Shooting sparks left-right blog battle over motive, rhetoric

Reaction on the blogosphere was swift Saturday to the mass shooting in Arizona that killed at least six and critically wounded Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.). But expressions of shock and sympathy for the victims of the shooting quickly gave way to a left-right battle over what may have motivated the gunman.

Several liberal bloggers pointed to the Tea Party and the heated rhetoric that characterized much of the 2010 campaign season, with many on the left turning the focus to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R).

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The liberal blog Daily Kos highlighted the "target list" posted on the website of Palin's political action committee and the former governor's Facebook page. It was a list of 20 House districts carried by the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008 that were represented by Democratic lawmakers who had voted in favor of healthcare.

Over each of the targeted districts, including that of Giffords, was the crosshairs of gun sights.

Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas tweeted this early Saturday: "Mission accomplished, Sarah Palin." The tweet included a link to Palin's target map.

Moulitsas also recycled a clip of Giffords reacting to the map on MSNBC, where she warned Palin of potential consequences to such visuals.

"The way that she has it depicted, has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district," Giffords said. "When people do that, they've got to realize there are consequences to that action."

Conservative Andrew Breitbart responded on his own website and on Twitter Saturday, tweeting this warning: "For the love of God, @markos. Stop it. Don't go there, trust me. Trust me. Trust me. You will not like the blow-back, I assure you."

Moulitsas, who is also a contributor to The Hill, re-tweeted the message, accompanied by an "LOL."

Breitbart later criticized what he termed wild speculation on the potential political motivations of the alleged shooter on his website BigJournalism.com.

"If it is a lone gunman on the left, we will be at the forefront of policing those on the right who would try to seize upon this tragedy for political purposes," he wrote. "This is a sincere plea to those with whom we wage battle on a daily basis in a robust democracy with an appreciation for the First Amendment, but this is also a plea to our political way of thinking who would like to claim victory from a national tragedy."

Liberal commentators joined in the fray, for the most part focusing on Palin. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann called on Palin to repudiate her part in "amplifying violence and violent imagery in politics."

Just hours after the shooting, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik sounded off at a news conference, pinning blame for the tragedy squarely on "the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government." Dupnik proclaimed that "the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous."

"This may be free speech," he said. "But it's not without consequences."

His comments flew across Twitter and were highlighted by a Daily Kos blogger who praised Dupnik for not being afraid "to point the finger at who is culpable."

On the conservative blog RedState, Erick Erickson accused the left of "using this tragedy to score political points," recalling that when a gunman took hostages in the headquarters of the Discovery Channel last year, "the left immediately accused the man of being a tea party activist. Unfortunately for the left, the man turned out to be an envirowacko leftist."

In another blog posted Sunday, Erickson said, "The shooter is neither left-wing nor right-wing. He is crazy and evil — a word not used enough."

Erickson concluded: "By the way, as an exit thought, the tea party movement won in November. Winners don't go on shooting sprees."

The blame game and rampant speculation over the possible political motivations of the shooting started in earnest Saturday and continued on Sunday morning's political shows despite there still being little public information about the 22-year-old suspect being held in the shootings.

Jared Lee Loughner's YouTube and other Internet postings don't appear to indicate a coherent political motive or very many coherent thoughts, for that matter. They include rants on currency and ramblings about Loughner's distrust of the government and public officials.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Sunday that after watching the videos and reading Loughner's writings, he saw evidence of someone suffering from "paranoid schizophrenia."

The Arizona Daily Star spoke to former community college classmates of Loughner who described him as "very disturbed," "Left wing" and someone who was prone to interrupting class discussions frequently with "nonsensical outbursts."

Fox News reported Sunday morning that an internal Department of Homeland Security memo obtained by the network indicated that Loughner, is "possibly linked" to an anti-Semitic, white supremacist group.

The DHS memo called the group American Renaissance "anti-government, anti-immigration, anti -ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti-Semitic."

The information reportedly came as Loughner's computer and personal effects were searched in the shooting investigation.


Giffords, who attends a Reform synagogue in Tucson, is Arizona's first Jewish congresswoman.

While Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-Wash.) played down any suggestion that there was a direct connection between rhetoric emanating from either party and the Arizona shooting on "Fox News Sunday," she did note some of the alleged gunman's favorite books as highlighted on his YouTube page — The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf.