CBS Evening News & Mother Jones – 2011-01-09 00:08:31
Sarah Palin Criticized Over
Gabrielle Giffordsâ€™ Presence
On “Target List”
CBS Evening News
NEW YORK (January 8, 2011) — We do not yet know what prompted 22-year-old accused gunman Jared Loughner to allegedly shoot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and others, including a child and federal judge who died from their wounds.
But critics of Sarah Palin have already drawn a link between the shooting and the fact that the former Alaska governor put Giffords on a “target list” of lawmakers Palin wanted to see unseated in the midterm elections.
In March, Palin released a map featuring 20 House Democrats that used crosshairs images to show their districts. Critics suggested at the time that she was inciting violence by using the crosshairs imagery and for later writing on Twitter to her supporters, “‘Don’t Retreat, Instead — RELOAD!'”
“We’re paying particular attention to those House members who voted in favor of Obamacare and represent districts that Senator John McCain and I carried during the 2008 election,” Palin wrote when she released the target list.
She specifically cited Giffords and then went to say: “We’ll aim for these races and many others.”
In response to the news that Giffords had been shot, Palin posted the following on Facebook: “My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today’s tragic shooting in Arizona. On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice.”
In the comments section below, her critics did not hold back.
“What a hypocrite you are,” wrote Kathy Henn. “You targeted this woman — literally with a target on her district — one of your freaky Fox followers hunted her down — and now you try to distance yourself from blame.” (There is no evidence at this point that Loughner was a “Fox follower,” that he held views in line with Palin, or that he had ever seen the target list.)
“More than condolences, I hope you will think carefully in the future when you call on supporters to ‘take aim’ at opponents, and refer to elections as ‘salvos,'” wrote Kirsten Sherk. “A child was killed today by someone who can’t tell the difference between ‘inspiring’ speech and a call to arms. I was appalled by your violent speech before, I’m horrified now.”
Arizona Democrat Rep. Raul Grijalva, meanwhile, told The Nation in the wake of the shooting that “we’re feeding anger, hatred, and division for quite a while. Maybe it is time for elected officials and leaders in this country that have been feeding that disease to realize that there are consequences to it.”
Asked if the Tea Party right was to blame, he added: “[When] you stoke these flames, and you go to public meetings and you scream at the elected officials, you threaten them — you make us expendable you make us part of the cannon fodder. For a while, you’ve been feeding this hatred, this division… you feed it, you encourage it…. Something’s going to happen. People are feeding this monster…. Some of the extreme right wing has made demonization of elected officials their priority.”
Giffords is in the beginning of her third term in office after recently winning a very close election. She is a conservative Democrat in a conservative state, but was the target of heated rhetoric.
Around the time of the Palin post, Giffords’s district office was vandalized with a window being shot out. CBS News’s Jill Jackson reported at the time that staffers were “kind of shaken up” after receiving numerous threats including “nasty language, foul language.”
In August of 2009, someone dropped a handgun at a Giffords town hall meeting, prompting calls to police from Giffords’ staff. A spokesman said then that “We have never felt the need before to notify law enforcement when we hold these events.”
Asked by the New York Post in the wake of the shooting if Giffords had any enemies, her father responded, “Yeah. The whole Tea Party.”
In reacting to today’s shooting, Jane Fonda, a well-known liberal, pointed the finger at Palin on Twitter. “Progressive Arizona Rep Gabrielle Giffords is shot. In her ads, Sarah Palin had her targeted in a gun site. Inciting to violence,” she said.
The Tea Part Express, meanwhile, said in part: “These heinous crimes have no place in America, and they are especially grievous when committed against our elected officials. Spirited debate is desirable in our country, but it only should be the clash of ideas. An attack on anyone for political purposes, if that was a factor in this shooting, is an attack on the democratic process.”
John McCain, the man who brought Palin to national attention by tapping her to be his running mate, didn’t mention Palin in his response to the shooting in his home state. “Whoever did this; whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race, and they deserve and will receive the contempt of all decent people and the strongest punishment of the law,” he wrote.
When Palin was being criticized for the target list, McCain came to her defense, saying, “I have seen the rhetoric of targeted districts as long as I’ve been in politics.”
