January 8, 2011


Who Is Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords? (Z. BYRON WOLF, Jan. 8, 2011, ABC News)

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords rides motorcycles and married an astronaut at a wedding where everything had to be biodegradable. She is a Democrat who champions gun rights, lists fiscal discipline as one of her top issues and was re-elected in a conservative district when Republicans took control of the House.

News that she was shot in the head while meeting with constituents at a Tucson, Ariz., grocery store brought outpourings of support from both sides of the aisle.

"I am just heartbroken. Gabby is more than just a colleague -- she's also a friend," said Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican.

Giffords, 40, is a political centrist who voted with her party less than half the time and opposed Nancy Pelosi as the party leader in the House after Democrats lost the majority in November.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was a target of Sarah Palin, but is a moderate, gun-owning Democrat (James Fanelli, 1/08/11, NY DAILY NEWS)
But her backing of President Obama's health care reform made her a popular target of conservative talking head Sarah Palin and Tea Party members during the 2010 election. On her Facebook page last spring, Palin posted a U.S. map with crosshairs of a rifle scope over the districts repped by Giffords and 19 other Democrats.

In March, after the Health Care reform bill passed, vandals broke the door of her district office - one of several attacks against Democrats following the vote.

Targeted (Michelle Goldberg, Jan 8, 2011, Tablet)
We don’t yet know what her would-be assassin was thinking. But we do know that Giffords, the first Jewish woman that Arizona sent to Congress, has been the target of a long campaign of right-wing incitement. And Loughner, while clearly in the grip of delusion rather than any coherent ideology, nonetheless shared many far-right obsessions.

Loughner had a YouTube channel and a MySpace page, and both suggest someone deeply unbalanced. His videos, which mostly feature white text on a black background accompanied by trippy electronic music, are full of unintelligible messages about conscious dreaming and English grammar. But they also make it clear that Loughner has internalized some of the conspiracy theories common in the Tea Party. He is obsessed with currency manipulation and out-of-control government power. Toward the end of a YouTube video titled “My Final Thoughts,” he writes, “The majority of citizens in the United States of America have never read the United States of America’s Constitution. You don’t have to accept the federalist laws. Nonetheless, read the United States of America’s Constitution to apprehend all of the current treasonous laws.” Among his MySpace photos is an American history book with a gun on top.

Perhaps equally significant, he lists Mein Kampf among his favorite books—although he cites The Communist Manifesto as well. Giffords was vocal about her Judaism, which she embraced as an adult. (Her father, who is a first cousin of Gwyneth Paltrow’s father, is Jewish, while her mother is a Christian Scientist.) Given Loughner’s fixation on currency and his nod to Hitler, it certainly seems possible that Jew-hatred played a role in his terrible mixed-up fantasy world.

Loughner was probably too insane to have really participated in anti-Semitic politics, or, for that matter, in the Tea Party. But it is important to note that Giffords has been relentlessly demonized by the right, the rhetoric around her charged with violence. And such rhetoric is dangerous precisely because of the effect it can have on the unhinged. Loughner was crazy, but he was also responsive to certain real-world political currents, particularly the right’s nightmare vision of federal power run amok. One can’t completely separate this mad act from earlier threats against Giffords.

In August 2009, during another meet-and-greet at a Safeway, a conservative activist who confronted Giffords dropped a gun, leading worried aides to call the police. As right-wing fury mounted, there were other intimations of violence. In March 2010, hours after Giffords’ vote in favor of health care reform, her Tucson office was vandalized, a door and window either kicked in or shot out. Sarah Palin published a map featuring gun sights on the Congressional districts of 20 Democrats then tweeted it to her followers, saying, “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: Don’t Retreat, Instead—RELOAD.”

Gabrielle Giffords remains in critical condition after Arizona shooting ( Ben Quinn, Paul Gallagher, Alexandra Topping and agencies, 1/09/11, guardian.co.uk)

At a press conference following the attack, the Pima County Sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, blamed political vitriol for fuelling the attack.

"People tend to pooh-pooh this business that we hear about all the vitriol we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living doing that," he said. "That may be free speech – but there are consequences."

He said Arizona had become "a Mecca for prejudice and bigotry" and that "people who are unbalanced are especially susceptible to vitriol".

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' blood is on Sarah Palin's hands after putting cross hair over district (Michael Daly, January 9th 2011, NY Daily News)
Palin would no doubt say that she was only speaking in metaphor, that she only meant her followers should work to unseat Giffords and 19 other Democrats who had roused her ire by voting for health care.

But anyone with any sense at all knows that violent language can incite actual violence, that metaphor can incite murder. At the very least, Palin added to a climate of violence.

Palin should have taken it as a warning of what might happen when a Tea Party hothead dropped a gun while heckling Giffords at an earlier Congress On Your Corner event, more than a year ago.

That did not stop Palin from declaring Giffords a "target." Giffords' district office was subsequently vandalized, and the congresswoman noted that Palin had put "the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district."

"When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action," Giffords said.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 8, 2011 9:51 PM
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