What they are saying about Obama’s Tucson speech
President Barack Obama talks movingly of the gunman’s victims at Tucson memorial service
It may not go down as one of history's great presidential speeches, but the majority of commentators writing overnight say President Obama "passed the test" with his address at Wednesday's memorial service for the six people who died in the Tucson gun rampage.
Variously described as 'Pastor in chief' and 'Consoler in chief', he spoke personally and movingly about the victims - in particular the nine-year-old girl who died, Christina Taylor Green. "If there are rain puddles in heaven," the president said, "Christina is jumping in them today."
He also told his audience that congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had managed to open her eyes for the first time when her husband, Mark Kelly (above), visited her in hospital yesterday.
As for the escalating left-right political rhetoric which many believe was behind the shooting, President Obama declined to take sides but called for "more civility" in America's public discourse. "What we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other."
WHAT THE POLITICAL COMMENTATORS ARE SAYING:
Eugene Robinson for the Washington Post: "Asking whether [the speech] 'helped' or 'hurt' the president politically seems petty. After he described how Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' husband, Mark, had just visited her and announced that 'Gabby opened her eyes for the first time,' politics vanished. At a moment of great sorrow, there was a glimpse of the kinder, gentler America that Obama described - an America in which 'we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.'"
Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune: "We all know that Barack Obama could have had a pretty good career as a law professor, a writer or a state legislator. What had never occurred to me before is that he might have made a good pastor. His remarks at the memorial service in Tucson were exactly what his shocked, grieving countrymen needed to hear. They were consoling, they were cathartic and they were inspiring."
Kirsten Powers, Daily Beast: "Obama's speech in Arizona was a huge missed opportunity. True, as always, he delivered as 'Healer-in-Chief' and provided inspiration. This was Job 1 for the speech. But there was another job: shutting down the nonsense about how Sarah Palin or right-wing talkers caused the shooting... Obama mostly chose to be vague on this point."
Jacob Heilbrunn, Huffington Post: "It would be hard to think of a more moving and dignified speech, particularly when set against the foil of Sarah Palin's creepy and self-absorbed effusions earlier today."
Glenn Thrush, Politico.com: "Obama walked a rhetorical tightrope in Tucson, delivering a speech billed as apolitical that nonetheless carried a powerful political message... encapsulating his conciliatory vision of presidential leadership with a call to 'make sense out of that which seems senseless' by elevating political discourse."
Gail Collins, New York Times: "Maybe President Obama was saving the magic for a time when we really needed it. We've been complaining for two years about the lack of music and passion in his big speeches. But if he'd moved the country when he was talking about health care or bailing out the auto industry, perhaps his words wouldn't have been as powerful as they were when he was trying to lift the country up after the tragedy in Tucson."
E.J. Dionne for the Washington Post: "President Obama spoke as the pastor in chief, not as a politician. His address in Tucson was highly personal, rooted in the biographies of the victims and in scripture, more about the country as a family than about government. It was neither therapeutic nor political and dealt only in passing with the roiling controversies that have divided left from right."
Trey Ellis, Huffington Post: "He preached tonight, a lay Christian minister. I can't but hope that the vast reasonable middle of the electorate, after his speech, is more with him than before. I would guess that tonight was the first time that they sat down and really listened to an entire speech of his in months. It was a helluva of a way to get reacquainted." ·
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