Calls for softer tone in politics gets cool reception

DALLAS Mon Jan 10, 2011 7:21pm EST

Members of Congress and other Capitol Hill staffers observe a moment of silence on the steps of the U.S. Capitol for Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, January 10, 2011. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Members of Congress and other Capitol Hill staffers observe a moment of silence on the steps of the U.S. Capitol for Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, January 10, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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DALLAS (Reuters) - Calls to reset the tone of politics in the aftermath of Saturday's shooting rampage in Arizona got short shrift on talk radio and elsewhere as left and right traded blame for the massacre.

From the right, bloggers and pundits labeled suspected shooter Jared Lee Loughner a "leftist" while critics of conservative super-star Sarah Palin accused her of creating a combustible political atmosphere with her behavior and rhetoric.

The Saturday shooting in Tucson killed six people and wounded 14, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was in critical condition after being shot in the head.

Giffords is a Democrat and many on both sides of America's political divide have cast the shooting in partisan and ideological terms.

Liberal critics have been quick to note Palin -- the former Alaska governor and darling of the conservative Tea Party movement who many expect to make a run for the presidency -- had a Facebook page with cross-hairs super-imposed on a U.S. map showing the districts of 20 House Democrats, including Giffords'.

While generally classified as a moderate "Blue Dog" Democrat, Giffords had supported last year's sweeping health care legislation. After the shooting, the graphic was removed and Palin offered condolences.

Liberal commentator and MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, referring to the graphic, hit the issue Saturday night, saying: "If Sarah Palin ... does not repudiate her own part -- however tangential -- in amplifying violence and violent imagery in American politics, she must be dismissed from politics."

His comments have since been echoed elsewhere by liberal commentators, bloggers and critics.

Influential conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, whose daily radio talk show reaches millions, said the Democrats and the left were taking political advantage of the incident to clamp down on right-wing dissent.

"(They are) trying to turn it into a political advantage by accusing people who had nothing whatsoever to do with this sordid, unfortunate event ... I was blamed for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995," he said.

"What this is all about is shutting down any and all political opposition and eventually criminalizing it. Criminalizing policy differences at least when they differ from the Democrat Party agenda," he added.

Fox TV host and fellow talk radio commentator Glenn Beck echoed Limbaugh on his radio broadcast on Monday.

"This is something they have been wanting for awhile, the script has already been written," Beck said of liberals who linked the shootings to rightist rhetoric.

He also said he had exchanged e-mails with Palin and asked her to seek protection for her family.

Quoting from his e-mail to Palin, Beck said he wrote to her: "I know you're feeling the heat on this ... You know you have my support. Please, look into protection for your family. An attempt on you could bring the Republic down ... There are nut jobs on all sides."

Tea Party bloggers and others on the political right have said Loughner was a leftist.

Conservative news site WorldNetDaily featured a headline that read: "Assassin's politics lean 'left wing, quite liberal:' 'Communist Manifesto,' 'Mein Kampf,' listed as alleged gunman's favorite reads."

(Editing by Jerry Norton)


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