“We are in a dark place in the country right now, and the atmospheric condition is toxic and much of it begins in Washington, D.C., and we export it across the country,” he said. “I think Members of Congress either need to turn down the volume — again, to try to exercise some high level of civility — or this darkness will never, ever be overcome with light.”
Republicans were quick to point out that mental illness may play a greater role in the shooting than political philosophy. But several said they agreed civility must take a more central role in political debate.
“We really don’t know what motivated this young person except to know he was very mentally unstable,” Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl said on “Face the Nation.”
The Arizona Republican added: “It’s probably giving him too much credit to ascribe a coherent political philosophy to him. We just have to acknowledge that there are mentally unstable people in this country. Who knows what motivates them to do what they do? Then they commit terrible crimes like this.”
“Of course we want civility instead of incivility, and of course we don’t want violence, but I think in all the talk about this we have to be very careful about inputting the motives or the actions of a deranged individual to any particular group of Americans who have their own political beliefs,” Alexander said on “State of the Union.”
He argued that Loughner was an extremist, citing a website attributed to the suspect that contained a video showing a burning American flag and a list of favorite books that included work by Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler.
“That’s not the profile of a typical tea party member, and that’s the inference that is being made,” Alexander said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think obviously we are much better off in our country if we peacefully assemble, treat each other with respect and condemn people who go over the line, particularly people who do it violently as this individual did yesterday.”
Rep. Jeff Flake agreed that people in the public eye need to watch what they say in the future.
“When we can work together between the parties on these issues, I think that’s what people want to see,” the Arizona Republican said on ABC’s This Week.”
Wasserman Schultz suggested that Democrats and Republicans should hold an event to discuss ways they can tone down the political debate and encourage more civility.
“It is a moment and it should be a moment for both parties in Congress to come together. ... We absolutely have to realize that we are all in this for the same reason: to make America a better place,” she said. “We should have an event where we spend some time together talking about how we can work better together, and then we can move forward together and try to avoid tragedies like this.”
John Stanton and Melanie Starkey contributed to this report.
Following the speeches from elected officials, the crowd stands at long tables as they dig into BBQ, brunswick stew, cadillac rice at the Law Enforcement Cookout at Wayne Dasher's pond house in Glennville, Ga., on Thursday, April 17, 2014.