Skip to comments.Rethinking Obama's political performance in Tucson
Posted on 01/16/2011 5:52:02 AM PST by markomalley
Pundits and politicians alike praised President Obama's speech at the Tucson memorial service last Wednesday. "A wonderful speech," wrote the New York Times' David Brooks. "A magnificent performance," wrote National Review's Rich Lowry. "A terrific speech," wrote Sen. John McCain.
And those were just the voices on the right.
Obama's tribute to the victims of the shooting and the heroism of bystanders was appreciated by everyone. But many conservatives particularly admired the speech because the president took care to say, in clear terms, that political rhetoric did not cause the violence in Tucson. "It did not," Obama said flatly. After days during which prominent voices on the Left -- by and large Obama supporters -- blamed the Right for inciting the violence, the president's words were a welcome change.
But how could he have said otherwise? By the time Obama spoke, there was irrefutable evidence that shooting suspect Jared Loughner was deeply mentally ill and acted out of no recognizable political agenda. Obama simply could not have made the case that Loughner's acts were in any way the product of political rhetoric from right or left.
He didn't need to. The point Obama wanted to make was not that political rhetoric caused the violence but that such rhetoric -- like, for example, criticism directed at Barack Obama -- should be toned down. So even as he conceded that rhetoric did not cause the violence, Obama argued that it should be muted anyway. And he cloaked his appeal in so much emotionalism, in so many tear-jerking references to the recently departed, that some in his audience might not have noticed he was making the political point he wanted to make all along.
Imagine a calculating Democratic political strategist. What would he have wanted Obama to accomplish in the Tucson speech? He would have wanted the president to send the message that the political debate has gotten too rough and should be moderated. Democrats believe that message favors them; they have had much success characterizing, and mis-characterizing, statements by figures like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh and others as potential incitements to violence. Democrats want a debate about rhetoric because they think can win it.
But since it was impossible to tie the violence in Tucson to Republican rhetoric, the president couldn't very well use the shootings as the premise for a national conversation about the tone of political debate, could he? Yes, he could. It might seem like a stretch -- even to a calculating Democratic strategist -- for Obama to portray Jared Loughner's insanity as the proper starting point for a national debate about civility in politics. Yet that is what he did.
And employing a tactic that in a less sentimental atmosphere would have been seen as breathtakingly cynical, Obama enlisted Christina Taylor Green, the nine year-old girl killed in the shootings, to support his cause. "She saw [politics] through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often take just for granted," Obama said. "I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us -- we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations."
How can America live up to Christina's expectations? According to Obama, by making sure that her death "helps usher in more civility in our public discourse because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make [the victims] proud." In other words: Christina would have wanted us to tone down the rhetoric. The calculating Democratic strategist would have been very, very happy.
By the time he spoke in Tucson, Obama had let four days pass while some of the angriest voices in the media -- his supporters -- either blamed Republicans directly for the killings or blamed the GOP for creating the atmosphere in which the violence took place. During those four days, the president could have cooled the conversation by urging everyone to avoid jumping to conclusions, as he did the day after the November 2009 massacre at Ft. Hood, Texas. But he didn't. Only after Loughner's insanity had been indisputably established did Obama concede that politics was not to blame for the shooting.
By then, however, the president's supporters had tied the killings to the issue of political rhetoric. In Tucson, Obama played good cop to their bad cop by assuring everyone that rhetoric had not motivated the violence. But he still brought up the topic because, he said, it had "been discussed in recent days." Of course, it would not have been discussed in recent days had his supporters not made so many unfair accusations.
Some Democratic strategists hope Obama can capitalize on Tucson the way Bill Clinton capitalized on Oklahoma City. Perhaps he'll be able to, and perhaps he won't. But he's already trying.
Rich Lowry: Idiot. He’s anti-Palin, anti-Tea Party. RINO elitism. And David Brooks?????? Brooks should be confined to a mental hospital. Possibly one of the most disgusting slime-balls ever to be linked to Conservative America. If he’s on the right,...then I’m on the WRONG!!! And McLame???????? I thought we got rid of this RINO!?
How can the Democrats think they can win the debate on rhetoric with the lineup of miscreants on their side? Every nasty word uttered by a Democrat like Grayson or Frank, Matthews or Olbermann should be forcefully shoved back down their throat by Republicans. Form a Republican response team and start holding the left to the same standards the left wants to impose on us. Fight back, dammit!
Even a broken analog clock is correct twice a day. ;-)
I propose that March 4th become “Christina Green Civil Public Discourse Day”
Think the International Socialist Worker’s party will agree?
Fuller is an exception to the civil left wing, don’cha know
But Loughner is typical of the right
I’m just a little nobody from nowhere, but it didn’t take me a week to figure this out.
Sorry byron... these are all dims... being paid to play Conservatives... mccain would have switched parties had he not won the nomination... which is why the party hacks arranged for him to win... along with their brother dims. They knew he was a weak sister and a dim and would never use any of the things obama wanted hidden away from America... oh no... mccain would have won if he did... but mccain and the others are good little dims and we will never allow anyone to paint them as otherwise.
In one moment of post-speech gushing adoration they destroyed their carefully-honed credentials with me. I'll never look again on the Lowrey's and Krauthammer's with the same eyes. What weak, easily-conned fools!
Are there any reality-based REAL men any more in the current TV punditry field....or are they all whipped now?!!!
Thanks God for the internet!
Right on Bro. Thats what it was, a PERFORMANCE for the gullible useful idiots to watch and applaud.
However, it is perfectly acceptable for HIM to jump to conclusions by stating the police acted "stupidly" when he had no facts whatsoever about the incident in Cambridge.
Yeah, as soon as he was late for his press conference the afternoon of the shootings and while info was beginning to leak out that the shooter was a nutcase, I knew he was adjusting his “message”...so he used his “message” to masterbate his fawning press and admirers.
It’s nice not to have to think any more.
The media is kind enough to tell me what I think.
They just told me I loved Obama’s speech. Barf, argh, yaywwwwwk.
The long and the short of it...0bama has NEVER left the campaign trail. Tucson was just another whistle stop on the Mad March to Marxism tour of the anointed one and his merry minions...complete with commemorative T-shirts.
An old political ploy: the leader takes the high road while large numbers of minions take the low road on his behalf. Did Obama condemn the assertions of any specific sources of the "conservatives created an atmosphere" chorus?
I also realized that he was using the occasion of this memorial to make his political points (however carefully cloaked) and found it disgusting.
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