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What’s Inappropriate? Crosshairs, Guns, Gangster Government? Political Insiders Weigh In

photo of James A. Barnes
January 13, 2011

Former Senate candidate Sharron Angle. (AFP/Getty)





Sarah Palin remains at the center of the controversy in the political debate over the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Gifffords, D-Ariz., but according to a special survey of the National Journal Political Insiders Poll, Palin’s now-famous “crosshairs” map was not the most incendiary element of the last campaign. That dubious honor went to GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle of Nevada, who had a tendency to talk about “Second Amendment remedies” when discussing options for her opponent, Harry Reid, or the Congress.


This week, the Political Insiders were asked to assess whether nine examples of statements or ads from pols in both parties were “inappropriate political speech.” Angle topped the charts. Of the 124 Political Insiders who responded—62 Democrats and 62 Republicans—58 percent overall said the gun-toting Nevadan’s remarks were inappropriate. By party, a whopping 73 percent of Democratic Insiders felt that way, as well as 44 percent of Republican Insiders. And not far behind Angle, a statement at a tea party rally in Washington, D.C., by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.—“We’re on to this gangster government. We need to take out some of these guys”—earned the runner-up award: 52 percent of the Insiders felt that statement stepped over the line. Ironically, less than half, only 44 percent, of the Insiders overall thought that Palin’s crosshairs map was an example of inappropriate political speech. A hefty majority of Democratic Insiders felt that way, but only 19 percent of Republican Insiders concurred. As one GOP Insider explained, the graphic was a “normal political metaphor,” not unlike the 2010 campaign ad by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in which he says he will take “dead aim” at cap-and-trade legislation and fires a high-powered rifle at a copy of the bill.


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