America

Lower The Rhetoric, But Don't Yet Link Massacre To Tone, Ex-Rep. Says

A makeshift memorial outside of the District Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) on Sunday. The sign sends this message: "violence solves nothing; love is greater than hate." i i

hide captionA makeshift memorial outside of the District Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) on Sunday. The sign sends this message: "violence solves nothing; love is greater than hate."

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
A makeshift memorial outside of the District Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) on Sunday. The sign sends this message: "violence solves nothing; love is greater than hate."

A makeshift memorial outside of the District Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) on Sunday. The sign sends this message: "violence solves nothing; love is greater than hate."

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Saturday's tragedy in Tucson, Ariz., has been followed by a hot debate over whether the seemingly ever-more-rough tone of American politics may be to blame. As NPR's Corey Dade writes this morning:

"The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) has raised concerns about the effect of inflammatory language that has become a steady undercurrent in the nation's political culture."

And Politico adds that there's been a "rush on the left to affix some of the blame on [former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin] for the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords" because her political action committee had very publicly put Giffords and 19 other members of Congress in its "crosshairs" during last year's midterm elections. (Palin aide Rebecca Mansour told conservative radio host Tammy Bruce over the weekend that those weren't targets, they were "a surveyor's symbol.")

On Morning Edition earlier today, host Steve Inskeep talked about all that with former Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe, a Republican, who used to represent Giffords' district. Kolbe made two points.

Yes, he said, "we need to lower the rhetoric in this country. I've been very disturbed by the polarization of our American political scene."

But, he added, "I think it's quite inappropriate and wrong to suggest that there's a connection between that and this particular incident."

In other words, he said, let's let the facts and the FBI's investigation guide us to what was the gunman's motivation. Our colleague Ken Rudin said something similar in It's All Politics on Saturday.

Steve Inskeep and Jim Kolbe

Much more from their conversation is here.

The suspect, 22-year-old Jared Loughner, is due for his first court appearance, in Phoenix, at 4 p.m. ET. Six people have died and 14 were wounded by the shots fired. Giffords, 40, is in intensive care. She was shot in the head.

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