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The Response To The President's Speech In Arizona



So, here I am posting a huge piece on the shootings in Arizona. On a Saturday afternoon. Nobody is going to see this... but here goes.

Since the President's speech on Wednesday night, I have been forcing myself to read an abundance of reactions -- from varying political viewpoints. For the most part, I have found that the response to President Obama's speech has largely been positive. Commentators and pundits from all political stripes seem to be echoing very similar sentiments; most folks (whether they like Obama or not) seem to be praising the speech as a strong moment of Presidential leadership.

Exhibits...

Ed Morrissey at HotAir:
Frankly, the tenor of politics since Saturday hit such an irrational pitch that I wondered whether Obama would be able to make this point at all. Clearly, Obama took this moment seriously enough to lead rather than to pursue partisan cheap shots, using the dishonest “some have said” device to which the media has clung over the last couple of days after the evidence became overwhelming that the murderer was a psychopath of no particular rational ideology. He told the nation in no unclear terms that the argument that a lack of civility led to these deaths is simply flat-out wrong.

Some of my friends may criticize Obama for not defending Palin specifically, or for waiting until the memorial to have rebuked those attempting to exploit the deaths for political gain. On the first point, though, this was a memorial service and it wouldn’t have been appropriate to name other names than the dead, the wounded, and the heros who helped save lives. The second point may be germane criticism of the previous couple of days, but even if it came late, Obama stepped up and led last night.

So kudos to President Obama for what may be the finest moment of his presidency. I disagree with his policies and many of his tactics, and I will have no problem getting back to work in opposing them after this post publishes. But he deserves credit and gratitude for his leadership at a point in time where the nation needed it, and I’m happy to give him both.
Sullivan:
I am glad that the president has said we should debate the manifold ways in which we can help prevent this from occurring again; but that we should debate these things in a way that is worthy of the victims, in a way that would make them proud. It's an elegant threading of a very small needle. Watching Christina Green's parents as the president speaks brings home the enormity of this crime. Making her brief nine years of life the focus for hope and inspiration is a lovely peroration.

[snip]

To rate this address on any political meter would be to demean it. The president wrested free of politics tonight and spoke of greater things. I pledge myself to try and follow his advice and debate with vigor and spirit and candor and bluntness, but with more civility, more empathy, and, yes, more love.
Andrea Tantaros at the New York Daily News:
Despite the pressure from some on the left to capitalize on the Tucson killings for political gain, and amid ocassional inappropriate cheering from the audience, President Obama acutely understood our collective need to heal when he addressed the nation on Wednesday night.

He also knew that anything else would have been downright petty and cynical. So, rather than search for political victims to chastise, he focused his speech on the victims of Saturday's rampage, eulogizing them with the kind of soaring oratory he first became famous for. Obama put politics aside and, like George W. Bush after 9/11 and Bill Clinton after Oklahoma City, he sought to revive our "instincts for empathy."
The New York Post's John Podhoretz:
Never before in the annals of national moments of mourning have the words spoken been so wildly mismatched by the spirit in which they were received.

The sentences and paragraphs of President Obama's speech last night were beautiful and moving and powerful. But for the most part they didn't quite transcend the wildly inappropriate setting in which he delivered them.

There was something about the choice of place, a college arena with the appropriate name of the McKale Memorial Center, that made the event turn literally sophomoric.

If there is one thing we expect from occasions of national mourning, it is, at the very least, a modicum of gravity. That gravity was present in the president's speech from first to last -- especially in the pitch-perfect response to the disgusting national political debate over the past couple of days.
...and finally, I think Doug Mataconis summed up the speech the best over at OTB:
There were parts of the memorial service itself that were, in some ways, jarring. It opened with a opening prayer from a Native American that many watching from outside Arizona probably found a little unusual, but which makes sense considering the long history of Native Americans in Arizona before it even was Arizona. There was cheering from the crowd which seemed odd for a memorial service, but it’s hard to put oneself in the shoes of a community that has been, in some sense, under siege since Saturday morning, and there is some value in catharsis.

[snip]

I think the reaction on the right as the day unfolds will be closer to Malkin’s cyncism than the Martin’s pleasant surprise. Once the Becks, Limbaugh’s and Hannity put their spin on the President’s word, the marching orders on the right will be to compare last night’s memorial service to the rather distasteful politicization that marked Paul Wellstone’s funeral a few years ago.

If that’s the tack they take, they’ll be wrong. Last night was the best speech of Barack Obama’s short Presidency. He said the right thing, at the right time, in the right place. The people who reject the sentiment he appealed to, whether on the left or the right, are only displaying their own cynicism and the dark core of their own souls.
After the shootings, everyone was -- understandably -- looking to assign blame.

Liberals, predictably, started blaming Sarah Palin -- and other conservative pundits -- for the shooting, saying that their toxic rhetoric was to blame. Specifically, a map that Sarah Palin previously released that features crosshairs architectural symbology over targeted key districts for Republican/conservative candidates. There were allegations that the shooter was an active Tea Party participant (which were untrue).

Conservatives on the other hand immediately went on the defensive. Instead of becoming more, well, conservative in their arguments, they became even more irresponsible in their rhetoric.

Sarah Palin took to the airwaves to give a speech that has been widely panned -- and I won't even go into that because this tragedy is not about her.

As Jon Stewart said in his monologue the other night (and I'm paraphrasing here), our political discourse is toxic -- but did it make that dude to pull the trigger? I don't f**kin' know.

...and the truth is that it's highly likely that nobody will ever know why the trigger was pulled.

So, after reading and hearing all of the nasty, negative commentary coming from every direction, I was tired. Tired of the negativity. Tired of the partisan hackery. Tired of the political posturing. Tired of, well, all of it.

I was ready to hang up my spurs. Literally. I was going to shut down this site, never to return. So sick of the extreme partisanship was I that I simply didn't want to be party to it any longer.

I didn't tell anybody this -- not even my wife. I felt that I was seeing the opposite of human nature. People, when faced with tragedy, are supposed to embrace one and other, in spite of differences. What I was seeing, reading and hearing was literally breaking my heart. I could not understand why people would willfully ignore the pain and suffering of the living victims of this horrible attack, not to mention the slain, only to use the event as a tool to gain attention or notoriety. It sickened me.

I watched the President's speech on Wednesday night. I didn't want to -- TPW had to essentially force me to do so.

I was afraid that the President would make some cutting comment, some tongue-in-cheek reference to Sarah Palin's speech, or to the whack-job shooter being part of the Tea Party. I was afraid that the President would be a Democrat, not an American.

What I saw helped to quell my rising frustration. A little bit.

I felt that the President was genuinely reaching out to all Americans -- regardless of political persuasion. I did think that the, errr, tone of the crowd was inappropriate at times. But, given the dreadful circumstances of the shootings, I suppose that the residents of Tuscon were just looking to 'let off some steam'.

Despite the somewhat raucous tone (it sounded like a campaign audience at times), President Obama delivered his remarks with grace and a somber tone. He made no mention of political rivals. In fact, the only people that he named were the victims and the heroes of the tragedy.

In the end, the President set aside the role of Commander-in-Chief. He set aside his role as Democrat-in-Chief. For the duration of his appearance behind the podium, Barack Obama was America's Healer-in-Chief.

...and that's exactly what he needed to be.

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Cartoon: Nate Beeler, The Washington Examiner