Liberal pundit Kirsten Powers, writing in the Daily Beast, makes some interesting points I didn’t think of in the aftermath of Obama’s speech at Wednesday night’s “Together We Thrive” memorial service for the victims of last Saturday’s shooting rampage in Tucson.
I guess I was so wrapped up in just making sure that he didn’t turn it into a campaign rally a la the Wellstone “memorial service” – and I was also tuning in to see whether or not he would assign blame to the right, as so many clueless, shamelessly partisan liberal flamethrowers in and outside the MSM have done over the last week. So I played the “low expectations” game with his speech, not expecting much and not hoping for much outside of the bare minimum “play it safe and don’t make it political.” As I wrote at the time, I was impressed with the overall tone of the speech and thought he did well considering the circumstances, as he should have considering that’s one of his few talents (IMO). Powers, on the other hand, listened a little more closely to the speech than I did and, while impressed on a general level, she did see the blame assigned … to all of America:
But there was another job: shutting down the nonsense about how Sarah Palin or right-wing talkers caused the shooting. This matters not only because it’s important to tell the truth, but also because it would set the stage to move on to really examining the true causes of this nightmare massacre.
Obama mostly chose to be vague on this point, “For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.”
He did add to his prepared remarks that incivility did not cause this tragedy, but he stopped short of a full rebuke of the complete irresponsibility of those who have been stoking anger at conservatives who—as far as we know—had nothing to do with this.
When the president did lay blame, it was on Americans in general. Among the many odd assertions he made: suggesting that “what a tragedy like this requires” is that “we align our values with our actions.” We were told to “expand our moral imaginations.”
A mentally ill gunman opened fire at a Safeway. A lack of “aligning” or “imagination” really wasn’t the problem. Obama chided Americans to “be better,” as if we somehow caused this shooting to happen. He said, “We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.”
Let’s be clear: How we “treat each other” also is not what caused this shooting. Mental illness combined with a gun and a 33-round high-capacity magazine collided to produce a tragedy. This may not have been the venue to discuss this in such pointed terms, but it also should not have been used as an opportunity to push further into the media bloodstream the lie that hostile rhetoric or incivility even played a role in this, let alone caused it.
I wonder if this is what the majority of the 31 million people who watched the speech got out of it, also? My initial impression was that he was trying to discount the theory that political rhetoric “caused” the Tucson tragedy, but Powers caught on to something that I didn’t; while Obama said incivility didn’t cause what happened last Saturday, he went on chiding the American people to be civil … why? If incivility and overheated rhetoric and political leanings didn’t inspire Jared Loughner to try to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, why devote a significant amount of your speech urging the American people to … be more civil and respectful and less partisan?
Maybe he felt it was his job as “Healer-in-Chief” (a term Powers used to describe him, which I totally reject) to give a generalized lecture to Americans about being more civil and polite. But in that regard – as Powers points out – it hints at last Saturday been the collective fault of all of us, which is absolutely absurd. As I wrote on Twitter the night he gave his speech, probably the best thing President Obama could do in order to create more of an atmosphere of civility is to have members of his party (and, via extension, the MSM) unlearn everything they’ve been taught about how to demagogue the opposition, because a great deal of the “incivility” that has taken place in this country over the last week has come primarily from opportunistic partisans on the left who have used this tragedy to not only try and marginalize any and all political opposition, but also to chip away at 1st – and 2nd – Amendment rights. But the President won’t do this. In fact, as I write this, the attempts at clamping down on 2nd Amendment rights are being coordinated by … the WH.
Never let an opportunity go to waste, etc, as former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel once said.
Those are the facts as they stand – and the most eloquent speech in the world won’t, and likely never will, change that.
In much more pleasant news, doctors are saying now that Rep. Giffords may be able to breathe on her own today, and is making remarkable progress. This is wonderful to hear, and I join everyone else in wishing both her and the other victims still hospitalized a full recovery.