TUCSON, AZ — Conservatives gloating about the biography of the suspected shooter of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) will eat their words in the end, according to the chair of the Pima County Democratic Party.
“Here’s what I think you’re going to find,” Jeff Rogers told me in an interview today. “I think you’re going to find that he was [a conservative].”
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Dem Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Shot In Arizona]
I met with Rogers in his downtown Tucson office this afternoon to discuss the aftermath of the tragic shooting that left six dead on Saturday. Authorities charged Jared Loughner with the shootings. He’s a 22-year-old local with a long history of disturbing and confusing behavior, and many have pointed to mental illness as the root cause of the incident. That set off an ongoing wave of recriminations from conservatives who claim the left has used the tragedy to go after the tea party and its stars.
Rogers, a defense attorney in town and a man with long connections to the city he calls “the Berkeley of Arizona,” said that he’s convinced people who immediately connected the shooting to the violent right-wing rhetoric of the past two years in Arizona have the right idea. He’s convinced that once more is known about Loughner, a connection to the right will be found.
“I think we’ll find a treasure trove of stuff from his computer,” he told me. “How much of that we’re going to get from law enforcement and know about and when? I don’t know. But I’m betting you’ll see a fair amount of that.”Rogers told me he’s closely read Loughner’s available internet postings and said that they suggest a rightward slant.
“How many lefties are anti-government?” he said. “I mean, That’s not us.”
“Maybe in the the 60s, but not now,” he added. “We [on the left] tend to view government as the solution to problems, not as the problem.”
“So, for me, if the bulk of your rantings are anti-government, that tells me where you’re coming from,” Rogers said.
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Across the Nation, Vigils Held for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords]
Some conservatives have pointed to Loughner’s internet postings (as well as anecdotes that have emerged about him since the shooting) as evidence that whatever political point of view Loughner had, it was more likely left than right.
Rogers dismissed this completely.
“Look at those books that he said he read and you tell me if you believe that he ever read any one of them,” he said. “I mean, those books are fucking hard. They’re not high school reading material — those books are graduate student reading material.”
“The Communist Manifesto — it’s a very difficult book to read and understand,” Rogers said, referring to one of the texts listed on Loughner’s YouTube profile page. “This is not popular reading material. You know, I’m betting he just listed all of these popular things and he just stuck them on his website. I’m betting he didn’t read any of that.”
Rogers was at the Pima County party’s biannual organizational meeting Saturday when he heard the news of the shooting. He said that for him and other Democrats gathered that morning, there was little doubt where the shooting came from. From the day President Obama was inaugurated, Rogers said the rhetoric from the right here ratcheted up to a level no Democrat here had ever seen.
“That’s when it started,” Rogers said. He got his first death threats after decades in local politics and said it was the same story for many other party officials and elected reps in town.
On Saturday morning, the county party elected Rogers to another term as its chair as authorities were on scene at the site of the shooting cleaning up the tragic events of that day. Rogers said the years of threats took their toll when he got the call Giffords had been gunned down.
“We went ahead with out leadership meeting and I ran again for chair,” he said. “And I’m thinking, ‘Is this really what I want to do for two more years?'”
He laughed. “But by then it was too late,” he said.