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Posted at 10:15 PM ET, 01/12/2011

Obama saves Tucson memorial from the unseemly

By Stephen Stromberg

When President Obama approached the lectern during the memorial service for the victims of the Tucson shootings tonight, the spectators exploded in raucous, sustained applause. Hoots. Hollers. Whistles. More enthusiasm for the president than for one of the heroes of the Tucson tragedy. Was this getting unseemly?

In my mind, I was already reading the sentences that members of the conservative blogosphere were no doubt composing -- about how the Obama's presence turned the evening into a political rally. Should he have spoken? Should he have shown up at all?

But this was not Barack Obama in Grant Park on election night. The applause passed through him; the only visible effects were the president's clenched lips and repeated, sharp, almost impatient thank yous, each one belying appropriate embarrassment.

Then came a classy speech in which the most controversial element was this:

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, 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. It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other's ideas without questioning each other's love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.

Before this, the president also insisted that no one should be assigning blame for the tragedy beyond the apparently deranged mind of the shooter. So, all told, he offered some gentle, equal-opportunity nudging for pundits and partisans to do better. As jarring as the applause was at times, Obama's words and demeanor were reasonable and beyond appropriate, the president smiling only as he described the heroism of those who wrestled the shooter to the ground. The speech is among the few things I've read or heard since Saturday about which I can say that, and all the more necessary after the grotesque "blood libel" rage that dominated the news most of Wednesday.

By Stephen Stromberg  | January 12, 2011; 10:15 PM ET
Categories:  Stromberg  | Tags:  Stephen Stromberg  
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Comments

I can see how applause and cheers were disconcerting for those anticipating a traditional memorial service, but it quickly became clear to me that this was more of a rally for the people of Tucson--a rallying to community and courage once again in the face of dreadful shock. And so the cheers were uplifting to me, and appropriate.

Posted by: patposton | January 12, 2011 11:13 PM | Report abuse

I watched the speech on Fox and they gave Excellent analysis. Mentioned the cheers and why that happened. Obama's apparent discomfort with it. Charles Krauthammer, was more than lauding, to the point I thought it was almost gushing.

I hope you aren't disappointed too much.

As an aside, Alan Dershowitz said:“There is nothing improper and certainly nothing anti-Semitic in Sarah Palin using the term to characterize what she reasonably believes are false accusations that her words or images may have caused a mentally disturbed individual to kill and maim”

The fact that two of the victims are Jewish is utterly irrelevant to the propriety of using this widely used term.”

This line of charge will be dropped in no time. Nice try though.

Posted by: jodynnc | January 13, 2011 12:19 AM | Report abuse

The president's speech was healing and uplifting--exactly what our nation needed to hear. Agree with the author about the tone of the "memorial service." Too often, it took on the tone of a political rally. Even the president appeared disconcerted when his arrival was greeted by applause and hollers. He obviously knew that the service was not about him, and he neither expected nor wanted adulation from the crowd.

Posted by: judithod | January 13, 2011 12:22 AM | Report abuse

I was one of those taken aback by the cheering - it seemed more like a sporting event than a memorial. I get cheering the people who subdued the killer but in so many places it just seemed inappropriate.

Posted by: FauxReal | January 13, 2011 12:30 AM | Report abuse

I was in the audience in Tucson tonight. I am sorry the clapping and cheering worried some people but I can assure you that many were clapping and crying at the same time. We wanted to show how much we cared about those who died, those who saved others, and those who have survived. We cheered to support them and the wonderful words that were being said and to support each other in this community that has been so, so sad all week. And we hollered when the president came in because we were so grateful that he came to Tucson and wanted him to know it (he did not visit during his campaign or since so it was extra special).

Posted by: Tucsonian1 | January 13, 2011 12:53 AM | Report abuse

If I ever self righteously criticizing someone elses response to death and mayhem, I hope one of my friends will slap me, as hard as they can, repeatedly.

But hey, you know how these things get put together on short notice, and everyone will try to meet your standards for the next mass shooting.

I'm sure we'll improve with practice and your helpful feedback.

Posted by: BurfordHolly | January 13, 2011 1:47 AM | Report abuse

This is why President Obama has a Nobel Peace Prize. We get the leadership we deserve. Shame so many of us behave like we're unworthy of it.

Posted by: harrisjp2 | January 13, 2011 1:47 AM | Report abuse

If I ever find myself self-righteously criticizing someone elses response to death and mayhem, I hope one of my friends will slap me, as hard as they can, repeatedly.

