Conservatives praised President Barack Obama’s speech memorializing those killed and wounded in the Tucson, Ariz., shooting rampage as a remarkable, courageous and pitch-perfect address. On the other hand, some said the speech fell short of matching President Ronald Reagan’s remarks following the space
shuttle Challenger disaster, and others questioned the sporting-event type cheering that took place.
Former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen wrote in The Washington Post that the address was “two speeches in one. The first speech was brilliant. The second was courageous.”
“Obama delivered a traditional memorial address, and did so with elegance and eloquence. He shined a light on the victims and the heroes and told their stories, which had been lost amid the shameful debate that erupted following the attack. In so doing, he gave voice to their courage and sacrifice — and reclaimed the narrative of the day for them.”
Obama’s 32-minute address to 14,000 people at the University of Arizona’s McKale Memorial Arena praised and celebrated the lives of the six killed and 13 wounded in Jared Loughner’s shooting spree Saturday. Among those killed were Christina Taylor Green, a 9-year-old girl born on 9/11, and John Roll, a federal judge. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., — widely considered Loughner’s primary target and the first person he shot — was wounded seriously.
“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle,” the president said.
Another Bush speechwriter, David Frum, wrote on his blog that the “president’s challenge, as so often, was to make a human connection. In that, he succeeded tonight. He paid tribute to the individuality of the lost, honored the pain of the bereaved, and was crucial in bringing together the collective community acknowledgement of grief that is the only available comfort to those who mourn.”
Appearing on Fox News, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer said the speech was a “remarkable display . . . both in terms of the tone and the content,” adding, “You could only conclude that he did exactly what he had to do in a difficult environment,” The New York Times reported.
Fox News’ Brit Hume remarked that the “mood in that auditorium” was not appropriate but said Obama “behaved as some of his partisans have not, with considerable dignity and grace,” according to the website Mediaite.
Fox News’ Glenn Beck said on his blog that the crowd reaction was inappropriate at times, but the president did nothing to encourage it.
“This is probably the best speech he has ever given, and with all sincerity, thank you, Mr. President, for becoming the president of the United States of America last night,” Beck said. “It was needed, and you accomplished the job, and you did it expertly. Thank you, Mr. President.”
Michael Gerson said the speech did not live up to the one Reagan gave after the Challenger disaster or Robert F. Kennedy’s after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., “but it succeeded nonetheless.”
“Telling the stories of heroes, the lost and the wounded was important and humanizing,” the former White House speech writer said. “There is dignity in the details. The concluding dedication of the speech to Christina Green — calling the nation to be worthy of her innocence and idealism — was powerful coming from a president who is also the father of girls.
And John Weaver, former political adviser to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on Facebook that the “president had exactly the right tone and was pitch-perfect for the nation last night,” according to the Times.
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