President Barack Obama delivered an "emotionally charged" speech at a memorial service for the victims of the Arizona shootings, calling on the nation to honor the six people who died by committing to a more civil public discourse "rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame." (Watch a clip.) In the days since the Saturday attack — which also left 14 people wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — Americans have engaged in a heated debate about whether the gunman was provoked by harsh political dialogue. But Obama urged people across the political spectrum to set aside partisan animosity and talk with each other "in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds." Here are some early reactions to the eulogy the president delivered:
This was just what the nation needed: Obama's Tucson address will be remembered as "one of his best moments," says Nate Silver in The New York Times, "almost regardless of what else takes place during the remainder of his presidency." This was the first tragedy of its kind in the "Twitter Age," and from the moment the news broke people jumped to conclusions about the killer's motivations. Obama rose above it all and played the role of the "adult," which was sorely needed.
"A few reflections on Obama's speech in Tucson"
Obama rose to the occasion: What made the speech great was that it rose above politics, says Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. In fact, "it was pretty close to a rebuke to his liberal supporters. He was telling them, and everyone, that the entire process of casting blame for a lunatic's crime is foolhardy and simply wrong." Obama "deserves credit" for that, and for reminding us that, in times of tragedy, we should seek comfort in scripture, not in finger pointing.
"Arizona memorial: It's not about politics"
It was moving, but still fell short: "There were genuine moments of inspiration, no question," says Noam Scheiber in The New Republic. "Obama often shines in uniter mode," and who could fail to be moved when he called on us to live up to the expectations of Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old who was born on Sept. 11, 2001, and died Saturday in Tucson? But by stopping short of mentioning some of the things that can help us turn this tragedy to good — better mental health care, tighter gun control — "Obama's otherwise eloquent speech left me a bit unsatisfied."
"Obama's moving but ultimately unsatisfying speech"
It was Obama's best speech ever — but it was just a speech: "President Obama delivered a brilliant, spellbinding, and fitting speech about the Tuscon shootings," says Paul Mirengoff in Power Line. His tribute to the victims was nearly "perfect," and his call for civility was welcome. But, remember, "his lack of graciousness towards his predecessor, his references to enemies, and so forth has set a poor tone indeed" — so this was "was a terrific speech, not a conversion."
"The president's speech"
Nice words, but they were overpowered by the crowd reaction: Obama's words "were beautiful and moving and powerful," says John Podhoretz in the New York Post. But Obama couldn't transcend the "wildly inappropriate" cheers from the crowd and overall "sophomoric" setting. "Even Obama's lovely peroration about little Christina Green — 'I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it' — was greeted by the listeners as though they were delegates at a political convention, rather than attendees at a memorial service."
"Prez perfect — but the crowd was appalling"
This was one for the history books: The "standard comparisons" for Obama's response to this tragedy "have been to Ronald Reagan after the Challenger disaster and Bill Clinton after Oklahoma City," says James Fallows in The Atlantic. Obama's speech "matched those as a demonstration of 'head of state' presence, and far exceeded them as oratory." Reagan and Clinton did a fine job helping the nation memorialize and cope with tragic loss. "Obama turned this into a celebration — of the people who were killed, of the values they lived by, and of the way their example could bring out the better in all of us and in our country."
"Why the Tucson speech succeeded"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How a degree from Duke University dashed my dreams of buying a home
- Half the world's population lives in these 6 countries
- This is why you can't trust the NSA. Ever.
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- Innocent before proven guilty? The bizarre bipartisan rush to clear Rick Perry
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The single best way to help your kid succeed at school
- What Keeping Up with the Kardashians can teach America about interracial marriage
- ISIS and the echoes of the West's religious terror
- Welcome to the age of ambivalent feminism
Subscribe to the Week