President Barack Obama stopped at the Tucson, Ariz., hospital where Representative Gabrielle Giffords and others wounded in a mass shooting are being treated.
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama went to the facility upon arrival in Tucson. The president, who spent nine minutes visiting Giffords in the intensive care unit, will be among the speakers at a memorial service for the victims of the attack, which left six people dead and 14 wounded.
“The president will devote a significant portion of his remarks to the memory of the victims,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. “He’ll also reflect on how all of us might best honor their memory in our own lives.”
The memorial service is being conducted against a backdrop of partisan skirmishing over political rhetoric and how to interpret the actions of the 22-year-old man accused of the shooting, Jared Lee Loughner.
The dead in the Jan. 8 shooting spree included a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge. Police say Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, was the target of the gunman. She remains in critical condition with a gunshot wound to her head.
Loughner has been charged in federal court with the attempted assassination of a member of Congress; two counts of murder in the deaths of U.S. District Judge John Roll and Gabriel Zimmerman, a member of Giffords’ staff; and two counts of attempted murder in the wounding of two other staff members. State charges are pending.
The House today adopted a resolution that condemns “in the strongest possible terms the horrific attack” and praises the “bravery and quick thinking exhibited by those individuals who prevented the gunman from potentially taking more lives.”
It honors the service of Giffords, noting that she recited the First Amendment, which guarantees the right of the public to peaceably assemble, as lawmakers read the U.S. Constitution on the House floor Jan. 6.
Obama traveled with a delegation of officials and lawmakers including Attorney General Eric Holder, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, and Republican Representative Trent Franks of Arizona.
Holder is scheduled to speak at the service, along with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a former governor of the state.
Debate on Rhetoric
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, some public officials, including Pima County, Ariz., Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, criticized the harsh rhetoric of television and radio talk-show hosts and some politicians. Authorities investigating the case haven’t discovered any link to politics in the shooting.
Republican Sarah Palin, while condemning the violence, disputed the notion that the nation’s political rhetoric is overly charged or had any link to the shooting.
“Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists, and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn,” Palin, the former governor of Alaska and her party’s 2008 vice presidential candidate, said in a video posted on the Internet. “That is reprehensible.”
Syndicated radio-show host Rush Limbaugh said that Democrats were seeking “to turn it into a political advantage” and that doing so was “beneath contempt.”
Giffords was among 20 Democrats who supported healthcare legislation and were targeted for defeat in November’s elections by Palin’s political action committee, SarahPAC, which produced a map with crosshairs superimposed on the lawmakers’ districts.
Giffords, 40, questioned such imagery in an interview with MSNBC last March, saying that “when people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that action.”
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