If a deranged maniac had shot a Republican member of Congress in the head after an intensely vitriolic election season, I like to think I would be aghast in the exact same way as I am right now, and would be asking the exact same questions about the people whose politics I typically share. Perhaps I am naive or self-deluding. That's certainly how I would hope to react.
2) Some of the commentary I've seen from the right has focused on how Loughner couldn't have been influenced by the Tea Party's invective because he was "left wing" and listed "The Communist Manifesto" as one of his favorite books on his YouTube users profile. (I seem to recall this spin coming from Rebecca Mansour, but I can't find a link right now.) Saying he can't have been influenced by the Tea Party because his views included some from the lunatic left holds no water. After all, it didn't seem to stop Naomi Wolf.
3) When I make mention of the very worst right-wing rhetoric, I refer to the "death panels" and "you lie!" and "second-amendment remedies" nonsense we've all heard and seen our fill of. (I know I should provide links to all of this, but I'm feeling lazy and I'm going to guess that people who are bothering to read this far know what I'm referring to with all of this.) As I said above, I tend to notice and get irritated more by the crazy from the right than I did about the crazy from the left during the Bush years. (I seem to recall getting pretty irked by the shoe-thrower being treated like some kind of hero, however.) Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like the right often has it coming. Listen to what the new Speaker has to say about an issue that (against all reason) still has currency among certain Tea Party types:
Williams noted that 12 Republicans are co-sponsoring legislation expressing concern about Mr. Obama's birthplace, and asked Boehner if he would be willing to say, "this is a distraction, I've looked at it to my satisfaction. Let's move on."Bull. Shit.
"The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there," the speaker responded. "That's good enough for me."
Williams asked if Boehner would be willing to express that same message to the dozen Congressional Republicans who don't seem to feel it's good enough for them.
"Brian, when you come to the Congress of the United States, there are 435 of us," Boehner responded. "We're nothing more than a slice of America. People come, regardless of party labels, they come with all kinds of beliefs and ideas. It's the melting pot of America. It's not up to me to tell them what to think."
It is 100% up to you, Mr. Speaker, to tell idiot members of your caucus that they are NOT to introduce legislation that calls the President of the United States a liar and his presidency illegal. I cannot think of a more apt person to do it.
It is precisely this kind of uneasy two-step the leaders of the GOP have with its crazy elements that make me consider their culpability in the wake of a national tragedy like the Giffords attack. It's one thing to criticize the POTUS, and another thing entirely to fan the flames of sedition.
Update: An excellent piece by Conor Friedersdorf here.