By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
The place that Sarah Palin has occupied in the debate about civility in politics in the aftermath of Saturday’s shooting in Arizona that left six people dead inevitably dragged other potential 2012 contenders into the discussion. http://abcn.ws/gRuQh6
One of the first to join the fray is former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, whose long-planned book tour kicks off this week. Pawlenty weighed in on the swirling controversy about the appropriateness of Palin’s use of rifle cross-hair imagery to target candidates during the 2010 election cycle, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who is recovering from her gunshot wounds in a Tucson hospital.
“It wouldn’t have been my style to put the crosshairs on there," Pawlenty told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning America" today. "But again there is no evidence to suggest that it had anything to do with this mentally unstable person’s rage and senseless act in Arizona." http://abcn.ws/hbyDPm
And when asked in the interview whether he thought that Arizona changed the country’s political climate he told Stephanopoulos: “I think it clearly does.”
"There is line there as it relates to basic civility, decency and respect and not trying to invoke violence,” he said.
As a quirk of timing, Pawlenty is very likely to get similar questions about the issue almost everywhere he goes on his multi-state tour to promote his newly-released book “Courage to Stand: An American Story.” (Excerpts from Pawlenty’s book below).
Whatever else he wanted to accomplish with the book roll out is likely to become tangled in successive news cycles still dominated by the shooting. “I’m seriously considering,” a presidential bid, Pawlenty said on “GMA,” “but the announcement has to wait a little bit.”
Other candidates, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, have also weighed in, but so far only to express condolences for the victims.
“Please join us in praying for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and everyone shot in this tragic attack, as well as for their families,” was the short statement that Gingrich and his wife, Callista, issued over the weekend.
But most of the potential GOP presidential candidates have not addressed thornier issues like gun control, mental health policy and the debate about vitriol in politics that is beginning to boil over in the aftermath of the shooting — at least not yet.
Another quirk of timing: Romney left Friday for a week-long trip overseas. He has already met with President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan and plans more stops this week in Israel, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. The trip keeps him insulated, at least temporarily, from controversies at home.
POTUS TO ARIZONA. “President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are planning to go to Tucson, Ariz., Wednesday to attend a memorial service for the victims of Saturday's shooting spree that killed six people and injured 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords,” ABC’s Jake Tapper and Huma Khan report.
“President Obama will speak at a memorial event at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 12 to support and remember victims of the mass shooting in Tucson, and to lift the spirits of those who have been personally affected by this tragedy,” the University of Arizona said in a statement. “‘Together We Thrive: Tucson and America,’ will take place at McKale Center and is free and open to the campus and greater Tucson community.” http://abcn.ws/fy4ZQw
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE PREVIEW. U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue delivers his annual State of American Business address to reporters and Chamber members this morning. From a Chamber spokesman: “He will highlight the business community’s priorities for growing the economy and putting millions of Americans back to work in 2011, including regulatory restraint and reform, trade expansion, reducing deficits, and rebuilding our economy's platform — our infrastructure system.”
“We begin 2011 in a lot better shape than we found ourselves last year. The state of American business is improving. While the recovery may be picking up steam, it is fragile and uneven,” Donohue will say, according to his prepared remarks. “Over the next year, the Chamber’s number one priority will be to turn this economic recovery into a jobs recovery so we can start putting America back to work.”
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl will speak with Terrance Gainer, United States Senate Sergeant at Arms about security for members of Congress in the wake of last weekend’s shooting in Arizona. Also on the program today, Chris Cillizza from The Washington Post. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
2012 ON ‘GMA.’ In addition to his interview with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty today, over the next several weeks, “Good Morning America” co-anchor George Stephanopoulos will conduct more interviews with potential 2012 Republican candidates. They’ll discuss their latest books, heath care, taxes, foreign policy, as well as their thoughts on a potential 2012 run. The schedule: January 13: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie; February 1: Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney; February 21: Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. More guests will be added in the weeks ahead.
THE LATEST FROM ARIZONA. “The parents of Tucson shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner are reportedly coping with their son's alleged rampage much as they've spent their recent family life: alone and in private,” ABC’s Devin Dwyer and Tonya Kerr report. “Randy and Amy Loughner have sealed themselves in their suburban Tucson home, blocking access to the front door with a piece of wood to presumably keep people off their property. The couple did not attend their son's arraignment in federal court in Phoenix Monday, and one neighbor who's been in contact with them, but asked not to be identified, said they are distraught and grieving. Randy Loughner is reportedly preparing to release a public statement, the first since their son was charged in connection with shooting Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 other people.”
