“The words we use really do matter”

said Bill Clinton last spring on the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. “There’s this vast echo chamber, and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike.”

But conservatives don’t agree. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Rush Limbaugh, among many, complain that Democrats are seizing on the tragedy to make political capital. On tonight’s PBS Newshour David Brooks commented, “I think most of the rhetoric and most of the arguments that have been made about civility, as, God knows I’m in favor of it, but it’s completely not germane to the tragedy in Tucson.”

As Jonathan Alter notes:

Conservatives like to argue that these are isolated incidents carried out by lunatics and therefore carry no big lessons (unless the perpetrator is Muslim, in which case it’s terrorism); liberals view them as opportunities to address various social ills.

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