Sunday, January 16, 2011


Rethinking Obama's Tucson Performance

I have been surprised by the extent to which conservative commentators like Rich Lowry, Charles Krauthammer and others have lavished praise on Obama for what I thought was a thoroughly cynical and dishonest performance in his Tucson speech, beginning with the fact that he actually changed his hair color for the occasion.

Now Byron York has taken a second look at the speech, which can only be fully evaluated in light of the days leading up to it in which Obama's supporters scandalously tried to pin blame for the shootings on the right, and in the context of what Obama surely wanted it to do for him politically:

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 they 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.

Read it all at the Washington Examiner.

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