‘There is a need for some reflection here’

‘THERE IS A NEED FOR SOME REFLECTION HERE’…. As the political world continues to monitor developments in Tucson, there have been some interesting responses from the right, beyond the condolences and well wishes.

There’s a contingent that seems intent on trying to somehow characterize Jared Lee Loughner as some sort of liberal, as part of a he’s-not-on-my-team instinct. There’s a larger group that seems defensive about the very idea of associating rhetorical excesses on the right with political violence. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) was asked this morning by CNN’s Candy Crowley about Sarah Palin’s notorious “crosshairs” graphic, and he seemed rather annoyed about the question. Alexander concluded, “I think the way to get away from it is for you not to be talking about it.”

But I noticed one Republican senator who took a more constructive line with Politico.

Others acknowledged what they called an unavoidable reality — flamboyant or incendiary anti-government rhetoric of the sort used by many conservative politicians, commentators and tea party activists for the time being will carry a stigma.

A senior Republican senator, speaking anonymously in order to freely discuss the tragedy, told POLITICO that the Giffords shooting should be taken as a “cautionary tale” by Republicans.

“There is a need for some reflection here — what is too far now?” said the senator. “What was too far when Oklahoma City happened is accepted now. There’s been a desensitizing. These town halls and cable TV and talk radio, everybody’s trying to outdo each other.”

The vast majority of tea party activists, this senator said, ought not be impugned.

“They’re talking about things most mainstream Americans are talking about, like spending and debt,” the Republican said, before adding that politicians of all stripes need to emphasize in the coming days that “tone matters.”

“And the Republican Party in particular needs to reinforce that,” the senator said.

That seems like a fairly sensible approach.

But let’s not lose sight of the context — in the 21st century, a Republican senator who wants to convey a basic observation about rhetorical excesses, has to do so anonymously. We’ve reached the point at which a GOP senator wants to say that “tone matters,” but can’t quite bring himself/herself to say so on the record.

That, it seems to me, is about as significant as the sentiment itself.

“There is a need for some reflection here.” Here’s hoping the senator’s wish comes true.