January 10th, 2011
04:30 PM ET

Opinion: No time for finger-pointing, says Gergen

David Gergen
CNN Senior Political Analyst

Editor's note: David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been an adviser to four U.S. presidents. He is a professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School.

(CNN) - Until we have more definitive information about the shooter, pointing fingers at who might bear responsibility for the Tucson, Arizona, massacre only contributes to what we must end in America: a toxic political environment.

Soon after the news broke, the internet lit up with accusations, even before we knew anything at all about the man who pulled the trigger. Much of the early commentary, especially from the left, blamed the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, etc. for employing a rhetoric of militarism and creating a climate of hate.

Commentators from the right soon retaliated, arguing that the left was just as guilty of rhetorical excess and through bad governance, had inspired a citizen revolt. As of this hour, we have a country that is not only deeply saddened but even more divided than we were before the shooting.

We can do better - a lot better.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • David Gergen • Opinion
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. JD Jackson

    I saw Mr. Gergen on CNN Saturday evening as he defned the R Wingers' rhetoric and actions by saying both sides are equally guilt.

    Would you please ask him to give examples of 1. liberals who carried guns to town hall meetings in 2009; 2. liberals who have routinely advocated violent overthrow of the government and "eliminating" the president in the last 2 years; 3. any liberal talk show host who engaged in violent rhetoric, even while Bush was president .

    I'd be very interested in reading about those instances.

    January 11, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  2. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I find it difficult to not see the difference between a mentally deranged person who committed this act and a politician who runs a crosshair ad singling out Giffords and tells people not to retreat but reload.

    January 11, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  3. Sherri- Texas

    I read where the murderer/terrorist had "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor" referenced somewhere in his writing. It is a video by Drowning Pool that depicts someone getting a lethal injection while repeating, "Nothing wrong with me, nothing wrong with me." Worth looking into.

    January 11, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  4. Wayne

    Gergen. You have lost all of your credibility with this opinion post.

    Violent rhetoric has not been equally coming from the right and left. The right has been encouraging violence against their political opponents for several years now

    January 11, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  5. karen

    Keeping them honest Anderson.

    How can you claim that you are "keeping them honest" when you devote half an hour to one of the most left wing commentators in America to spout off about the Tuscon events, allow him unchanllenged to have his 'hateful' view on the NRA, say things that are not straight talk about right wing talk show hosts, and use left wing talking points for an issue that really had nothing to do with all of this in the first place. Anderson, you use to be better than this!!!!
    No wonder I get most of my news through other sources now a days, it is reporters like you that leave a void and us searching for other paths to the truth.

    January 11, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  6. Pat

    David Gergen seems to be one of the few voices of reason in all this blame game taking place.

    I am disappointed that Anderson Cooper gave Bill Maher, a controversial comedian who is well-known for his biases and obscenities, a platform to derogate and demean a political party that he routinely demeans.

    This time Cooper allowed Maher to lay blame at those he mocks and demeans for a terrible tragedy. This is irresponsible reporting.

    Thank you David Gergen for trying to "clean up" the excessive and offensive attack made by Maher, who really should never be given a forum as CNN has done.

    January 11, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  7. J.V.Hodgson

    I agree with David in the sense that America seems to have to have something or someone specific to blame. In getting there the rhetoric heats up.
    As usual that leads to the tendency to deal with the symptoms and not the real cause(s).
    To me if it was not so sad it is a big laugh that the conversation immediately turns to "security and protecting our elected" officials from top politicians.
    Start by stopping the platitudes of a 800 person conference call and deal with
    a) Sensible amendments to gun laws that ban anything that can fire more than 6 bullets as a weapon capable of being licensed to an individual, and one per household and forget concealed carrying laws that allow it. Separate system for hunting rifles, but max six rounds two in a shot gun.
    b) Accept the fact that yes, One person deranged or otherwise is the murderer, and Ignore his political motivation as it does nothing pere se to worsen his sentence/crime . But recognise the broad truth that politicians, media especially, then bloggers have to have higher standards of morality in posts. Legal, honest, decent, and truthful come to mind plus Integrity and fact checked for media posts.
    Media please stop hiding behind " freedom of speech" as an excuse that a) we did not say it he/she did and b) publishing without fact checking if its true or even half true, and do not publish outright lies, as often happens now.

