A ‘SURVEYOR’S SYMBOL’?…. On March 22, the day before the Affordable Care Act became law, former half-term Gov. Sarah Palin (R) published a list of House Democrats with crosshairs, like that of a rifle scope, over their districts. A day later, she sent a message to “commonsense conservatives” and “lovers of America” — it read, “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!”

One of those crosshairs was directed to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) who was, of course, shot yesterday, which renewed questions about Palin’s political excesses. A Palin aide yesterday rejected any connection, and said the crosshairs image was unrelated to firearms.

“We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights,” [Palin staffer Rebecca Mansour] said.

“It’s surveyor’s symbols,” the interviewer Tammy Bruce suggested. […]

Mansour agreed. She said that the graphic was contracted out to a professional. They approved it quickly without thinking about it. “We never imagined, it never occurred to us that anybody would consider it violent,” she said. Rather, she said, that it was simply “crosshairs that you would see on a map.”

There is “nothing irresponsible about our graphic,” she said.

The two did not discuss the fact that the image was immediately followed by Palin urging like-minded folks to “reload.” Of course, everyone knows surveyors’ equipment needs to be reloaded, too, right? Oh wait….

It’s worth emphasizing that the website for Palin’s political action committee was scrubbed yesterday, and offending materials related to Giffords and crosshairs were removed.

So, I have three related questions. The first is, if Palin’s materials were entirely defensible, why scrub the website? Isn’t this an implicit acknowledgement of an offense?

The second is, if the crosshairs were unrelated to guns — “Surveyor’s symbols”? Seriously? — why did Palin’s team wait to come up with this alternative interpretation until yesterday?

And the third question is, I wonder just how difficult it would be for Palin to simply acknowledge, “In retrospect, those crosshairs were inappropriate. I regret it.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.