HOW did a deadly shooting spree by a disturbed young man with the typically inscrutable politics of political killers turn into a crazy referendum on the state of American political discourse?
Mere minutes after the identity of the alleged Tucson gunman hit the wires, partisans began a reprehensible scramble to out Jared Loughner as ideological kin to their political opponents. Actually, well before that time, some left-leaning opinionators began suggesting that Sarah Palin’s now-infamous crosshairs map probably had something to do with the shootings. At the very least, intemperately fiery right-wing rhetoric probably had something to do with creating a cultural “climate” unusually encouraging to would-be assassins. Before anybody really knew anything, some people seemed to have become convinced that if not for the heavy weather of partisan antagonism summoned by intemperate tea-party types, Gabrielle Giffords would not have got a bullet through the brain.