“Palin didn’t respond to an email Sunday afternoon. Her advisers are furious that she’s being linked to the tragedy, but recognize the delicacy of the situation and are trying to assess how best to halt it from spiraling further without making it any worse…

“Palin’s allies point out the unfairness of the situation, one that may force her to respond to a tragic event where there is so far no evidence that deranged shooter Jared Lee Loughner ever even mentioned Palin’s name, let alone found inspiration from her ‘targeting’ of Giffords…

“Consider these metrics: As of mid-day Saturday, Google trends showed that Palin ranked as the sixth-most popular search on ‘hot topics’ and ‘Sarah Palin crosshairs’ was number nine on the list of ‘hot searches.’ Further, Facebook’s Randi Zuckberg told ABC that the top question being asked on Facebook Sunday was: ‘Is Sarah Palin to blame?’

“Few Republicans would speak openly about the political stakes for Palin, but privately a number of strategists said that the mere existence of these internet searches and questions underscored her challenge.”

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“Of all people, it is precisely those who have complained the loudest about the culture of debate — about the rhetoric of the Tea Party, the right wing’s harsh words and the baseless Obama-Hitler comparisons — who are now poisoning the debate with their own baseless insinuations. With little reliance on facts, they began searching for scapegoats for the attack and they found them, selectively, among the right wing, the Tea Party, Republican Party boss Michael Steele and Tea Party heroine Sarah Palin…

“Indeed, the massive criticism of Sarah Palin is misguided. This is not only due to the fact that the accusation is baseless, but also because the calculated attempt to weaken Palin in this manner could ultimately backfire.

“The reasoning is quite simple: Palin has always profited in the role of victim — a victim of the liberal elite. Time and again, she has been made fun of — when, for example, she spoke for the first time about foreign policy during the 2008 presidential campaign, and later when she wrote notes on her hand during speeches and television appearances. But every time people made fun of the Alaska politician or attacked her as being superficial and unqualified, it merely helped deepen the support of her followers. Now, the allegation that she carries partial responsibility for what has happened in Arizona could turn out to do more to help than harm her.

“Yet again, she could emerge as a political martyr.”

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“Roger Ailes, the chairman and chief executive officer of Fox News Channel, has told his TV personalities to ‘shut up, tone it down’ in light of the sudden attention on harsh political rhetoric in the media…

“‘I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually,’ Ailes said in the interview, which was posted Monday. ‘You don’t have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that.’

“He emphasized that liberals and conservatives have been guilty of violent language. ‘Both sides are wrong, but they both do it,’ he said.”

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