But hey, you know how these things get put together on short notice, and everyone will try to meet your standards for the next mass shooting.

I'm sure we'll improve with practice and your helpful feedback.

Posted by: BurfordHolly | January 13, 2011 1:48 AM | Report abuse

I just want obama to acknowledge his own failings in the civil discourse department. Think he will?

Posted by: wmpowellfan | January 13, 2011 2:03 AM | Report abuse

the POTUS has not stated that he does not have failings, but his opponents have. all i've ever heard him state is how he loves his country and is willing to look out for his fellow Americans. certainly he has gaffed once or more along the way, but who hasn't in this stressful job. if there is any one out there that can do what he and all of his predecessors have done, step up to the plate.

Posted by: wendywac | January 13, 2011 4:30 AM | Report abuse

the POTUS has not stated that he does not have failings, but his opponents have. all i've ever heard him state is how he loves his country and is willing to look out for his fellow Americans. certainly he has gaffed once or more along the way, but who hasn't in this stressful job. if there is any one out there that can do what he and all of his predecessors have done, step up to the plate.

Posted by: wendywac | January 13, 2011 4:36 AM | Report abuse

All week, I have read the suggestions by the various editors of the nation's major newspapers, (all of whom adore and support Mr. Obama), who have given their suggestions directing him on what he should say, and how he should say it, to gain the maximum political advantage from this tragedy.

If Obama had given a few rambling sentences in piglatin the media would have cheered him as the next Messiah. OBama is a politician, first, last and always. He was properly criticized for his peculiar remarks about Fort Hood, and so this time, his speech writers tried to keep him on point (it was not about him). But for Obama, it is always, always, all about him. Wednesday night was his first step towards seeking re-election in 2012.

Remember how Obama ran his campaign in 2008. Obama masqueraded as a centrist who would end wasteful government spending, shrink government not expand it, and bring perfect transparency to government. He brought the exact opposite in every respect.

Obama can have himself officially renamed Ronald Reagan and he will still be a hard leftist who will talk one way and disingenuously pump out anti-capitalist, anti-business executive orders under the radar. Can you imagine what would happen if Obama actually gets re-elected in 2012 (which is what all of this fraudulent "moving to the center" is meant to accomplish)? He would be a lame duck president with nothing to lose and he would unleash unthinkable socialist policy on this country. The man is an agenda driven leftist.

Obama will say anything he needs to say to give a mis-impression of who and what he is. Tonight was just the beginning.

Posted by: SameOldTiredThinking | January 13, 2011 5:15 AM | Report abuse

You might want to look up "belie" in the dictionary before using it again.

Posted by: hellslittlestangel1 | January 13, 2011 5:58 AM | Report abuse

Why is Obama doing all the healing? Why aren't Palin and Beck visiting Giffords? After all, they caused this mess.

Posted by: fudador | January 13, 2011 6:35 AM | Report abuse

To me the whole thing seemed like one big 'Hollywood' coach and scripted Obama show, where as usual Obama was more the center of attention instead of the victims and the ones who they were supposed to be 'mourning'.Most leaders make something like that short and sweet, not Obama.And whats with all the ear to ear smiles and posing for pictures ?Is that what you do when you are 'truly' heart broken and in mourning ?Gimme a BREAK.Another crises not waisted and Played like a fiddle again!!

Posted by: votingrevolution1 | January 13, 2011 7:09 AM | Report abuse

"after the grotesque "blood libel" rage that dominated the news most of Wednesday."

What is grotesque is Stromberg et.al.'s twisted and perverted attempt to lay the blame for this madman at the feet of the loyal American opposition. This is utterly bizarre and lying finger-pointing and it borders on libel and insanity itself.

Posted by: wjc1va | January 13, 2011 7:24 AM | Report abuse

Obama deserves no Peace Prize. He is the cause of so much of the anger in this country with his Marxist agenda. It is he who attacks everyone who does not go along with his leftist ideology
To Stromberg I say, thanks for yuor litle dig about "blood libel" at the end of your screed. You prove once again that to the liberal the only path to civility is by accepting the liberal agenda. Forget it. We will continue to fight and "target" those who oppose freedom through our free speech and the ballot box.

Posted by: sciteach | January 13, 2011 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Partisan hacks like Stromberg just can't help themselves from taking a gratuitous dig at Palin.

