After Sarah Palin targeted her district with a gunsight on a map identifying Democrats Palin was urging her followers to "reload" and defeat, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords said: "We are on Sarah Palin’s targeted list. The way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of the gunsight over our district. When people do that, they have got to realize there are consequences to that action."
On Saturday, Giffords, a moderate Democrat who stirred the wrath of right-wingers with her vote for healthcare reform, was shot by a gunman who posted "I can’t trust the government" videos on the Internet and appears to have been obsessed with the teachings of a right-wing anti-tax activist. The shooting spree killed six people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, and left thirteen others injured.
Now, Palin says she’s praying for the dead and wounded, including Giffords, who remained in critical condition Monday morning.
As flags were lowered to half staff Monday and plans were made for a national moment of silence, another targeted Arizona representative, Congressman Raul Grijalva, bluntly declared that: "Ms. Palin needs to look at her own behavior."
And the sheriff of the county where the shooting took place says: "It’s time to do a little soul searching about the rhetoric we hear…"
The incident has sparked a national dialogue about violent political rhetoric and political violence. While Palin is in the thick of it, as is so often the case, the dialogue goes to a deeper place—and to deeper questions about how a democracy maintains a robust national debate while maintaining the measure of civility that invites rather than repels public participation.
Giffords is likely to survive the apparent assassination attempt at a community event in Tucson. Doctors are struggling to minimize the threat of a permanent brain injury.
Six others, including Federal Judge John Roll, were killed in the rampage outside a Tucson supermarket. Roll, who was appointed to the federal bench by George H.W. Bush in 1991, has served as Chief Judge of the US District Court in Arizona since 2006. Roll, who presided in 2009 over a $32 million civil-rights lawsuit filed by immigrants against an Arizona rancher, had faced death threats.
So, too, had Congresswoman Giffords. And Arizona authorities said there was little doubt that the gunman came to the meeting looking to shoot Giffords, not Roll.
The target of a highly controversial campaign for her defeat in 2010 by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Giffords was one of twenty 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."