Steinhauer: Arizona's 'Chilling' Political Theater May Have Set Stage for Shooting

According to reporter Jennifer Steinhauer, Arizona "found itself increasingly on the defensive against notions that it is a hothouse of hateful language and violent proclivities." She went on to cite several conservative measures against illegal immigration.

Reporter Jennifer Steinhauer's Monday "news analysis," "A Harsh Spotlight on a State's Unique Politics," maintained the Times quiet drumbeat of coverage on the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords: That conservative political rhetoric contributed to the actions of a clearly insane and troubled man.

Steinhauer was the latest reporter to find unprofessional Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik (today's liberal hero) a sage:

Arizona is not a world apart, but its political culture has often resided at a distance from much of the nation.

But after the fatal shooting of six that left Representative Gabrielle Giffords critically injured, Arizona has shifted from a place on the political fringe to symbol of a nation whose political discourse has lost its way.

The moment was crystallized by Clarence W. Dupnik, the Pima County sheriff, who, in a remarkable news conference on Saturday after the shooting, called his state "the mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

On Sunday, the state found itself increasingly on the defensive against notions that it is a hothouse of hateful language and violent proclivities. It was as if Arizona somehow created the setting for the shocking episode, even though there was no evidence to support the claim.

Steinhauer sensed a dangerous environment in state measures pushed by conservatives concerned over immigration.

While the individual components of Arizona are shared by other states, the mix of the state's border proximity, rapid growth and dire fiscal circumstances have combined in the last few years into a riveting and sometimes chilling theater of fiscal, political and cultural tensions.

The shooting comes soon after the passage of a strict anti-immigration measure that is being challenged by the federal government, the killing of a rancher that led to the law and the revelation that the state has stopped paying for some transplants for critically ill patients. There is also the state's role as an early promoter of the effort during the 2010 Senate campaign to write the children of illegal immigrants out of the 14th Amendment provision that grants citizenship to anyone born in the United States.

Steinhauer longed for those halcyon days of political moderation, back when Republican John McCain had more beefs with his own party than with the Democrats. (And we all remember how restrained the left was in its criticism of President George W. Bush.)

Arizona may now stand at a crossroad, in which the state's more moderate, independent political factions begin to seize the state's political discourse, in the spirit of Barry Goldwater and the pre-2008 Mr. McCain, or becomes all the more polarized. But, said Mr. Rose, who at one point was a spokesman for J. D. Hayworth, the former radio host who challenged Mr. McCain in the primary last year, "Either way, a giant collision is about to occur."