Politicians and candidates of all stripes who employ poisonous rhetoric must be flatly rejected by ordinary voters and the political process. They have no credibility and do not contribute to solving serious economic and political problems. The country has no time for them.

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REPUDIATING violent assault as a metaphor for political change is a fundamental response to the mayhem in Arizona.

Exploiting anger and frustration with images of firearms and violence as a credible political alternative is despicable.

This terrible tragedy calls for a loud, broad rejection by ordinary voters of these poisonous tactics. Our collective silence risks severe damage to our democracy.

The motives behind Saturday’s murderous assault on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others are being determined, but a public figure who had been the target of disturbingly casual violent language is in the hospital with a grievous head wound.

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Six people were killed, including a senior federal judge, and a 9-year-old girl. Everyone is vulnerable in a poisonous atmosphere.

Words matter. If not, the language, expressions and verbal cues would not be employed by those who use them so purposefully. Code words with a hostile intent.

Innocent bystanders become targets as the shooting outside a Tucson grocery story so lethally demonstrated. One cannot anticipate how high-caliber heinous vitriol will be translated by extreme and disturbed elements, but that is no excuse to dismiss such talk as colorful rhetoric.

Expect a furious parsing of the Internet for wretched excess across the political spectrum. Vigorous attempts to shift blame and further distract public discourse from pressing economic and political issues.

Indeed, politicians who invest their resources in violent imagery avoid dealing with the national deficit, immigration, health care, education and job creation. There is method to their madness.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who is grieving for two close friends, lives in the maelstrom. He is appalled by the anger, violence and bigotry he sees in Arizona and across the country. It is time, said Dupnik, for national soul searching.

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