If you haven't watched President Obama's speech on the Arizona shootings, you really should. It's one of his best and a real testament to his ability as a leader. It echoed his superbly timed speech over the Rev. Wright issue, where Obama used his rhetorical skills and sense of judgment to calm the ever irritable racial tension that bubbles beneath American society. This time, Obama pleaded for a sense of perspective after the killings in Arizona, for less heated rhetoric and a call for civility. He said:
What we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.
Obama paid tribute to the victims of the shooting, focusing especially on 9 year old Christina Taylor Green. He asked what a little girl would expect from her nation:
That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.
I want us 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.
Again, the speech will go down as one of Obama's finest, and despite quarels with him on policy, no one should doubt the ability he has to judge the public mood and provide a sense of calm leadership in troubling times.
But of course, the rabid Right is doing its best to pour cold water on the President, deflect attention from their incendiary rhetoric, and apportion blame to anyone but themselves. Here's the vicious Michele Malkin commenting on the President's speech:
Speeches and leadership are not the same thing.
Obama delivered one tonight, but failed at the other over the past three days as Pima County Sheriff Dupnik, Democrat Party leaders, and media abettors poisoned the public square with the very vitriol the president now condemns.
Right speech. Too late. Awful, awful venue.
Sadly, Malkin's comments are entirely predictable. She makes a living spewing hate and venom and will fight for her market share at any cost. Her audience expects vileness from her writing, and true to form, she has delivered even after the tragic assassination attempt of a Democratic Congresswoman.
Americans must not let the likes of Malkin, Palin and Limbaugh detract from a rare moment of reflection in American society, and focus on the words of the President who is showing real and meaningful leadership.