Tragedy in Tuscon: Giffords holding her own, say doctors

Politics aside, Gabrielle Giffords may be the strongest congresswoman this country has ever seen. Shot through the head with a bullet, she remains in critical condition but responsive. According to her doctors, Giffords is beating all odds in terms of survival in the wake of her assassination attempt on Saturday outside a Tucson, Ariz. Safeway.

"The best way to put it is she's holding her own," Dr. Michael Lemole, the neurosurgeon who operated on Giffords, told press today.

Already subject to violent threats prior to Saturday's shooting, Giffords was undeterred about holding the "Congress on your Corner" meet and great in a city and state where issues of immigration, gun control, and healthcare policy are at a fever pitch. Soon after her arrival outside the supermarket, 22-year-old Jared Loughner gunned down 20 people: injuring 14, including Giffords, and killing six. The youngest victim was a 9-year-old girl, an aspiring politician in her own classroom.

Hours after the shooting, news outlets had falsely placed Giffords among the dead. But after several hours of surgery, she was still fighting for her life. Currently, she's in a medically induced coma and is able to respond to commands, though her speech recovery and future place in politics is a topic that weighs heavily on the minds of many.

In the meantime, the nation holds vigil for Giffords and the 13 others injured, and grieves for the six victims who died during the congresswoman's meet-and-great. President Obama held a moment of silence this morning to reflect on the tragic incidents.

Loughner, the 22-year-old shooter, is in custody but refuses to cooperate with law enforcement. The little that's known of him to the public comes from his YouTube profile and cached MySpace page, as well as Twitter statements from former classmates. All portray a deeply disturbed young man with a convoluted hostility toward government practices.

Now the question remains: was it a solitary act of violence from an unhinged man or a symbol of the hostile state of politics today? Many have cited Sarah Palin's campaign map that included Giffords in her crosshairs as part of the dangerous rhetoric of political takeover. Palin activists are responding that Loughner was an extreme liberal. Others still point to the growing race wars in Arizona and the culture of anti-semitism. One thing is clear: American politics have become a hostile playing field for democrats, republicans, judges, and even little girls.