Yesterday saw the memorial service for the victims of Saturday’s mass-murder in Tucson. I didn’t watch, for reasons I gave elsewhere, but I did follow the commentary on Twitter while working on other things and that prompted some reflections, which I now inflict on you. (Hey! Where are you going?)
First, from almost all I could see, Obama did a good job last night in his speech: he said the right things, set the right tone (apparently in spite of his audience), and did what we’ve expected of our Chief of State to do at least since Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg — to speak for the nation in memorializing and honoring the dead. Regardless of his sincerity or cynicism (I saw speculations on both last night), he played his role well and deserves credit for that.
The other big speech was Sarah Palin’s. I wrote about it yesterday and stand by what I said: it was also a good address from a potential president. That evening on Twitter I had an exchange with an acquaintance, a strong conservative and political junkie, who also liked her speech, but thought Obama had, as he put it, “lapped her,” that his performance had diminished hers, making her speech sound “off” in retrospect. He thought that having her speech on the same day as his had worked to her disadvantage.
Perhaps; it will certainly figure in the 2012 calculus, at least for a while. In the end, though, I think that matters less than that Sarah Palin, like Barack Obama, did what she had to do and did it well. Since Saturday afternoon, she had been slagged mercilessly by a left-liberal press and online punditry that was determined to lay blame for the Tucson massacre on her and her “inflamed rhetoric,” in spite of all evidence and logic to the contrary. She responded with plain-spoken eloquence: criticizing those who insulted her and conservatives in general, defending vigorous and free political speech, and sympathizing with the victims. Like Obama, she deserves credit.
Then there was the running Greek Chorus on Twitter, in which I noticed two strong trends.
First, when Obama actually does something right, there are some conservatives and libertarians who almost fall all over themselves to show how big-minded and generous they can be. Acknowledging a good speech is sufficient; drooling on one’s own shoes with something like “Thank you SIR!!” makes my eyes roll. It’s just a speech, people; I’ll freely grant he did a good job, but let’s wait to see what does in the days and months to come to live up to those words before we proclaim a new Era of Good Feelings.
Perhaps I’m just too crusty and cynical.
On the other hand, some people were absolutely out of line with snarky criticism of the event. The standout among those I saw was radio host Tammy Bruce. I usually like her opinions quite a bit, but her running commentary was just embarrassing and churlish. While I might agree with her (and to some degree, I do), this was not the time to hurl snark. It wasn’t just inappropriate, she beclowned herself. In fact, it was downright rude and classless, and she owes her audience some contrition. It was no better than the people in the audience who were treating the memorial like a pep rally.
Is it too much to ask people to act like adults?