The Big Questions: After Arizona

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Mark Halperin’s answers, from the new issue of TIME:

What political good has come out of the tragic Arizona shooting so far?

More than the nation might have hoped, given recent history. Extreme voices on the left and right have unfortunately behaved in a typically belligerent fashion, but politicians from both parties have performed admirably. President Obama, Speaker John Boehner, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and rank-and-file members of Congress have all lowered their voices and sought to address the nation’s grief and substantive concerns — including looking to soften the tone of our politics without limiting free speech.

Who has failed to rise to the occasion?
Those liberals (particularly on the Internet) who instantly blamed the right for effectively instigating the assault and those conservatives (particularly on talk radio) who turned cherry-picked examples of liberal overreach into sweeping generalizations. Most prominently, Sarah Palin, who first avoided tough questions about her midterm-campaign map that featured crosshairs over Representative Giffords’ district and her talk of “reloading” in political battle. Palin eventually released an eight-minute video in which she denounced efforts to link her to the shootings as “blood libel.” Even some conservatives wonder if this will be the defining moment for Palin and her presidential chances.

What should an optimist hope for next?
That politicians will move from denouncing hostile rhetoric broadly to the steeper step of calling out members of their own clan. Bipartisan cooperation on real issues like jobs, taxes and trade. And a respite from tribal and unforgiving new-media politics.

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