Giffords Expressed Concern with Rhetoric

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Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin remained a focus of the debate about the tone of the country's political discourse in the wake of Saturday's killing rampage in Arizona that left six dead and 14 others wounded.

Palin's decision to use a "target list" with images of cross hairs in her effort to defeat Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and other Democratic lawmakers in the 2010 election cycle has been mentioned often -- not so much to suggest that it motivated the shooter, but rather, that it contributed to a vitriolic political climate in America.

Less than 24-hours before she was critically wounded by a lone gunman at an event in her Arizona Congressional district, Giffords, a Democrat, wrote an e-mail message to Kentucky's Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson expressing her desire find ways to "tone our rhetoric and partisanship down."

"I would love to talk about what we can do to promote centrism and moderation," Giffords wrote, according to the message, which was first reported by Kentucky news Web site, cn|2 Politics.

She continued, "I am one of only 12 Dems left in a GOP district (the only woman) and think that we need to figure out how to tone our rhetoric and partisanship down." (The congresswoman sent the message on Friday to congratulate Grayson on his recent appointment as director of Harvard University's Insititue of Politics.)

Some of Giffords' colleagues on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in Washington echoed that call in interviews and statements since Saturday's incident.

"Violent tendencies have been inflamed by the careless and irresponsible rhetoric of certain political leaders," Justin Ruben, the executive director of the liberal advocacy group, Move On, wrote in an e-mail message to supporters on Sunday in which he cited Palin specifically.

Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pa., announced this weekend that he planned to introduce legislation that would make it a federal crime for someone to use language or imagery that might be construed as threatening violence against members of Congress or federal officials.

"The rhetoric is just ramped up so negatively, so high that we have got to shut this down," Brady said in an interview on CNN, adding: "This is not a wake-up call, this is major alarms going off."

Other lawmakers also lashed out at an overheated political climate, arguing, like Brady, that it has helped create an environment ripe for the shooting.

"We're living in a time that all of us should begin to take stock of how our words affect people," Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., said on "Fox News Sunday", "especially those who aren't very stable."

House Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., acknowledged that his colleagues on Capitol Hill "are very concerned about the environment in which they are now operating."

How Angry is Too Angry?

"It's been a much angrier, confrontational environment over the last two or three years than we have experienced in the past," Hoyer said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "I think there is worry about that."

Giffords was one of several members of Congress who reported threats or vandalism in 2010 spurred by apparent anger over the passage of health care reform. Arizonans like Giffords also have been contending with a pitched debate over the passage of one of the country's toughest and most controversial immigration laws.

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