“This is — any threat of violence is terrible, but to say that there is a targeted district or that we ‘reload’ or go back in to the fight again, please…Those are fine. They’re used all the time,” he said, adding: “Those words have been used throughout of my political career. There are targeted districts, and there are areas that we call battleground states, and so please, that rhetoric and kind of language is just part of the political lexicon. There is no place for threats of violence or anything else, but to say that someone is in a battleground state is not originated today.”
Responding to Palin’s rhetoric last year, Giffords herself told MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown, that “the rhetoric is incredibly heated.”
Giffords — who is a gun owner and supporter of gun rights — went on to say: “The way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district, when people do that, they have got to realize there are consequences to that,” she added.
Palin is not the only politician taking heat in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy – critics are also pointing the finger at Giffords’ general election opponent, Jesse Kelly. The liberal website firedoglake noted that Kelly held an event on June 12th urging supporters to “Get on Target for Victory in November/Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office/Shoot a fully automatic M15 with Jesse Kelly.”
Here’s how the Arizona Daily Star described the event at the time:
Jesse Kelly, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to be bothered in the least by the Sarah Palin controversy earlier this year, when she released a list of targeted races in crosshairs, urging followers to “reload” and “aim” for Democrats. Critics said she was inciting violence.
He seems to be embracing his fellow tea partier’s idea. Kelly’s campaign event website has a stern-looking photo of the former Marine in military garb holding his weapon. It includes the headline: “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.”
Sarah Palin Issues Statement on Giffords Shooting
Sarah Palin just posted a statement to her Facebook page on the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona today.
On the Tragedy in Arizona
(January 8, 2010) â€“ My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of todayâ€™s tragic shooting in Arizona.
On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice.
— Sarah Palin
Giffords’s Office Was Vandalized
By Followers of Former Militia Leader
James Ridgeway / Mother Jones
(January 8, 2011) — Mike Vanderboegh, a former 1990s militia leader from Alabama, enouraged readers of his blog to throw bricks through the doors of members of Congress who had supported President Obama’s health care bill last spring. One of the doors broken was that of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot at a rally in a Tuscon supermarket earlier today.
Police have said the unidentified gunman, who shot Giffords at in the head at close range, along with several other people at the event, is in custody. He has not been identified or linked to any movement or group, and no evidence has been made public to show that his motives were political. According to the Tucson Citizen, police have arrested a second suspect and are seeking a third.
The Washington Post reported on the vandalism at Giffords’s office, and on its subsequent interview with Vanderboegh, on March 25, 2010:
“To all modern Sons of Liberty: THIS is your time. Break their windows. Break them NOW.”
These were the words of Mike Vanderboegh, a 57-year-old former militiaman from Alabama, who took to his blog urging people who opposed the historic health-care reform legislation — he calls it “Nancy Pelosi’s Intolerable Act” — to throw bricks through the windows of Democratic offices nationwide.
“So, if you wish to send a message that Pelosi and her party [that they] cannot fail to hear, break their windows,” Vanderboegh wrote on the blog, Sipsey Street Irregulars. “Break them NOW. Break them and run to break again. Break them under cover of night. Break them in broad daylight. Break them and await arrest in willful, principled civil disobedience. Break them with rocks. Break them with slingshots. Break them with baseball bats. But BREAK THEM.”
In the days that followed, glass windows and doors were shattered at local Democratic Party offices and the district offices of House Democrats from Arizona to Kansas to New York. At least 10 Democratic lawmakers reported death threats, incidents of harassment or vandalism at their offices over the past week, and the FBI and Capitol Police are offering lawmakers increased protection.
Local Democratic Party officials in New York have called for Vanderboegh’s arrest, believing he is implicated in the vandalism in Rochester, but Vanderboegh said he has not yet been questioned by any law enforcement authorities.
Vanderboegh was unapologetic in a 45-minute telephone interview with The Washington Post early Thursday. He said he believes throwing bricks through windows sends a warning to Democratic lawmakers that the health-care reform legislation they passed Sunday has caused so much unrest that it could result in a civil war.
“The federal government should not have the ability to command us to buy something that it decides we should buy,” Vanderboegh said. The government, he added, has “absolutely no idea the number of alienated who feel that their backs are to the wall are out here… who are not only willing to resist this law to the very end of their lives, but are armed and are capable of making such resistance possible and perhaps even initiating a civil war.”…
Vanderboegh said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats should beware “unintended consequences of their actions.” Vanderboegh outlined a complicated theory that IRS agents will go after people who refuse to buy insurance or pay the fines, ultimately resulting in “civil war.”
