Commentary: It's time to ask whether attack was foreseeable, predictable, self-inflicted

It's time to ask whether the attack on the United States Congress Wednesday was foreseeable, predictable and, to some degree, self-inflicted.

Too many leaders, and political commentators, who set an example for us to follow have led us into an abyss of violent rhetoric which, it should be no surprise, has led to violence.

Wednesday was not the first time.

In December last year, a man with an assault rifle stormed into a Washington-area pizzeria to free child sex slaves whom Hillary Clinton was holding there -- or at least that's what political blog sites had said. He fired into a locked door to discover no children in chains.

Sen. Bernie Sanders has called the president the "most dangerous in history." The shooter on Wednesday was a Sanders volunteer.

You might think that no sane person would act on political hate speech, and you'd be right. Trouble is, there are a lot of Americans who struggle with mental illness.

In February, the president tweeted that the news media were the "enemy of the American people."

Later, at a lunch for reporters, President Trump was asked whether he worried that language would incite violence. His pause indicated it had never crossed his mind. Then he said, "No, that doesn't worry me."

As children we're taught, "Words will never hurt me." But when you think about it, violence almost always begins with words. In "Twitter world," we've come to believe that our first thought is our best thought.

It's past time for all of us -- presidents, politicians, reporters, citizens, all of us -- to pause to think again.

  • Scott Pelley

    Correspondent, "60 Minutes"