will turn it into a political circus of who can claim the moral high ground because he(she) belonged to the other side. This isn't and shouldn't be political. I don't care if he was a Republican or Democrat. What I do care about was that, somehow, all the warning signs were missed/ignored by those around him and something that could have been prevented wasn't.

    My heart goes out to the families and I hope Rep. Giffords and the others injured make a full recovery.

  3. Perhaps the actions of Jared Loughner cannot be assigned directly to U.S. politics, but the anger and vitriol of heavily televised and Internet-disseminated American media almost certainly affected this unstable person. Watch out, good Canadians, — Rupert Murdoch , NewsCorp , FOX and Glenn Beck are coming to your wonderful country.

    • And, what other than your own biases would lead you to come to that conclusion?

  4. American political discourse has been embarrassing for a while. When the president is presented by mainstream media and politicians as illegitimate, a Nazi, fascist, genocidal, the largest threat to democracy (like, in, forever!)… it is the people who believe such garbage I feel sorry for, and only hope most of them lack the means or inclination to take real action against false threats.

    There will always be random events such as these, where someone unbalanced (and regardless of ideology/partisanship) will commit terrible acts.

    • You're right – the media did treat President Bush like that. But this happened when Obama was in office – please try and keep up.

  5. "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun" – Barack Obama Jun '08.

    Democrats and Republicans have both used the 'crosshairs' symbol to target opponent's congressional districts, but there's no evidence that this shooting has anything at all to do with those symbols.

    Politicians and political activists must be able to speak freely.

    • It's a good thing he said that or you would have nothing to go on…

      • Check the posts appended to reporting on the attack published in the Washington Post. Obama is credited with about 20 comments that are inflammatory…if you think the comment above is inflammatory. Personally, I do not find it a recommendation to violence. However, if you are insane, maybe it is.

        • 20 comments huh….wow………shall I get you video…pictures…and comments from the wackadoos on the right?….there is a false equvilancy here that is being pushed by the pundits and folks like you that is SO obviously a desperate attempt to distance from the nasty rhetoric of the last 2 years……

        • Michele Malkin????… mean the woman who did this….poor choice….she is part of the problem…she posted the addresses and phone numbers of these students and they were subsequently harrassed….

    • 'Politicians and political activists must be able to speak freely. '

      You're right. But it is my sincere hope that those politicians and political activists who use violent rhetoric — whatever side of the political spectrum they're on — are shunned and ignored. Violence has no place in civilized society, and certainly no place in our politics.

  6. and don't forget

    If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” Obama said in Philadelphia last night. “Because from what I understand, folks in Philly like a good brawl. I've seen Eagles fans.”

    Barack Obama – June 2008

  7. Whether or not the tone of political discourse is a factor in this shooting, there is no doubt that confrontational, wedge politics funnels opinion down a road that places partisanship above all else.
    Does this same road lead to good government?
    I doubt it.

  8. "While it is believed that Loughner acted alone, the shooting rampage has set off a national debate about the vitriolic tone of U.S. politics. "

    What it should also be doing is serving as a wakeup call to Canadian media to shout that you are headed down the same path……too many pundits, toomany opinions……not enough journalism. Too many editorials, too much partisan talk…..NO talk about actual policy, no talk about real isues…..

    Macleans……as an example, you gave more time to Ignatieff's bus break-down and what a loser he was for that happening to him than you have on Harper's trashing of the long-form census and the many implications of that……..what does THAT tell you?

    • Well, Stan L that tells me you have not been paying attention in your Macleans Blog Central class.

      There was a couple of blog posts about Iggy`s bus breakdown one day last summer.

      There has been hundreds of blog posts and thousands of comments about this whole census non-story, culminating in a Wherry post last week where he linked to a Liberal blogger who wrote that the greatest threat to Canadian democracy was that a minority Conservative government proposed to change the long form census from compulsory to voluntary.

      You are right about the need for more objective journalism at MacLeans.

  9. This only exposed the extreme bias of the left towards those that disagree with them, the Tea Party. The instant accusations by the liberal media and liberals themselves, before any facts were even present, and then proven that their accusations were wrong, is an absolute indictment of how bankrupt the liberal ideology is.