Here is a clue for Stromberg and the rest of the disgusting liberal partisans who jumped on top of the corpeses as soon as possible:

The American people hold your entire profession in total contempt. You and your mirror images on the right are the cancer on America's future. So feel free to spew your predictable partisan screeds at Palin. Join the club, but at the end of the day realize that your entire profession is reviled by the American people and the utter crap you publish is a fine example of why.

Posted by: bobmoses | January 13, 2011 8:20 AM | Report abuse

It was obvious family members of those injured and slain were disgusted at the audience. The University is responsible for this t-shirt and concession stand atmosphere that turned this MEMORIAL SERVICE into a political rally. Obama is not at fault, he did a great speech. But there is no healing when he let it happen and the teenage audience showed what you can expect from uninformed left-wing college students.

President Obama attended the solemn Fort Hood Memorial Service and was very dignified and presidential.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | January 13, 2011 8:20 AM | Report abuse

It is typical that you pick up on the "Blood Libel" rage that dominated the news and not the unfounded allegations of blame placed at the feet of Palin, Beck and the rest. I guess in your mind these people should just shut up and take it. I am not necessarily of fan of Palin and Beck but I recognize unseemly partisan sniping when I see it. Throughout all of this mess I believe Palin, Beck and the others have shown class and dignity while those on the left have revealed themselves to be cheap, opportunistic political hacks.

Posted by: Dknicholson | January 13, 2011 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Now, as the leader, if Obama will refrain from his negative comments directed at those who disagree with him or his agenda, perhaps he can set the tone for more civil discourse in the future from all sides.

Posted by: tjmlrc | January 13, 2011 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Problem with it was many people turned out for Obama and not for a memorial service. It was very disconcerting to the people who expected it to be a solemn event about the people injured and killed. Instead it turned into an Obama pep rally. Which is what many of us feared would happen. We told Obama not to come but he did it anyway. I hope he felt comforted by coming because it didn't help Tucson. Today there is a discord over the inappropriate dress, the cheering, clapping, and whistling during the event which disrespected those attending a memorial service. Obama the great divider once again.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | January 13, 2011 8:48 AM | Report abuse

All Obama had to do was ask for no interruptions, no applause and certainly no whooping or whistling. Why didn't he? And security could have removed any insensitive fools who insisted on continuing this.
Is he so used to campaigning he forgot the gravity of the situation? The families must have been shocked to find themselves at a pep rally, with the head cheerleader doing nothing to stop the applause for HIM. He should have just attended, as he did at Ft. Hood.

Posted by: Beckola | January 13, 2011 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Thoughtful comments?

Posted by: GeneTouchet | January 13, 2011 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I thought that the memorial was as bizarre as Palin's statement, but if it helped the people of Tuscon, then so be it. This is one strange country.

Posted by: Chigliak | January 13, 2011 9:15 AM | Report abuse

It was obvious family members of those injured and slain were disgusted at the audience. The University is responsible for this t-shirt and concession stand atmosphere that turned this MEMORIAL SERVICE into a political rally. Obama is not at fault, he did a great speech. But there is no healing when he let it happen and the teenage audience showed what you can expect from uninformed left-wing college students.

President Obama attended the solemn Fort Hood Memorial Service and was very dignified and presidential.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | January 13, 2011 8:20 AM | Report abuse

--------------------
My reaction was the same as yours. The student audience seemed more interested in Obama's presence, than providing support to those grieving. When Obama repeatedly shouted that Gabby opened her eyes, it seemed like a sports rally. I hope that the "event" did provide healing to the wonderful state of Arizona and that my reaction to it, inaccurate.

Posted by: shewholives | January 13, 2011 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Beckola please read Bufordholly, posted 1:48AM, then go find a friend.

Posted by: chrisfuller7 | January 13, 2011 9:39 AM | Report abuse

The past week has been awful in many ways. We have seen a deranged individual inflict grievous wounds on a member of Congress and kill or wound many others, including a federal judge, a nine-year-old girl, and a husband whose last act was to shield his wife's body with his own. We have then seen both ends of our country's political spectrum spend more effort on blaming each other than on lamenting this national tragedy, and I've been one of those piling on in this free-for-all.

The conduct of our national leaders, on both sides of the political aisle, has been one of the bright spots in this otherwise dark time. President Obama has given a speech that asks Americans to honor the dead and wounded by setting aside partisan hostility to work together for the good of our country. Speaker Boehner has done a commendable job of trying to bring Congress together in a respectful and nonpartisan
way to remember the dead, support the wounded, and encourage their families.

