Adam Serwer tweets:
This speech reminds me that the criticism I find most incomprehensible is the idea that the president does not love his country.
The standard comparisons of the past four days have been to Ronald Reagan after the Challenger disaster and Bill Clinton after Oklahoma City. [Yesterday's] speech matched those as a demonstration of "head of state" presence, and far exceeded them as oratory -- while being completely different in tone and nature. They, in retrospect, were mainly -- and effectively -- designed to note tragic loss. Obama turned this into a celebration -- of the people who were killed, of the values they lived by, and of the way their example could bring out the better in all of us and in our country.
While Obama tried to uplift, Palin tried to settle scores. While the president called for more civility, the former Alaska governor talked about duels and 'blood libel.' And while Obama's message was, well, presidential, Palin's was not. We'll say this: If Palin has ambitions for the White House -- and we're still not sure she does -- then her tone, message, and timing from her eight-minute video was a serious miscalculation.
We do need civility, and one hopes we get more of that, and less scorn. We also need politics. And true civility can be disruptiveit is not civil, for example, to abandon the unpopular or unfairly treated. There are times when smiling blandly is far more cynical than raising one’s voice would bewhen politeness is unciviljust as there are times when cheering at a memorial is a profound act of mourning.
Note the rhetorical move at the end: Civil rhetoric may be a virtue but that doesn’t mean it’s a lesson of the shooting. He’s obviously aiming this at the left, although naturally they’ll conclude that that can’t possibly be the case. Ace heard a different speech than I did, I guess, but for what it’s worth, this is playing remarkably well thus far among righties on Twitter: Rich Lowry, Jonah Goldberg, Jim Geraghty, Andy Levy, S.E. Cupp, Philip Klein, and Ace’s own co-bloggers Drew and Gabe all thought it was rock solid.
It's an easy speech because everyone watching wants the president to succeed. It's an easy speech because that's how representation works, at its best. He's not only Barack Obama speaking; he's speaking on behalf of the American people.
I found myself reacting well to the speech emotionally even if it didn’t always hang together for me intellectually. Still, by nodding at the ways the Tucson tragedy might nudge us toward self-improvement, then not following through, Obama’s otherwise eloquent speech left me a bit unsatisfied.
My own impression is that he provided what had so far been missing from this tragedy: a response that dignified the memories of the victims and properly placed them at the forefront of public attention.
Some of my friends may criticize Obama for not defending Palin specifically, or for waiting until the memorial to have rebuked those attempting to exploit the deaths for political gain. On the first point, though, this was a memorial service and it wouldn’t have been appropriate to name other names than the dead, the wounded, and the heros who helped save lives. The second point may be germane criticism of the previous couple of days, but even if it came late, Obama stepped up and led last night.
(Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty.)