    It is disgusting how many liberals offered "condolences" while finger pointing at Tea Partiers without any facts present, and that includes the sheriff. There is nothing that can be redeemed for liberalism here; nothing. They are wrong and that is the reality.

    • Democrat gunned down – and you take this opportunity to claim that libreal ideology is "bankrupt" and "disgusting". Shine on you crazy diamond.

      • Did you read my post? Liberals took the first 10 minutes as an opportunity to bash conservatives like myself for being responsible. All that tells me is that if this is the level that they have to stoop to then they absolutely must be utterly bereft of ideas. It's disgusting how many times "condolences" where said, followed by "this must have been done by the evil conservatives." I am disgusted at how politically charged this event became, but it became this way because of liberal ill and preconceived notions of conservatives.

        • I read your post. It says:

          “… absolute indictment of how bankrupt the liberal ideology is ….”

          “There is nothing that can be redeemed for liberalism here; nothing. They are wrong…”

          Thank-you for giving us this teachable moment on how to turn someone else's tragedy into an attack on liberals. Can you think of any event that doesn't prove you are right and anyone who disagrees is absolutely wrong? Guess not.

    • You're right Ryan… The lefty media see this tragedy as an opportunity to further their agenda of zero tolerance of anyone who doesn't think like them. Disgusting.

  10. The press has interviewed Loughner's neighbors, high school chums, college professors, college classmates, and acquaintances. None of them have charged that he was associated with hate groups. He was mentally ill. No report in the last three days has identified a hate group of which he was a part.

    His college expelled him because he was a disruptive influence in class, insubordinate to professors, and frightened many of the people around him. As to his political ideology, he was so incoherent as to have none.

    He literally cannot string three short thoughts together that make sense. When the shrinks are through with him, he likely will not be brought to trial. If tried, he almost certainly cannot be convicted.

    • Loughner post a rant on government mind control through English grammar on YouTube. That's his politics.

      • Can you give me the link to that? I don't want to miss a farce of THAT magnitude.

        • "While many details about Loughner are still unconfirmed, some unsettling YouTube videos filmed just weeks ago have been attributed to him. One video consists of a mix between delusional rants and harrowing warnings. After explaining his opposition to what he calls “treasonous laws,” he goes on to write, “In conclusion, reading the second United States Constitution, I can't trust the current government because of the ramifications: The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.” He continues “No! I won't pay debt with a currency that's not backed by gold and silver! No! I won't trust in God!” Newsweek, Jan 10, 2011

          A link to Loughner's youtube page. Loughner clearly has serious mental issues and is not really in control of his actions. Should have been on meds, or in a hospital, anything really. That Newsweek article has classmates talking about how scary he was and they were worried for their safety. Why was Loughner still on the streets even tho many people were aware of his problems and quite scared of him.

          • and yet he had NO problem purchasing and concealing a loaded weapon..the army rejects the guy but he okey dokey to buy an semi-automatic weapon……….sigh

    • That Jared Loughner is mentally ill — not a shred of doubt. How about his unfettered firearm purchase ? How about sharing his college records, as well as the records denying his military enlistment ?

      Mental stability must be the prime point of examination if you seek to hold half the power of god in your hands.

      I'm sorry all you American NRA members. The first key word in the sacred Second Amendment is "well-regulated". No one should be denied gun ownership, if they can first demonstrate their stability.

      Canadians, your Charter of Rights and Freedoms appears to be a much more rational document than the U.S. Bill of Rights, but the bizarre interpretations by the " originalists" on the U.S. Supreme Court doom all Americans to continuing gun violence.

  11. Jared Loughner was a misfit, one of those people who wouldn't have fit in anywhere, including the Boston Tea Party. He's like Lee Harvey Oswald, who was a Communist sympathizer but never joined the Communist party.

    Most people who join groups like the Boston Tea or the Communist movement want to be part of something greater than themselves, but people like Loughner have delusions of grandeur. They can't see anything as being greater than themselves, including the ideas that they believe in.

