Let me be clear, I think Sarah Palin is incurious and mean, two traits I cannot stand in combination. And I thought her political action committee, SarahPAC, putting up a map with members of Congress she had identified for removal with gun-sight marks over their districts was in terrible taste.
And I think it's bizarre that now she would try to claim that they were not crosshairs, but instead surveyors' marks.
But we don't yet know why Jared Loughner shot those people in Arizona, except that Giffords was targeted for being a member of the government. If he says, "I shot those people because all these politicians were talking about 'Second Amendment remedies' and reloading instead of retreating and I thought, by god, I don't know why no one else is going to take up their suggestions, but I am!" — well then, I will be right back here in this space saying that Palin and Angle have some explaining to do.
But that's still the Point B you have to go through to get from "dude went on a murderous rampage" to "Sarah Palin bears some responsibility because she used that violent rhetoric." You have to show that he got her message and chose to act on it. There isn't really "contributing to an atmosphere where this could happen" until you prove that she actually contributed to his atmosphere.
Palin's rhetoric was over the line, don't get me wrong. But it's not clear she's the kind of figure he would look to for inspiration. She was a governor. She ran for vice-president. She seemingly wants to run for president. And he hates the government. It seems unlikely that he would bear in mind her political hit list when making his literal one.
It's natural to cast around for someone to blame, but there are always going to be people among us who are getting secret messages from Beatles records or who live in a shack and send bombs through the mail or whatever. It's comforting to think that, if only we could figure out what triggers them to act, we could do something different to keep them from acting.
But that's just not always the case. And while it's always fun to bust Palin's chops, I think we should hold off until we hear from him before we blame her.