When Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords collapsed outside the Safeway in Tucson Saturday morning, felled by a hail of bullets that killed six and wounded another 13 innocent people that had come to see her, some were quick to claim that the carnage was the product not merely of the tortured mind and trigger-happy fingers of the alleged shooter, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner.

Rather, many on the American Left said the horror could be traced to the malign influence of American conservatives; members of the Tea Party; right-wing pundits Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck; former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin; and Fox News.

That was the narrative of culpability spun in the immediate aftermath of the shootings by some leading liberal commentators and Democratic politicians — despite warnings from religious leaders, lawyers, academics, ethicists, reporters and historians that such a rush to judgment only further deepens the partisan divide in America, and further poisons its discourse.

Within minutes after the attempted assassination of Giffords — indeed, at a point when it was still erroneously believed in many quarters that she was dead, and the identity of her shooter was not publicly known — some commentators, absent any credible evidence, were already busily laying blame for the atrocity in political terms. Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman blogged at 3:22 p.m. ET Saturday: “We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was.”

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