“Meanwhile, in the search for clues to understanding why Jared Loughner allegedly plotted an attack on Giffords' constituent event Saturday, his relationships with his parents and home environment are of increasing interest. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said Monday that he couldn't comment specifically on Loughner's upbringing or mental health, but he noted that his was a ‘somewhat dysfunctional family.’ And neighbors painted a picture of a single-child home that was intensely private and increasingly insular and standoffish as Jared Loughner grew older.” http://abcn.ws/gJDgHx
Did We Miss the Signs? Tucson, Ariz. reflects whether there were tell-tale signs prior to the attacks. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/dE8Ffr
AILES TO FOX: TONE IT DOWN. “Fox News President Roger Ailes had some new marching orders for his conservative host troops in the wake of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' shooting: tone it down,” the New York Daily News reports. “In a discussion with Russell Simmons posted on the Def Jam founder's website on Monday, Ailes said he wanted to change the tone of fiery rhetoric in the country, which many critics attribute to anchors on his network. ‘I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually,’ Ailes said. ‘You don't have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that.’” http://nydn.us/fAO8pO
SPOTLIGHT ON GUN-TOTING CANDIDATES. “When Alabama Agriculture Commissioner hopeful Dale Peterson released an ad proudly touting his rifle, the little-known candidate quickly became a YouTube sensation,” ABC News’ Huma Khan reports. “Congressional candidate Rick Barber of Alabama also expanded his fan base with his politically charged ‘Gather Your Armies’ ad, while Congressional hopeful from Arizona Pamela Gorman raked in more than 300,000 clicks for her ad featuring more gun shots than actual words. Gun imagery has no place in politics, says Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa., who is penning legislation to make it illegal to place crosshairs on a Congress member's district. ‘Using guns is threatening and the bullseyes and the crosshairs, that should have no place in any kind of political debate,’ Brady told ABC News. ‘Talk your issues, articulate your issues, that shouldn't — on both sides — play into any kind of political discussion.’” http://abcn.ws/dGXnfT
SECURITY IN CONGRESS. “Lawmakers are already engaged in vigorous debate over their security, with several pushing for dramatic measures and more money and others saying the actions of a single deranged gunman shouldn’t shut them off from the public,” Politico’s Erika Lovley reports. “Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) told POLITICO in an e-mail that he plans to propose a reversal of the 5 percent cut Republicans made in members’ office budgets, and he wants a 10 percent increase to cover more security measures in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) intends to reintroduce legislation this week that would enclose the House Gallery with a protective Plexiglas case to prevent members of the public from throwing explosive devices onto the House floor. It’s a bill he’s introduced year after year, but now he plans to push it more vigorously.”http://politi.co/g5VFDg
Congressmen Pack Heat: Reps. Heath Shuler and Jason Chaffetz say they will be armed in their districts. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/glG2wm
BIDEN DIPLOMACY. “Vice President Biden said today that the coalition forces in Afghanistan have ‘largely arrested the Taliban momentum’ in key areas there. But he acknowledged that the gains are ‘fragile and reversible.’ Biden’s comments came after a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul,” ABC News’ Karen Travers reports. “Biden emphasized the U.S. commitment to the Afghan government. ‘We are not leaving if you don't want us to leave,’ he said.
The vice president said while there are ‘many hard days that lie ahead,’ there is now a ‘viable path going forward’ to the transition from US forces to Afghan security forces by 2014. ‘We've moved into a new phase in Afghanistan: transition to full Afghan lead beginning this year and concluding in 2014,’ he said. Biden reiterated the message that a senior administration official conveyed on the trip over – the United States is there to assist the Afghan government, not lead.” http://abcn.ws/dIbTJS
MORE FROM PAWLENTY. In his new autobiography, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty reflects on his evolving political and personal life, from his humble upbringing in St. Paul, Minn., to the governor's mansion. Below are two excerpts, for more: http://abcn.ws/h65WjA
Pawlenty on President Barack Obama's first two years in office: "President Obama broke his promise to pay for 'every dime' of new government spending. Of course, that's not the only promise that he has broken. He said that health-care reform would be a transparent, bipartisan effort; instead, the health-care bill was written behind closed doors and passed without any Republican support. He promised to not raise taxes on the middle class, but he broke that pledge. This is not change we can believe in. This is change we still can't believe."
Pawlenty on describing his philosophy toward government that echoes tea party principles: "Endless government growth becomes a form of tyranny. When the government takes up more and more space — space that was previously reserved for individuals, families, the faith community, charities, markets and the private sector — the result is more displacement, discouragement, disincentive, and dependency. As government swells to become nearly everyone's financial nanny, freedom and personal responsibility are diminished."
@ErinMcPike: House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing Jan 26 on the final report from the President's Oil Spill Collision
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