Two days in a row, New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney has suggested that Arizona’s heated conservative rhetoric may have created a toxic atmosphere for gunman Jared Loughner to function in.
Yesterday Nagourney commented on a speech by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer the day before addressing the shootings in Tucson, in an article with the leading headline “Governor Strives to Restore Arizona’s Reputation.” As if Arizona bore some blame for anything one of its six million residents may have done.
Her remarks, a downstate reprise of the official State of the State address she gave to lawmakers in Phoenix on Monday, illustrate the challenges Ms. Brewer faces. She is eagerly trying to defend a state whose reputation has been battered in recent years, particularly since the massacre here on Saturday.
But fairly or not, Arizona’s image has been forged in part because of Ms. 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.
Nagourney sidled up to the suggestion that Brewer’s allegedly “incendiary remarks” about drug violence spreading from Mexico to the United States had something to do with threats to Giffords.
More of an obstacle might be some of the incendiary remarks she has made as governor, such as claiming, without foundation, that headless bodies had been found in the desert. She made that statement in signing the bill that gave the police wide authority to demand proof of citizenship from people suspected of being illegal immigrants.
“She really did get caught up in a lot of this rhetoric that we are now concerned about as it relates to Gabby,” said Bruce Merrill, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University.
Earlier, on Tuesday, Nagourney threw in all the potentially combustible ingredients of Arizona politics -- guns, border control, health care -- and tried to make it add up to a stew of violence in a front-page story: “In Giffords’s District, a Long History of Tension.” (The story was reported by Nagourney, with additional reporting from Sam Dolnick and Katharine Seelye).
When Nagourney discussed divisions in Arizona "over government spending, immigration, health care and Barack Obama," it was easy for readers to conjure up conservative villains.
Representative Gabrielle Giffords was distressed when the glass front door of her district office here was shattered by a kick or a pellet gun last March, an act of vandalism that took place hours after she joined Democrats in passing President Obama’s health care bill. “Things have really gotten spun up,” she told a television interviewer the next day.
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. Protesters chained themselves to the desks of Ms. Giffords’s Republican predecessor, Jim Kolbe, 12 years ago. And over the past year, Ms. Giffords struggled in a brutal re-election campaign during which her opponent appeared in a Web advertisement holding an assault weapon. The district has become a caldron of divisions over government spending, immigration, health care and Barack Obama.
Ms. Giffords was seeking re-election at a time when Arizona passed a tough law aimed at illegal immigrants, which Ms. Giffords opposed, and as the state faced a threatened boycott from parts of the nation for passing a law that many people saw as intolerant.