    I don't doubt that he listened to Rush Limbaugh, but I wouldn't be surprised that he listened to Keith Oberman or Ed Schultz either. However, he isn't the type to follow either Rush Limbaugh, Keith Oberman or Ed Schultz; he would expect these people to follow him.

    In committing these heinous crimes, Jared Loughner saw himself as a leader of men and a hero for our time.

  12. The media of course see this tragedy as an opportunity to create another tragedy. Through lies and innuendo the media continue to play the role of the ultimate polarizers of public opinion and political discourse. The lefty medias rush to judgement without facts or evidence regarding this tragedy is another in a long list of hyperbolic, polarizing, rhetoric that nurtures the diseased minds of their followers. For the lefty media to use this tragedy as an excuse to further polarize political debate, and to make unfounded accusations against Palin or the Tea Party movement with the suggestion that it's their fault is wretchedly stupid and deliberately irresponsible partisanship, ideologically driven hyperbole. The lefty media seeing this as an opportunity to further the political divide that they nurture shows what sick ideologically driven minds they possess. Shame on them.

    • Certainly the regular politicos jumped into action to paint this guy as being either of the 'left' or the 'right' (from my understandings the man was on the fringe –– associated with the American Renaissance movement and its convoluted mix of 'race pride' collectivism and 'rugged individualism'). But you are wrong in your generalizations that this has all been a charge orchestrated by the 'lefty media' (as tired a meme as there ever was one).

      What was the first thing her father said after being questioned "did she have any enemies?": he said, "yeah the whole Tea Party."

      In his first comment to reporters the sheriff of the County bemoaned about "outrageous rhetoric" and "prejudice and bigotry" in Arizona.

      Furthermore, Sarah Palin herself took down the infamous "crosshairs" electoral map within an hour of the shots being fired! If she was so above judgement in this matter with regards to her political language then why would she feel the need to do this?

      Bottom line: many actors are responding to these events. Folks can make as much a partisan issue of this as they want. And most people who bemoan about one side 'making it political' are really just repeating the same rhetoric in negative terms.

      • Actually those on the left came out immediately and attempted to pin this on Palin and tea partiers' "rhetoric".

        I can understand, how they want to try to slink away from the moral consequences of their repugnant attempt to spread the political poison, but the left leaning media will wear this forever.

        I'm pretty sure, that unless you are a far leftist follower yourself (in which case you participated in the vulturistic sliming yourself) the vast majority of independent minded consumers of media will be repulsed by it, further and irrevocably eroding the media's already dwindling credibility.

        • Of course the so-called “left media” in the USA pounced on this –– they are as thick in it as anybody else when it comes to general hackery. I’ve of the opinion that most people in the political business, that is the party business, resemble gangsters more than anything else. It says more about the system than the actors.

          But you missed my point. Its not JUST the media attempting to spin a story in whichever direction. You seem to be saying that the American public are more disgusted at the media’s activities than at the bloody event itself… When there is no doubt in my mind at least that gun culture in the American SW has become politicized; and people act on or react to this gun/self-defence politics both personally and electorally. Republicans in AZ have made a habit of associating themselves with military hardware and ‘shooting off’. This is a conscious strategy on their parts, so should they be surprised when people associate real gun attacks with the Republicans? Its not a question: did “rhetoric” make this happen? (that would probably be impossible to qualify). It is about understanding succession of real vandalisms, threats and the fact that Giffords had raised Palin’s questionable imagery on said ‘lefty media’ mere months beforehand. This woman was targeted by an ideologically driven nebulous group of individuals.

          As for the ‘tea party’, all I know is that the founder of the movement, Karl Denninger, has recently come out in strong support for Dennis Kucinich’s new bill [National Employment Emergency Defense (NEED)] to nationalize the Federal Reserve, have a policy of full employment, support social security indefinitely, and a start to building a whole lot of badly needed infrastructure projects.

