In wake of Giffords shooting, Palin aide says ‘crosshairs’ really surveyor marks

An aide to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said on a conservative radio program Sunday that last year’s much-maligned ads by Palin’s PAC showing rifle crosshairs over 20 Democratic congressional districts – including Gabrielle Giffords’s CD8 in Arizona – were actually meant to represent surveyor’s symbols on a map.

But shortly after last November’s midterm election, in which Giffords was one of only two of the targeted Dems reelected, Palin called last year’s campaign a “bullseye” and crowed about taking down 18 of 20, which included blue-dog Democrats Betsy Markey and John Salazar in Colorado.

After Palin’s PAC posted the campaign last March, Giffords, now in critical condition after an assassination attempt Saturday, was critical of Palin’s violent imagery: “We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list. Crosshairs of a gunsight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences.”

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnick, a Democrat, pointedly decried the heated political rhetoric in Arizona and the effect it may have on mentally ill people like Giffords’s alleged attacker, 22-year-ol Jared Lee Loughner of Tucson, now in police custody after bystanders captured him after he killed six and wounded 14 outside a Safeway grocery store.

“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous,” Dupnick said at press conference Saturday. “And unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

Tea Party favorites and conservative Republicans ratcheted up the warlike and violent imagery during last year’s campaign, aiming most of their vitriol at President Barack Obama for passing “Obama-care” in an effort to get more Americans covered by adequate health insurance.

Giffords voted for health-care reform and saw one of her Tucson offices vandalized with what police believe may have been a bullet through one of the windows.

Rising Republican star Congresswoman Michele Bachmann was particularly noteworthy in her borderline militant stance against health-care reform, saying on Sean Hannity’s radio show, “We can never forget that the Founders were rebelling against a governmental authority that abused their taxation power. And that was the tyranny. That’s exactly what’s happening right now. And we have to — we have to rise up and say, ‘No more. Not on my watch. No more.’”

At a Republican event in Denver in 2009, Bachmann was much more graphic:

“This cannot pass,” she told a crowd at a gathering sponsored by the conservative think tank Independence Institute. “What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t pass.”

Police have yet to ascribe a motive to Loughner’s alleged rampage, but Internet postings and interviews with acquaintances and classmates paint a picture of a deeply disturbed young man with a strong objection to government policies. He had been rejected for military service and thrown out of his community college for erratic behavior.

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