"We don't have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was. She's been the target of violence before. And for those wondering why a Blue Dog Democrat, the kind Republicans might be able to work with, might be a target, the answer is that she's a Democrat who survived what was otherwise a GOP sweep in Arizona, precisely because the Republicans nominated a Tea Party activist. (Her father says that 'the whole Tea Party' was her enemy.) And yes, she was on Sarah Palin's infamous 'crosshairs' list." - Columnist Paul Krugman in a January 8 post at nytimes.com, the day Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in Tucson.
"But fairly or not, Arizona's image has been forged in part because of [Gov. Jan] Brewer herself, who has been identified with the tough law aimed at illegal immigrants, budget cuts that include denying aid to people who need life-saving transplants and laws permitting people to take concealed guns into bars and banning the teaching of ethnic studies in public schools." - Reporter Adam Nagourney, January 12.
"[Loughner] became an echo chamber for stray ideas, amplifying, for example, certain grandiose tenets of a number of extremist right-wing groups - including the need for a new money system and the government's mind-manipulation of the masses through language....A few days later, during a meeting with a school administrator, Mr. Loughner said that he had paid for his courses illegally because, 'I did not pay with gold and silver' - a standard position among right-wing extremist groups." - Front-page story by Dan Barry, January 16.
"On Sunday, the state found itself increasingly on the defensive against notions that it is a hothouse of hateful language and violent proclivities. It was as if Arizona somehow created the setting for the shocking episode, even though there was no evidence to support the claim....While the individual components of Arizona are shared by other states, the mix of the state's border proximity, rapid growth and dire fiscal circumstances have combined in the last few years into a riveting and sometimes chilling theater of fiscal, political and cultural tensions." - Jennifer Steinhauer on January 10, reacting to the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson.
"Some people who study right-wing militia groups and those who align themselves with the so-called Patriot movement said Mr. Loughner's comments on subjects like the American currency and the Constitution, which he posted online in various video clips, were strikingly similar in language and tone to the voices of the Internet's more paranoid, extremist corners....The position, for instance, that currency not backed by a gold or silver standard is worthless is a hallmark of the far right and the militia movement, said Mark Potok, who directs research on hate groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center....Law enforcement officials said they suspected that Mr. Loughner might also have been influenced by things like American Renaissance, a conservative magazine that describes itself as "America's premiere publication of racial-realist thought." - From a January 10 front-page story by Kirk Johnson, Serge Kovaleski, Dan Frosch, and Eric Lipton.
"Have politicians stoked the pre-Loughner violence by advocating that citizens pursue 'Second Amendment remedies' or be 'armed and dangerous'? We don't know. What's more disturbing is what Republican and conservative leaders have not said. Their continuing silence during two years of simmering violence has been chilling." - From Frank Rich's January 16 column.
"It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman's act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats. They seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people." - From a January 10 editorial on the shootings in Tucson.
"In the aftermath of this unforgivable attack, it will be important to avoid drawing prejudicial conclusions from the fact that Major Hasan is an American Muslim whose parents came from the Middle East....There were reports that some soldiers said they had heard him shout "God is Great" in Arabic before he started firing. But until investigations are complete, no one can begin to imagine what could possibly have motivated this latest appalling rampage." - From a November 7, 2009 editorial after a radical Muslim Army officer killed a dozen people at Fort Hood, Texas.
"But tensions have long run high in the Eighth Congressional District of Arizona, a classic swing district that shares a 114-mile border with Mexico....The district has become a caldron of divisions over government spending, immigration, health care and Barack Obama....Still, the shootings came after a disconcerting run of episodes in this district of mountains and desert, raising temperatures here in a way that some that some of Ms. Giffords's friends argue fed an atmosphere that might encourage violence." - From a January 11 front-page article by Sam Dolnick, Katharine Seelye, and Adam Nagourney.
