Before Shooting, Giffords Wanted To Calm Rhetoric The night before Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot, she sent an e-mail to an old friend: Kentucky's Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Republican. She told him she wanted to talk to him about ways to promote centrism and moderation. Grayson talks to Renee Montagne about what he says is Giffords' passion to tone down partisanship and rhetoric.
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Before Shooting, Giffords Wanted To Calm Rhetoric

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Before Shooting, Giffords Wanted To Calm Rhetoric

Before Shooting, Giffords Wanted To Calm Rhetoric

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Welcome to the program.

MONTAGNE: Thanks for having me.

MONTAGNE: There were some pretty over-the-top moments during the campaign for Congresswoman Giffords' seat. One of those moments was her opponent's fundraiser, that he called Target Victory, and he invited his supporters to fire M-16s with him. This disturbed her. Did you ever discuss these sort of actions with her?

MONTAGNE: I didn't talk too much with her about the specifics of this campaign. I certainly followed it. But I think that this passion for her - and I'll use that term - to try to overcome this partisanship and bridge it, has been something really since she was first elected as a state rep. But this campaign, I think, took it to a whole 'nother level. But it is something she's worked on for years, and I think that's one of the reasons why she's able to get elected in that district is because people see her as somebody who can rise above these things.

MONTAGNE: There's been a lot of talk about Sarah Palin's website that showed Congresswoman Giffords' district in what looks like crosshairs. You know, obviously we do not have any reason to think that this shooter even had an interest in Sarah Palin or was connected to her at all. But Congresswoman Giffords was sufficiently disturbed by that website that she said that this image - and I'm quoting her - could have dangerous consequences.

MONTAGNE: Well, I think that Gabby made a good point. I don't have any reason to believe that this particular tragedy was related to this problem that's out there, but it's out there. And whether it's safety or whether it's just discouraging folks from attending town hall meetings and contacting their representatives and believing that we can come to solutions, I think if we're going to honor Gabby and these other victims, we have to address this problem. You know, there's plenty of blame for everybody to go around here - you know, and I include myself in that. I mean, no, I don't think there's a single elected official or candidate for higher office who has not done or said something that you really wish you hadn't done or said.

MONTAGNE: Well, let me ask you then - your own Senate primary election, you were running against Tea Party candidate Rand Paul. It got pretty unpleasant. You never, nor did he, use violent images. But what do you regret? You say you regret - what do you regret about what you did that in that race?

MONTAGNE: And you know, we really tried to keep ours issues-based in our campaign, but I lost.

MONTAGNE: You lost, but then he - but then, you know, he won in a race where his Democratic opponent attacked him pretty fiercely.

MONTAGNE: It was an unfortunate incident. I don't want to blame Dr. Paul for it or anything like that, but it does show that sometimes these things can happen and spill over.

MONTAGNE: Trey Grayson, you have resigned as Kentucky's secretary of state and you're about to go to Harvard University and head its Institute of Politics. Do you think that there will be a change in the way politics and political races are conducted?

MONTAGNE: I suspect there will not be a big change. But if we could have a little change, oftentimes that our country faces critical moments where you see things and we do change as a nation - but, you know, after 9/11 we talked about bringing the country together and we did that for a little bit and then we got divided again. But my hope is that maybe this time will be different, and I'm going to try to do my part to see that it can be.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

MONTAGNE: Glad to be here. Thanks for having me.

MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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