Sunday, January 16, 2011

The President's Tucson speech: Political Pep Rally or Call to Civility?

President Obama's speech last Wednesday at the University of Arizona at Tucson, which spoke poignantly of the victims and the need for national “healing,” was, by all accounts from both ends of the political spectrum, a smashing “political” success. While the President insisted “it is impossible to know what caused” the killing spree of Jared Lee Loughner and indicated that heated political rhetoric had not, in his words, “caused this tragedy,” he also simultaneously (and somewhat contradictorily?) called for more “civility” in public discourse and to resist "turning on one another."

Moreover, although still unclear to whom exactly the President was speaking-- with many on the political left seeming to think he was talking exclusively to conservatives who had just endured an extended pillorying in the national media for ostensibly causing such unspeakable acts of violence with “hate filled” and “extremist rhetoric” over the airwaves, see here-- the President, to his credit, called the nation to eschew denigrating political opponents because they “might not see things the way we do.”

Nevertheless, the “memorial” for the Tucson shooting victims, purportedly meant as a solemn, respectful affair, was reminiscent of the Paul Wellstone memorial in 2002, when democrats and leftist political operatives used the opportunity as a “get out the vote” event to rally the “sympathy vote” for Democratic replacement candidate Former Vice President Walter Mondale against Republican Norm Coleman in the then-imminent 2002 mid-terms, (history does indeed, repeat itself!)

Indeed, the Tucson event had an almost celebratory attitude, replete with loud cheers, whistles, and shouts of acclamation that seemed more like a campaign rally to kick off Obama's 2012 re-election bid than a genuine memorial for the victims, (in spite of the President's moving memorial “rhetoric,” and before you libs get all up in arms about the term which, I admit, has been rather sloppily bandied about of late, but that's what it was in purely technical terms, as is all political speech, look up Webster's definition here, and/or read the classic “Art of Rhetoric” by Aristotle).

Little wonder then that the raucous attitude of the student-majority crowd seemed strangely out of place and offensive to many others watching, including this organization's founder and CEO.

Coming on the heels of national mid-term elections in which the President's party incurred historic losses in the House of Representative and in which, among other things, the President stated, “If they bring a knife, we'll bring a gun,” to many on the political right the speech in Tucson rang hollow and perhaps like mere political posturing akin to putting into action his just resigned Chief of Staff Rham Emmanuel's maxim to “never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Indeed, following the first two years of the Obama Administration which witnessed an incredible self-aggrandizing expansion of Federal power, many of us on the political right are understandably skeptical of the sincerity of Obama's sudden penchant for “civility” and compromise, trusting ourselves rather to our 40th President, Ronald Reagan's rule of thumb, “trust but verify.” Nor can we compromise on principles of importance to this nation of limited government, a strong national defense, and policies that encourage economic growth.

Accordingly, many of us are waiting to see if Obama will truly listen to the voice of the American people spoken so loud and clear in the Mid-term elections which repudiated his progressive agenda at the expense of these values, or will continue on the course he has begun of increasing government nationalization of industry, consolidation of control over free speech and the internet, and higher government taxation and expenditures at a time when we can ill afford it with deficits as far as the eye can see.

We are waiting, Mr. President. jp

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