And “strike back” is the proper metaphor. Because on two occasions today, self-appointed leaders of the tea party movement quite literally lashed out at their political enemies over the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, in ways that show both a tendency toward painting their opponents in dehumanizing lights, and a good degree of guilt:

Another Tea Party leader is accusing the left of unfairly blaming the Tea Party for the mass shootings in Arizona, describing how “revolting and disgusting the left is for trying to associate the tea party with violence like this.”

Sal Russo, the leader of the Tea Party Express, said on Fox News today that shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner “was obviously a leftist. He admired Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto. Those are not volumes that are popular with the Tea Party so he was obviously a left-wing anarchist, he was probably Anti-Semitic.”

Here’s Mark Meckler, another tea party leader:

“To see the left exploit this for political advantage — some people have no conscience,” Meckler said over the phone. “It’s genuinely revolting…I think it sinks to the level of evil.”

Added Meckler: “if these scumbags want to play it politically, let it be on their conscience.” [...]

“Honestly, I guess i had more faith in humanity than to believe they’d politicize a tragedy of this magnitude,” he said. “They’ve been trying for two years to use any smear they can to damage the movement taking place on the right.”

“Revolting,” “disgusting,” “scumbags,” and “evil” are the modifiers used. And Jared Loughner is simply called a “leftist,” based on Sal Russo’s quick sketch of the evidence.

I think these statements stand for themselves, and really indict the leaders on the right. There have been a lot of attempts at false equivalencies (the last Republican Vice Presidential candidate of the United States is exactly the same as a random Daily Kos diarist) and a lot of attempts to explain away incendiary political rhetoric with a wave of the hand and something like “both sides do it.” But the responses above on their own refute this. They resort to the pretty common rhetoric of demonization to make their points. I have no interest in censoring their speech, but I sure want to highlight it.

Here’s Roger Ailes, who starts by seemingly wondering how Jared Loughner could possibly purchase a gun given his mental health history, basically admitting that his network crossed the line over the past couple years:

I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don’t have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that.

Ailes talks the typical “both sides do it” nonsense in that article as well, but see how he acknowledged that a problem existed at Fox News, and how he had to tell them to tone it down? There’s no real need for a counterpoint to this. They know they’re cooked.

Paul Waldman has some additional thoughts on the debate over the debate.