    January 11, 2011 at 12:44 am |
  8. jason

    I'm sorry Mr. Gergen.. you are wrong. This is an excellent time to point fingers.. People are dead.. and one person who was shot in the head was depicted with a rifle scope over her state.
    How can you not see the comparison to Reagan? Imagine if someone had shown President Reagan in the cross hairs and was telling people to "reload" to take back the country?
    Sarah Palin should be tainted by this.

    January 10, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  9. Mark Larson

    Anderson, I don't understand the assertion that this was caused by a "lack of reporting", the laws have been loosened in AZ. But, what I don't understand is if the Tea Party shrinks the size of government, how does this not adversely affect reporting (I am referring to Jan Brewer's significantly decreasing mental health facility funding)? Also, per the Tea Party recent strong activism is AZ, how do you ensure "proper reporting", if government is supposed to respect individuals independence and freedoms (a common Tea Party platform issue)?

    Mark Larson, Phoenix, AZ.

    January 10, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
  10. linda nielson

    This is about a shooter with an obvious mental illness-either bipolar manic with psychosis for thought disorder. common are religoius based or paranoid delusions. it is not about politics!

    January 10, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  11. Steven Hauben

    I have been listening to the comments of the right and the leftregarding the shooting. Very few are willing to agree that the tone and language is out of hand. No one is advocating to restrict or infringe on one's right to speak freely, but you can't yell fire in a crowded theater or threaten physical harm, thats common civility.A few months ago the politicos and talking heads were lined up calling for the assasination of Julian Assange for publishing leaked information and as far as I know no one has died from his actions. What do expect will happen when some one on the brink seeking attention/aceptance will think when our civic leaders and "personalities" condone violence as just business as usual.

    January 10, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
  12. Kate

    I heard Rep. Giffords ran against a gentlemen that actually held a fund raiser at a shooting range – Take out Gaby. and attendees got to shoot weapons. Can this true?? If true who would attend or vote for someone so vile?? This can't be true is it???

    January 10, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  13. Linda

    I agree, let's stop blaming one side or the other. The fact is the American public is tired of both parties daily bickering and pointing fingers at each other. The parties need to learn to work together as a body and make compromises so bills can be passed for the good of the country. If they do not start treating each other with respect, our country will suffer greatly. Because of their ridiculous actions towards each other, I've lost respect for them. Their first order of business should be to get their "crap" together by defining better ways to conduct their business for the American public that elected them to office.

    Retired Civil Servant
    Near Tucson Arizona

    January 10, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  14. Felix Okah

    It is a shame that this young man did not receive much needed mental health care. This is what happens when health care is not available and accessible to EVERY citizen. The US is not the only place with mental-health challenged people, yet we keep waiting for the next one to pick up ( a glun-lobby sanctioned semi-automati) weapon and commit the next physician or mass murder.

    January 10, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  15. ila conway

    Please spare me, Ms. Palin kills innocent animals with" Big Guns" for sport. She sent her own son to fight in a war she advocates and supports. She in no fashion displays herself as an individual who hates war or violence She did nothing short of put out a hit on this poor congresswoman and successfully so. She should be brought to task for her involvement and instigation of this tragic end. Ms. Palin knows her public sphere and very directly called for her supporters to bring out the "Big Guns" ,etc. She so absolutely culpable and worthy of a legal comeuppance.

    January 10, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
  16. Mark Larson

    Good Evening Anderson,

    I live in Phoenix, AZ. The environment there is volitile to say the least. My car proudly displays a Obama sticker; it's been vandalized twice – once in a church parking lot. Others sport abusive, hateful, and threatening bumper stickers or self-made signs.

    I am a political activist here in AZ; and I've lived in Phoenix for quite some time. I am a Democrat, but have voted both sides of the aisle. Since the upsurgence of the Tea Party here the political realm has been pretty bad. I don't think the Pima Co. Sherrif was far from the mark, when he said the AZ is full of hate and biggotry. You should come and see it – the air is thick with it!

    BTW – It's ironic that on I-17 freeway around the Dunlap Ave. exit there is a huge billboard that reads, "Guns Save Lives!"

    Mark Larson, Phoenix, AZ

    January 10, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  17. Annie Kate

    I remember the hate signs and threats in Dallas Texas in 1963 and we wound up with an assassinated President (Kennedy). While Oswald may have killed Kennedy anyway the hateful atmosphere in Dallas seemed to underscore the awfulness of what happened. Current days have the same feel to them; the discourse as hateful and violent and unfortunately for Rep. Giffords the result almost the same. When do we analyze what caused this to happen and if there are things we can do to defuse the political climate so more does not follow?

    January 10, 2011 at 9:27 pm |