Violence against politicians is not new. But the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords offers a reminder that the firepower available to assassins keeps getting more lethal and the barriers to obtaining it more porous. Above all, to judge by Jared Loughner's deluded ramblings about government brainwashing and a phony currency, extremists are becoming even more radicalized and violent.
Given some of the wild rhetoric emanating from the Tea Party, the surprising thing probably isn't that a terrible event like this happened now. It's that it didn't occur even earlier. President Obama should deliver a national address about the perils of political violence. If ever there was a time to use the bully pulpit, this is it.
Violence is a staple of extremists. Which is why Obama was wrong to declare that this act wasn't linked to terrorism.
The blunt fact is that this was an act of terrorism. It was meant to terrorize. And it did. And it will. Numerous innocent people were murdered or injured. Politicians will have to take even more precautions in the future. We have moved from a country in which Harry Truman could take brisk morning strolls outside the White House to a bunker mentality.
Loughner himself appears to be an utterly uninteresting person, if his rantings are anything to go by. But you don't have to be special to be dangerous. This creep has already earned himself a place in infamy. Let's hope he's an isolated case rather than representative of a festering hatred that manifests itself by attempting to assassinate politicians and judges who represent the government.