I remember watching the press conference on Jan. 8 at which Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik—in the midst of what I'd imagine was the most trying day of his 50-year law-enforcement career—took some time to express his feelings about the vitriolic nature of today's political discourse.
In journalism, it's what we call a "holy shit moment." I knew instantly that Dupnik's remarks were going to be a big deal.
However, I had no idea that they'd become such a big deal.
It's disheartening that Dupnik's remarks ignited such a firestorm. Personally, I thought they were spot-on criticisms of some talk-radio hosts, some cable talking heads and some politicians, even if the remarks were ill-timed—seeing as there is no known evidence at this time that this vitriol had anything to do with the shootings.
I didn't expect—although I probably should have—that some on the right would seize the opportunity to start whining that they were victimized somehow by Dupnik's remarks. (Jon Justice's whines were especially pathetic.) I also didn't expect some on the left to keep trying to link the political vitriol to the shooter's actions, even though not a shred of publicly released evidence has shown a connection. (I've disagreed with Tom Danehy's writings on the topic.)
And here we are, not yet three weeks beyond the shootings, and Tea Party and anti-immigration activists are trying to exploit Dupnik's remarks with an ill-advised recall attempt and protests.
In other words, despite all of the talk about a new era of civility, nothing has changed. President Obama's plea to make the post-tragedy reflection and debate "worthy of those we have lost" is falling on way too many deaf ears.