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Politicians, media should follow Giffords’ example

In the nine days since the horrific shooting in Tucson, Ariz., Americans have tried to make sense of the tragedy. Journalists, politicians, and others have debated possible causes, trying to find sense in a senseless violent act. There are, no doubt, many lessons to be learned from that fateful Saturday. However, many public officials and media personalities have already tarnished the memories of the victims by spouting their own agendas.

Authorities’ investigations into the background of Jared Loughner — who allegedly shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D–Ariz.), killed six people, and wounded 13 more — are enough to convince any observer that this attack was not the result of twisted political messages or campaign commercials taken too literally. It was, in the truest sense of the word, the work of a madman. Sarah Palin, whose commercial drew crosshairs over Giffords’ district, and Sharron Angle, who advocated “Second Amendment remedies” in the event of her election loss, cannot be held accountable for Loughner’s actions. There have been and will be acts of politically motivated violence caused by these words and those of other demagogues like Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann. Tucson was not among them.

Instead of linking their pleas for political moderation to Loughner, public figures should instead use Giffords herself as an inspiration. She is a Democrat in a conservative district, and she has consistently put service over politics. If Giffords makes a significant recovery, which we sincerely hope she does, we do not expect her to blame some other politician or pundit for the tragedy. We expect her to continue, as she has always done, to serve her constituents and the United States to the best of her ability, without regard for media attention or front-page headlines. It is an example that others would do well to follow.