Commentary Magazine


LIVE BLOG: Obama and the Rhetoric Question

So, the controversial part: Obama said that “at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized,” we should not “lay the blame . . . at the feet of those who happen to think different than we do.” Moreover, we should “make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.”

He went on: “Bad things happen and we have to guard against simple explanations in the aftermath. And the truth is none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind. . . . But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. That we cannot do.”

Then: “Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and points-scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle. The loss of these wonderful people should make everyone of us strive to be better. . . . And if . . . their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy. It did not. But rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud. ”

Was this a declaration that the massacre was not political? Sort of. And that’s good enough, because this was not a State of the Union address or a policy roll-out. At a service memorializing the deaths to which such a repulsive degree of politicization has already accrued, any overt political telegraphing  would be unwelcome. We need to remember, after all, it was never Barack Obama who played politics with this tragedy in the first place.

Beyond that, his words, and particularly his focus on nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green’s appreciation for America, were laudable and affecting. It is now only left to his base to be sane, respectful, and honest.