Conservatives are doing all they can to distance themselves from the attempted murder of Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and the killing of six people including a federal judge in Tucson.

Though sad to watch, it reminds Americans that GOP leaders have failed to speak out against red hot rhetoric that attempts to de-legitimize the Obama presidency and trash the federal government as a bastion of waste and corruption.

The lede editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal says mental illness was what drove shooter Jared Loughner to the brink.

In a bid to turn the table on critics, the WSJ attacks those who blame incendiary talk from right-wing pundits and Tea Partiers for poisoning the political system and creating a monster like Loughner. That kind of rhetoric is beyond the pale, huffs the WSJ, which regularly savages Obama and demeans Democrats. The Journal says it’s up to Obama, who is publicly ridiculed at every Tea Party event, to “lift the level of public discourse by explaining the reality of Loughner’s illness and calling out those on the right and left who want to blame the other side for murder.”

The Journal has it backwards. It’s up to right-wingers like Sarah Palin to tone down the hateful rhetoric. The political action committee for Palin, for instance, posted a map with crosshairs over Congressional districts of Democrats who supported the now healthcare law. Palin’s spokesperson, Rebecca Mansour, denies the marks were supposed to be gun sights. They were “crosshairs like you’d see on maps,” she said following the Jan. 8 rampage that occurred in one of Sarah’s targeted districts. Who is Mansour kidding? Note to Sarah and her apologists: words and images have consequences.

While the media wrestle with the blame game, another question arises: How come Loughner isn’t portrayed as a terrorist? Loyola University’s New Orleans College of Law professor Bill Quigley hit the nail on the head, writing Jan. 9:
"When a white male is accused of mass murder, terrorism is not much talked of rather it becomes a terrible tragedy, but not one where race or ethnicity or religion need be examined. Now, if the accused had been Muslim, does anyone doubt whether this would have been considered an act of terrorism."
The Fort Hood rampage by Major Nadal Malik Hasan, which resulted in the deaths of 12 soldiers and a security guard, was quickly deemed a terrorist attack. Why doesn’t Loughner’s supermarket massacre earn the same terror tag? That’s another argument for the media to wrestle with.

Congressman Pete “Loose Cannon” King promises Congressional hearings on the “radicalization of Islam.” If King can’t be persuaded into dropping those divisive and tax-wasting hearings, then he should expand the scope to probe the reasons for home-grown terrorists like Loughner. The King show should slot in a probe into the impact of hateful political talk.