Heated political rhetoric blamed for Ariz. shootings

January 9, 2011 6:21:22 PM PST
The exact motive for the shootings in Arizona this weekend is still unknown, but Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had recently addressed threats against her.

Now, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say the political rhetoric has gotten out of hand. Members of both parties in Congress are calling for civility, but some say the political culture of the country has become way too heated while others say it is too early to blame rhetoric for what happened in Arizona.

A group of Code Pink demonstrators right outside Senator Diane Feinstein's front door Sunday was louder than it was large, but San Francisco police were on standby anyway. If there was more security than normal a day after a gunman killed six people in Arizona and left a lawmaker fighting for her life, no one there would say.

"The politicians, I mean, they might find us annoying, but they certainly know that we're not here to do any harm," says Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin.

The protesters want to show their support for WikiLeaks. That Feinstein was not even home did not seem to matter much. Benjamin says the Arizona shooting shows the tone of political discourse in the country needs to change.

"The shootings have just been a terrible reminder that we have to deal with our political differences in a way that is civil and peaceful," she told ABC7.

"Just because somebody disagrees with you doesn't mean they're evil," says Dean Brady, dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.

Brady says polarizing rhetoric is far too prevalent in Washington and around the country. He says the media, with rage-filled cable talk shows and radio programs, are partly to blame.

"So what are left with? We're left with the people who are most different, most divisive, who are emphasizing rhetoric over good sense," he says.

Conservative radio host Barbara Simpson says the far right is not to blame and that what is rhetoric to some, is simply opinion to others.

"I dont know. I think we're entitled as Americans to say that this politician is the best or the worst. We're not calling for anyone to go out and do anything to them. We don't like their politics," she explains.

Some politicians and political analysts spent Sunday talking about possible ties between the gunman in the Arizona shootings, Jared Loughner, and the Tea Party movement and conservatives, but so far, there is no evidence of a political connection.