- Title: USA/FILE: Tuscon shooting triggers debate over negative U.S. political climate
- Date: 11th January 2011
- Summary: WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (JANUARY 10, 2011) (REUTERS) WIDE SHOT OF SENIOR BROOKINGS INSTITUTION FELLOW BILL GALSTON (SOUNDBITE) (English) BILL GALSTON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION, SAYING: "By any objective measure, the polarization between the two political parties is as great today as it has been for more than a century. Not since the 1890's have we seen such a division between the political parties."
- Embargoed: 26th January 2011 12:00
- Location: Usa
- Country: USA
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA8BWKMBU89D621NMQ7GEPK6E1O
- Story Text: The shooting of U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has quickly opened a sharp divide on the role of inflamed political rhetoric after an acrimonious campaign for congressional elections in November.
The Arizona shooting spree ignited a flood of finger-pointing and pontificating on the sometimes overheated state of U.S. political discourse, even as politicians largely vowed at least a temporary halt to the battle of words in Washington.
The motives of suspect Jared Lee Loughner, 22, remain unclear in Saturday's shooting, which killed six people and left Giffords in critical condition. Those who knew him said he was troubled and had a history of disruptive behavior.
Some liberal commentators and bloggers questioned whether last year's election rhetoric from conservative Republicans like Sarah Palin and Tea Party candidates created a climate that bred violence.
Palin, the 2008 vice presidential candidate and a potential White House contender, urged conservatives to "reload," not retreat, after a fierce debate over President Obama's plans to overhaul the hugely expensive healthcare system.
Popular with the Tea Party movement, a loose union of conservatives who have pushed for more conservative fiscal policy, Palin posted a map with gunsight cross-hairs on the districts of 20 Democrats -- including Giffords -- to be targeted in November's elections.
Tea Party favorite Sharon Angel, the Republican opponent of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, was criticized by the Nevada politician for being "too extreme" for her strong support of the second amendment, the right to bear arms.
Some Tea Party "town hall meetings" have included angry confrontations with incumbent members of Congress.
Republicans, however, are quick to point out that the suspected shooter might not have been acting out of political motivations. Conservatives said the left was trying to gain a political edge from the tragedy and limit the gains of newly ascendant Republicans and the conservative Tea Party movement.
Bill Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the divide between Democrats and Republicans is widening.
"By any objective measure, the polarization between the two political parties is as great today as it has been for more than a century. Not since the 1890's have we seen such a division between the political parties," he said.
Several politicians have expressed concern about security in the wake of the shooting, while many analysts and politicians are wondering if the harsh talk and infighting should be toned down.
"It will only make things worse if we try to spin our own ideas into frames that point fingers at one side of the conflict or another. And, that doesn't mean that we have to be agnostic on that question, it doesn't mean we need to see a moral equivalence all along the political spectrum," Galston said. "It does mean, that at a time like this, people who have a voice, people in elected office ought to think less of their party and more of their country, and if they do that, I think this tragic event may yield some good after all."
Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Arizona's Pima County, where the assault occurred, opened the debate just hours after Saturday's shooting when he condemned the growing vitriol in U.S. politics and declared free speech is "not without consequences."
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