“The central fact of the health-care bill is this, and we find it tyrannical and unconstitutional on its face,” Vanderboegh said. “The federal government now demands all Americans to pay and play in this system, and if we refuse, we will be fined, and if we refuse to pay the fine, they will come to arrest us, and if we resist arrest . . . then we will be killed. The bill certainly doesn’t say that, but that’s exactly and precisely what is behind every bill like this.”
He said his call for people to throw bricks is “both good manners and it’s also a moral duty to try to warn people.”
In 2006, Vanderboegh advocated hurling bricks through the windows of members of Congress who supported giving illegal immigrants the same rights as U.S. citizens, according to news reports at the time. He said those bricks should be used to build a wall sealing off the United States from Mexico…
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist and hate groups, has been following Vanderboegh since the mid-1990s, when he first surfaced in Alabama militia groups, said Heidi Beirich, the center’s research director.
“He has been on our radar forever,” she said. “He hasn’t been involved in any kind of violence that we know of ourselves, but these causes that he’s involved in led to a lot of violence. The ideas that Vanderboegh’s militia groups were pushing were the same extreme anti-government ideas that inspired [Timothy] McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing.”
Vanderboegh, who lives in the Birmingham suburb of Pinson, described himself as a “Christian libertarian” and said he has long been a gun rights advocate. He said he joined a clandestine militia group called the “Sons of Liberty” and later became a public leader of the First Alabama Cavalry, Constitutional Militia.
ADDENDUM, 11:55 PM: In an email to me this evening, Mike Vanderboegh, the former militia leader discussed above, wrote the following:
Kindly go over my call to break the windows of LOCAL DEMOCRAT PARTY HEADQUARTERS and find just once where I called for anybody to break the windows of Congresscritters.
Readers can make up their own minds about Vanderboegh’s call to action by reading his original blog post here — where he writes, among other things:
So, if you wish to send a message that Pelosi and her party cannot fail to hear, break their windows.
Break them NOW.
Break them and run to break again. Break them under cover of night. Break them in broad daylight. Break them and await arrest in willful, principled civil disobedience. Break them with rocks. Break them with slingshots. Break them with baseball bats.
After Giffords Shooting, Rep. Grijalva Blames Rage-Fueled Political Climate
Suzy Khimm / Mother Jones
(January 8, 2011) — In the wake of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and the shooting of more than 20 others in Tucson today, fellow Arizona Democrat Rep. Raul Grijalva denounced a political environment poisoned by “anger, hatred, and division.”
In a phone interview with Mother Jones, Grijalva called the assault “horrible and unbelievable and shockingâ€¦. It’s hard to explain and really difficult to comprehend.” Grijalva — who was also the recent target of violent threats — went on to blame the polarized political climate for creating an atmosphere that fueled violence:
We never entered [politics] believing that we were taking our lives in our hands…we’re feeding anger, hatred, and division for quite a while. Maybe it is time for elected officials and leaders in this country that have been feeding that disease to realize that there are consequences to it. I hope people stop and think that we can be opponents, but we don’t have to be deadly enemiesâ€¦ to demonize another person because of a disagreement and to make them expendible is not a democracy, it’s not the America I know.
Asked whether the tea party right deserved to be singled out for particular blame, Grijalva assented:
[When] you stoke these flames, and you go to public meetings and you scream at the elected officials, you threaten them — you make us expendable you make us part of the cannon fodder. For a while, you’ve been feeding this hatred, this divisionâ€¦you feed it, you encourage itâ€¦. Something’s going to happen. People are feeding this monsterâ€¦. Some of the extreme right wing has made demonization of elected officials their priority.
A number of prominent left-wing blogs, including Daily Kos and FireDogLake, also blamed Sarah Palin for fanning the flames by placing Giffords — along with other vulnerable Democratic members of Congress — literally in the crosshairs on a map during the midterm elections.
Grijalva said that the Palin “apparatus” shares responsibility for creating a climate of extremism. “Both Gabby and I were targeted in the apparatus in that cycle [saying] these people are ‘enemies.'” He concluded: “The Palin express better look at their tone and their tenor.”
Suzy Khimm is a reporter in the Washington bureau of Mother Jones.