      • My point regarding the lefty media interpreting this tragedy as "Palin's fault" or "the Tea Party's fault", and that you dismiss as "generalizations" indicates you may have a preconceived agenda. The lefty media were the first out of the gate "interpreting" this tragedy with superficial, shallow speculations portrayed as fact…. "Sarah Palin herself took down the infamous crosshairs electoral map"… Sorry, but sloppy gun metaphors do not drive people to acts of violence. The lefty media have illustrated how political ideology trumps common sense and fact with their partisan, transparent, self service, using an act of horrific violence as an opportunity to scavenge for political gain.

  13. Yeah, I'd say that counts as evidence he planned ahead.
    Kind of like finding a Presidential Daily Briefing Document titled, "Osama Bin Laden Determined to Attack Within The United States…"

  14. People do what they are told to do, politicians do not speak freely, they spout 'zee pahty line'! or they lose their job. they don't even vote freely in parliament, they vote 'zeee pahty line'! or they lose their jobs.
    The media also does what they are told, or they lose their jobs, no one does any REAL reporting/ investigation any more…It all comes off the press release sites and is reprinted verbatim without any consideration to actually checking the facts or even the story itself, newspapers, television, magazines, they are all the same. This is the way of the world now.
    Remember short pants George Bush… PAGE 1 we need to close the Canadian Border, they let all of these terrorists into the USA (after 911), a week later, page 43 … oh, I guess NONE of the terrorists came through Canada.
    When they talked about 'dumbing down' society in the 70s , did any of you ever think it could or would be this successful?

  15. I just saw a video about that sweet little girl who's life was ended by a lunatic.

    "Lost in the shuffle" would be an understatement of epic proportions. That the leftist media has made it all about them, that this is all really about what THEY incessantly drone on about, how those political vultures have seized on her death in an attempt to attack their political opponents should disgust everyone. Adler talks about the narcissists in the media. He couldn't be more right.

    And our leftist author Mr. Wherry here uses classic passive language – it's "the shooting" itself that raises the questions, as if this guy was a rabid Palin supporter (no links whatsoever) was a rabid tea party activists (no evidence he had any ties at all) and as if his obvious insanity and complete irrationality didn't exist

    No, Mr. Wherry, "the shooting" doesn't raise the question.

    You and those like you choose to raise the question, choose to create and propagate this scurrilous meme….

    and the little dead girl? Well she was just political fodder.

    • and you just did the same thing you are accusing the "leftists" (WTH) of doing….politicising a tragic death….can you not see the irony in your comment

      • not the same thing. you see there is zero evidence that the shooter was influenced by any actual conservative politician. but there is tons of evidence that the lefties are politicizing a tragic death.

      • DDS I have to say you're way off base here. This death was politicized, and it put conservatives on the defensive during a time that should have been reserved for condolences and reflection.

        It was sad, because as a conservative, I could not let them get away such an unadulterated attack on my beliefs, as if it was me or people like me that were the problem here. I couldn't let them accuse me of such. And I'm certain every conservative out there felt the same way.

        Conservatives were accused by liberals and the media, well before the shooter's name was even known.

    • Thank you Chet, for being sooooo honourable as to not use a little girl's death to try score political points. You're SUCH a mensch.

      • Ahh,

        so we are left defenseless.

        Excellent then. Politicize the death, and then when we point it out, WE'RE the guilty ones of politicizing it.

        Actually, to be equivalent to the left, I and the right would have jumped out in front of this with blaming Obama for his "gun fight" rhetoric. But the right isn't morally and intellectually bankrupt and left having to slime as a means of silencing debate.

        But again,

        we have to accept our sliming, lest we wished to be slimed again.

        Also I noticed on National Newswatch reference to the media using the term of Harper "targetting" ridings…..ehhh gads…..the media's inciting murder now!!!! This is how rediculous this meme is, and this is how desperate the left is to clawback their self annointed positions of power.

  16. To rationalize what triggers a mentally unhinged individual (anything can tick them off even innocuous things and ideas or even as benign as looks) is an act of futility or a sign of mental instability in itself. I hope this tragedy is not used/abused as an excuse to further political correctness or to silence differing opinions or political views – for that would even be another bigger tragedy. My condolences and sympathy to the victims and families.