Let's follow their good example, stop offering harsh criticism of each other, and try to figure out what things we can agree on to move our country forward despite the many challenges it faces.

Posted by: 02Pete | January 13, 2011 9:53 AM | Report abuse

If Barry "Hussein" Soetoro were president during the Civil War, historians would recall The Gettysburg Address as "Gettysburg-apalooza 1863!"

*disgraceful*

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | January 13, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

If Barry "Hussein" Soetoro were president during the Civil War, historians would recall The Gettysburg Address as "Gettysburg-apalooza 1863!"

*disgraceful*

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | January 13, 2011 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I was expecting to see Metallica come out on stage at any second with all the cheering and hollering going on.

Obama can't even hold a proper memorial service without turning it into a political rally. They have NO respect at all for those killed by their own kind.

What is wrong with Leftists?

*sick*sick*sick*

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | January 13, 2011 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Recall: There are young adults (taking their cue from real leaders) who know how to act appropriately at a college campus memorial for victims of mass murder.

FLASHBACK: President Bush @ VTech
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zdvpw86_qkg

In stark contrast, The Obamateur's performance at the Tucson-apolooza was disgraceful.

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | January 13, 2011 10:44 AM | Report abuse

A few days before this concert they had genuine memorial services at a Catholic church. A Rabbi was there and they had 9 little girls who were in Christina’s choir come in and sing Amazing Grace.

That was a respectful Memorial. The families were able to greave and were embraced by those whom really matter.

The sideshow freak-fest must have been a shock to these poor people. I noticed the Husband of Gabby’s was non-plussed during the show. I saw him shake his head a few times, albeit slightly. Guess he didn’t want MSM riding his ass.

God Bless those who have injured and murdered families. They will one day be able to heal from this tragedy and move on with their lives.

I have a feeling Obama and his fools just made a whole batch of new conservatives over that embarrassment of epic proportion.

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | January 13, 2011 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Like Babe Ruth, President Obama pointed to the center field bleachers and then hit one out.

I'm proud of my President for his home run and hope, in any way, begin the healing process this country sorely needs.

Posted by: phirokawa | January 13, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

And while we ponder, or argue, about the contrast between President Obama and Half-term Governor, failed VP candidate Palin; what of the other contrast - Obama went to Tuscon and spoke to heal the nation; Boehner, supposed leader of the House of representatives, the body of which Gabby Giffords is a member, declined the President's invitation to ride on AF One, to attend a fundraising cocktail party for his chosen candidate for RNC chair. I guess we know that the Boner's priorities are always going to be cocktails and fundraising, not the House, let alone the American people.

Posted by: pblotto | January 13, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Of course the president needed to go to Tucson and deliver remarks, the situation required no less. The venue was unfortunate becuase it appears many young people don't know how to comport themselves at events or places where dignity and respect are necessary. Kind of reminded me of the womens volleyball team that went to the White House in flipflops. As Krauthammer noted Obama did a good job to maintain an air of solemnity that was fitting for the occasion. I'm guessing that those cheering and shrieking were trying to express support for the victims but it struck an odd note.

Posted by: Natmeister | January 13, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

The choice of a college campus for this memorial turned it into a political rally as I believe was intended. It should have been in a church or something suitable. But Obama loves to orate, especially in front of a young bunch of students who don't pay taxes and are on the receiving end of other peoples money including obamacare. He is a good orator!

Posted by: dbothroydearthlinknet | January 13, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

First of all, I am not an Obama supporter. I look forward to his removalfrom office in 2012. That being said, I was pleased and impressed with his speech and handling of the massacre. President Obama set the correct tone, addressed both the victims and the heroes in the audience, and avoided the political nonsense that EJ Dionne and other leftist pundits immediately jumped into. For the first time, I was proud of this President.

Posted by: Danl_P | January 13, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Stromberg wrote: "In my mind, I was already reading the sentences that members of the conservative blogosphere were no doubt composing -- about how the Obama's presence turned the evening into a political rally. Should he have spoken? Should he have shown up at all?"

Good questions, obvsiously you were feeling it was a mistake. The president and his minions clearly turned this into a political pep rally and was not a memorial service. Obama had plenty of power and foresight to be classy and discreet. YET, as you realized while watching, he turned it into political theater for his own benefit.

Yet, disgustingly, you are right there to support your messiah 24/7 like a good little leftist media hack...

