Update: McCain defends Palin's word choice: "Those are fine. They're used all the time."
Since the passage of health care reform last weekend, there has been increasingly violent language coming from opponents of the legislation, along with vandalism directed at Democratic members of Congress.
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has now done her part to raise the rhetorical intensity, telling her Twitter followers, "Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: 'Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!'"
Palin then refers supporters to her Facebook page, where she once again employs gun imagery in offering a list of 20 potentially vulnerable pro-reform Democrats in Congress.
"WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re paying particular attention to those House members who voted in favor of Obamacare and represent districts that Senator John McCain and I carried during the 2008 election," Palin writes. "WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll aim for these races and many others." This is followed by a map of the United States showing gun crosshairs over the targeted districts.
Commentators from the left have reacted with alarm to what might be taken as an incitement to violence. "Most (but probably not all) Palin supporters may insist the tuckered-out former Alaska governor meant 'reload' metaphorically," notes Salon's Joan Walsh. "But in a country where angry right-wingers carry guns to see the president speak, and spit on African-American congressmen, I thought it was a chilling statement. Will any Republican denounce Palin's language?"
"I'm not one who believes she's trying to incite violence," MSBNC's Lawrence O'Donnell insisted on Tuesday. "I'd have to give her a very big benefit of the doubt that this is what it sounds like when you're a hunter from Alaska." He was concerned, however, that even if Palin's gun imagery was inadvertent, it could still have a negative effect.
"Is she just out of it?" he asked Professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell. "Or is this an indication that this movement actually likes to move into that provocative direction?"
"There should be a kind of carefulness about people in public life," Harris-Lacewell replied. "I think that this is part of what Sarah Palin made a decision to do when she quit the role of an elected leader. ... She went rogue. ... And yet this notion that she has so little responsibility that she would use crosshairs to talk about ..."
Harris-Lacewell then trailed off without completing the thought.
Update:asked Senator John McCain whether Palin should perhaps have used "less incendiary language."
McCain's laughing response was, ""I have seen the rhetoric of 'targeted districts' as long as I've been in politics. ... To say that there's a targeted district or that we 'reload' or 'got back into the fight again.' Please. ... Those are fine. They're used all the time."
This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast March 23, 2010.