If you missed the Tucson Memorial tonight, you can read President Obama’s speech here.
It was a very good speech, very well delivered. I was watching it and monitoring twitter at the same time, and saw many judging the speech to be his best since the election. I think I agree with that. I recall being disappointing with Obama’s inaugural speech, and even some of Obama’s biggest supporters have complained that he sometimes seems too detached from his words or surroundings, but this was a speech Obama was very much present too, and it struck the right notes. Others may wish to debate content vs actions (those fights were already starting on twitter when I left) and some may wonder why he didn’t insert this unifying tone into the last few days of madness, but things have been so over-the-top amid the pundit class since the shooting, I doubt he would have been heard as well as he was tonight. You choose your moments, after all. For now, for tonight, I say give the man his props; it was a very fine speech, and a presidential one.
And the fact is, even if you disagree with every one of a president’s policies, you still want him to be presidential. The country needs that.
The Crowd: I am not a person who likes applause at Mass, and I don’t like it much at memorials, either; the raucous crowd had even some mediafolk (Anderson Cooper comes to mind) expressing doubt about the cheering. I think it was simply the venue. A different venue, something smaller, quieter, more intimate, might have inspired a different sort of reaction from the crowds, but perhaps adrenaline was running some of it.
Obama’s brief bio sketches of the dead were appropriate and warm. He seemed to catch his own emotions as he imagined 9 year-old Christina Taylor Green, puddle-jumping in heaven. I was most moved when he announced that Gabrielle Giffords had, this evening, opened her eyes for the first time, and indicated that she could see, and when he introduced her heroic aide, Daniel Hernandez, and the other ordinary folk who took down the shooter and saved who knows how many lives.
Hernandez was somber throughout the event; the most solemn face there. Obviously he has endured a great trauma; he’ll be especially in my prayers tonight.
Will the speech change anything? Charles Krauthammer, in post-speech remarks, said he thought it would put a stop to the insane, Palin-heavy rhetoric of the past few days. I hope that is true but I have my doubts. On twitter, I watched a number of journalists (Andrea Mitchell, Dave Weigel and others) immediately begin either talking about or snarking about Palin, and I couldn’t help thinking, “the president–your president whom you love–just gave the speech of his presidency and not five minutes later you’re on Palin again? Conservatives are here praising the president, and instead of joining in, you’re obsessing on Sarah Palin? Does that seem like normal, rational, healthy behavior or sick obsession?