Posted by: SirLoinofBeef | January 13, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

The choice of a college campus for this memorial turned it into a political rally as I believe was intended. It should have been in a church or something suitable. But Obama loves to orate, especially in front of a young bunch of students who don't pay taxes and are on the receiving end of other peoples money including obamacare. He is a good orator!

Posted by: dbothroydearthlinknet | January 13, 2011 12:02 PM
------------------------------------
Why do people believe us young people do not pay taxes? As if all we do is just lay around and wait for daddy's check. Sorry, but this needs to end. I have been paying taxes since I was 16. I go to college, I have job, I help pay the bills, fees, and tuition. People really do not understand how hard it is to be a young person in America today. And no, I'm not whining.

Posted by: blklez6 | January 13, 2011 1:56 PM | Report abuse

The President said it better than I ever could:

"I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here – they help me believe. 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. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us."

Let us all take heed.

Posted by: ancient_mariner | January 13, 2011 2:55 PM | Report abuse

"Barry 'Hussein' Soetoro"

KaddafiDelendaEst, show us your birth certificate. Please.

Posted by: BW42 | January 13, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

"TOGETHER WE THRIVE"?
Will this man EVER stop campaigning?! Once again, Mr. Obama missed an opportunity to be a uniter and instead kept the path of divider. The only question I have left is whether or not they served free popcorn to go with the nifty T-shirts, which, I might add, cost the University of Arizona and/or its donors some $60,000.00--this at a time when most universities are raising tuition and costs are going through the roof! How many other, more useful things could 60 grand have purchased for the school--maybe they could have hired a couple of extra security guards for a year or so? Instead, it was more important for the university's president--an ardent Obama supporter, I understand--to make a big splash in welcoming his "mourner-in-chief" and ensure that everyone got a cool souvenir to take home with the latest Axelrod/Plouffe catchphrase on it.
I, for one, AM FED UP with the ridiculous "EYES ON THE PRIZE" / "HOPE & CHANGE" sloaganeering from an administration that cannot accept that both the election of 2008--as well as the civil rights battles of the 60's--are over and have already been won.
John F. Kennedy said when campaigning for the White House in 1960: "What America needs is leadership, not salesmanship." The words were spoken by a man who knew his own limitations, and who was concerned about the packaging that even his own handlers were enveloping him with.
But with Mr. Obama, a man who--along with the media and the radical left--truly views himself with a total lack of self-deprecation and an almost non-existent vapor of humility, there is no self-doubt and therefore never any questioning within the West Wing that he is some sort of messiah--the obvious consequence being that it's them versus the opposition and that none of these people will ever have a clue on how to lead rather than campaign...and until they do, they will NEVER be able to unite us. Their arrogance runs so deep that one must now question whether or not they even care--much like the Health Care episode at Blair House where Senator McCain was put in his place ("I won the election, John"). Mr. Obama can read that fact repeatedly off of a teleprompter, but until he truly believes it himself, he will NEVER be Presidential.
Therefore, the campaign rolls on...Whether or not it is an extension of the one held in 2008 or the beginning of the one to be held in two more years is open to speculation and debate...
One thing's for sure, that's 60 grand the Dems won't have to spend on T-Shirts...
The State of the Union's coming up...I wonder if everyone in the House Chamber will walk in to find a bit of Fruit of the Loom folded on the back of their chair as a peace offering in advance for the evening's forthcoming condescension. Don't worry 'bout the cost...60 grand is peanuts compared to the trillion dollars this President has already thrown down the rat-hole, and anyway, who doesn't want a "cool" T-shirt when the debate heats up?

Posted by: ctodd_tx | January 14, 2011 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I find it VERY difficult to believe that The White House was not aware of the fact that free T-shirts were to be handed out at this particular pep rally! They KNEW it and they supported it--just like they knew that having it on a college campus was a sure way to "pack the pews" of "mourners" with thousands of Obama-drooling youths who don't know any better than to cheer for the messiah.

Posted by: ctodd_tx | January 14, 2011 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Like most media libs, Stromberg wants it both ways. In his article, he laments: "In my mind, I was already reading the sentences that members of the conservative blogosphere were no doubt composing..." in criticizing Mr. Obama.
Yet, what about the left-wing liberal media and the liberal blogosphere? They were firing bullets at Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the Tea Party before the survivors even hit the emergency rooms.

Posted by: ctodd_tx | January 14, 2011 7:02 PM | Report abuse

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