"Not even the terrorist attacks of 2001, which surely rank high among the most jarring events in American history, did much to unify the society in any lasting way. The collapse of the World Trade Center towers had immediate and significant consequences for the nation's foreign policy, but any sense of common purpose had more or less vanished by the next year's elections, when Republicans slammed their Democratic opponents - including Max Cleland, a man who lost three of his limbs fighting in Vietnam - as insufficiently patriotic." - Reporter Matt Bai in his January 16 "Political Scene" column. Actual commercial: Over a montage of four photographs, one each of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, two others of the U.S. military, a narrator reads: "As America faces terrorists and extremist dictators, Max Cleland runs television ads claiming he has the courage to lead." The ad then points out Cleland voted against Bush's Homeland Security efforts 11 times.
"Wednesday was bookended by two remarkable - and remarkably different - political performances that demonstrated the vast expanse of America's political landscape. The day opened at 5 a.m. with Sarah Palin, whose seven-and-a-half minute video statement captured with precision the bubbling anger and resentment that is an undercurrent of the national conversation about our public discourse. It ended with President Obama, whose plea for civility, love and compassion - for us to all be not just better citizens but better people - exposed for the first time the emotions of a leader who has spent two years staying cool and controlled for a nation beset by difficult times....Where Ms. Palin was direct and forceful, Mr. Obama was soft and restrained. Where Ms. Palin was accusatory, Mr. Obama appeared to go out of his way to avoid pointing fingers or assigning blame. Where she stressed the importance of fighting for our different beliefs, he emphasized our need for unity, referring to the 'American family - 300 million strong.'" - Chief "Caucus" blog writer Michael Shear in a January 13 posting.
"In any case, it is a presumptuous and self-righteous act, suggesting that they alone understand the true meaning of a text that the founders wisely left open to generations of reinterpretation. Certainly the Republican leadership is not trying to suggest that African-Americans still be counted as three-fifths of a person." - Times editorial on January 5 reacting to the Republican-led Congress reading the Constitution on the House floor.
"There's growing evidence that the toll of our stunning inequality is not just economic but also is a melancholy of the soul. The upshot appears to be high rates of violent crime, high narcotics use, high teenage birthrates and even high rates of heart disease....There's similar evidence from other primates. For example, macaque monkeys are also highly social animals, and scientists put them in cages and taught them how to push a lever so that they could get cocaine. Those at the bottom of the monkey hierarchy took much more cocaine than high-status monkeys." - Nicholas Kristof in his January 2 column.
"Did the bill pledging federal funds for the health care of 9/11 responders become law in the waning hours of the 111th Congress only because a comedian took it up as a personal cause? And does that make that comedian, Jon Stewart - despite all his protestations that what he does has nothing to do with journalism - the modern-day equivalent of Edward R. Murrow?" - Media reporters David Carr and Brian Stelter on December 27.
"[Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who did not respond to requests for comment, has become synonymous with an old-fashioned approach to politics, driven by force of personality and conducted over Maker's Mark. He has also, however, been dogged by statements that suggest a considerably old-fashioned, even blinkered, view of history, having grown up in the middle of the tumultuous civil rights struggle without, apparently, having noticed much." - Campbell Robertson's January 13 profile of Barbour's cousin Henry Barbour, who worked to oust Michael Steele as chairman of the Republican National Committee.
"But it's considerably easier if you can contrast yourself with an adversary who embodies the kind of outdated politics, ideological rigidity or divisiveness that repelled those voters in the first place....With every controversial tweet or video, Ms. Palin makes Mr. Obama, who has often struggled to project the regality of the office, seem more like the post-partisan grownup he always intended to be." - Political reporter Matt Bai in his January 19 column.
"Capitalism is thriving in China, but red is far from dead, at least in Yan'an. 'The Defense of Yan'an' is a recent addition to tourist attractions that try to evoke the glory days of the Communist Party, after its leaders entered Yan'an in 1936 following the Long March. Local officials and businesspeople are profiting handsomely from a boom in 'red tourism,' in which Chinese, many of them young professionals, journey to famous revolutionary sites to rekindle their long-lost sense of class struggle and proletarian principles." - Edward Wong from Yan'an, China, December 31.