I am not a fan of this President. But I must say I was touched by one thing the young President said last night at the Tucson Tragedy Memorial Service. Between the shouts and whistles it was hardly a memorial to be sure … but this portion of the speech I thought was well written, well delivered and most appropriate … dare I say “Presidential”?
So much for Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, conservative Republicans, caused this tragedy. Obama spent a good portion of the speech making it clear “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.”
And if that didn’t send the message clearly enough, a short time later the President added:
And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy [– it did not –] but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.
None of this is new to anyone who reads this blog. But before anyone think I found the speech flawless, read on. I did not. Perhaps that’s the cynical side of me … perhaps not. The “pep rally” atmosphere was beyond strange. Rather than a memorial, it looked more like an Obama campaign stop. Cheers and shouts and whistles seemed to me to be more than inappropriate but rather bizarre, almost ghoulish. I am not sure what role the White House played in this but it was perilously close to a “Wellstone” moment.
Which brings me to the portion of the speech that I found most disturbing … could it be called Obama’s “Do it for Paul” moment? Or am I being too critical. The president highlighted the story of 9 year old Christina Green, a young girl who was making her first appearance at a Congressional town hall. I talked about it here, and retelling her story was touching and appropriate. But what he added at the end seemed contrived. Was it what he said, or was it the crowd reaction?
As for the memorial, I sat there wondering what has happened to decorum in our society. Obama, and frankly, everyone who spoke, were continually interrupted by applause, shouts, screams, and whistles. It was, I thought, the most bizarre memorial I have ever witnessed.
My heart still aches for the victims. I do not believe this was the best way to honor them.