Andrew Sullivan has a round-up of reacts.
David Frum at FrumForum:
What a terrible assignment, especially for a father of young daughters. The president did the job he needed to do, struck the appropriate notes in the appropriate way. He conspicuously forbore to make political points, quite the contrary: he urged against finger-pointing, in this sense agreeing with Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. “But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility.”The president’s challenge, as so often, was to make a human connection. In that, he succeeded tonight. He paid tribute to the individuality of the lost, honored the pain of the bereaved, and was crucial in bringing together the collective community acknowledgement of grief that is the only available comfort to those who mourn.
The pep-rally atmosphere was inappropriate and disconcerting, but President Obama turned in a magnificent performance. This was a non-accusatory, genuinely civil, case for civility, in stark contrast to what we’ve read and heard over the last few days. He subtly rebuked the Left’s finger-pointing, and rose above the rancor of both sides, exactly as a president should. Tonight, he re-captured some of the tone of his famous 2004 convention speech. Well done.
Speeches and leadership are not the same thing.
Obama delivered one tonight, but failed at the other over the past three days as Pima County Sheriff Dupnik, Democrat Party leaders, and media abettors poisoned the public square with the very vitriol the president now condemns.
Right speech. Too late. Awful, awful venue.
Obama gets some goodreviews for hisspeech in the NY Times (and the sun rose in the east…). Having read the speech, I am a bit of a non-believer – as with his condemnation of both Jeremiah Wright and his own grandmother or the criticism of left-winger Bill Ayers and offsetting righty Tom Coburn, Obama took his normal conciliatory tack of rebuking both sides and presenting himself as the calm man in the middle.
Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:
Barack Obama spoke to the city of Tucson, and to the United States of America, not so much as our President tonight, but as a member of our family. He spoke as a son–I couldn’t help but think of his personal regret over not being by his mother’s side when she passed as he said, “Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder.” You could see the devastation insinuate itself onto, and then be quietly willed away from, his face. He spoke as a brother to his fellow public servants, killed and wounded in the events–an eager brother bringing the glad tidings the Gabrielle Giffords had opened her eyes. He repeated it, joyously, three times. But most of all, he spoke as a father–rising to a glorious peak describing the departed 9-year-old, Christine Taylor Green, a girl near the age of his daughters, whose own deaths, perhaps in the line of fire, he had so clearly been thinking about. And he spoke, more broadly, as the head of our national family, comforting, uplifting, scolding a little, nudging us toward our better angels.
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.
The standard comparisons of the past four days have been to Ronald Reagan after the Challenger disaster and Bill Clinton after Oklahoma City. Tonight’s speech matched those as a demonstration of “head of state” presence, and far exceeded them as oratory — while being completely different in tone and nature. They, in retrospect, were mainly — and effectively — designed to note tragic loss. Obama turned this into a celebration — of the people who were killed, of the values they lived by, and of the way their example could bring out the better in all of us and in our country.
That is to Obama’s imaginative credit. (Even as the event began, I was wondering how he would find a way to match to somber tone of Reagan and Clinton.) More later, but a performance to remember — this will be, along with his 2004 Convention speech and his March, 2008 “meaning of race” speech in Philadelphia, one of the speeches he is lastingly known for — and to add to the list of daunting political/oratorical challenges Obama has not merely met but mastered.
Last night, there arose a chorus of mostly-conservatives on Twitter attacking the tone of the memorial service in Tucson. There was some coverage on Fox News — there’s some more today — of this, but it didn’t define coverage. Nonetheless, Glenn Thrush reports that Robert Gibbs was asked about it, and surmised that the 13,000-odd people in attendance were “celebrating the miracle of those who survived” when they cheered.
We have a point of reference for all of this. In 2002, conservatives and Republicans complained that the tone of a memorial for Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) was too political, too cheery. Wellstone’s sons explicitly asked the crowd — which included Republicans like Trent Lott — to “win this election for Paul Wellstone.”
Is that going to happen to the Tucson memorial? It shouldn’t. There was no partisan political message, although I suppose you could say that the president’s criticism of “cynicism or vitriol” buttressed what Democrats had been saying recently. I’d also argue that the tone in Tucson was more like the tone at the impromptu rally in New York City on September 13, 2001 — the “bullhorn moment.” Wellstone was killed in an airplane accident. The Tucson victims were killed by a gunman who is awaiting trial and whose creepy smiling face has been made famous since Saturday. Thousands of New Yorkers — people didn’t know how many at the time — were killed by terrorists who committed suicide, but were led by terrorists still on the loose. (“The people who did this,” in Bush’s phrase.)
It isn’t up to anyone else how somebody grieves a local tragedy. And the tone at Tucson was understandable if you understand what, exactly, they were grieving or angry about.