"Once abolish God and the government becomes the God." -G.K. Chesterton

Sunday, January 16, 2011

President Thrived, Victims Not So Much: Obama's Theatrics in Tucson Create Forgettable Memorial

In lieu of a leader, Americans went to the polls two years ago and elected an orator. His resume was paper-thin. His policy successes were non-existent. His past was either whitewashed or sealed away from view. But when he spoke, especially at large events with high production values, people listened. In fact, they did more than listen. They were moved. To quote Harry Reid, he was clean and articulate. Oprah was even more ecstatic. He was "the one we had been waiting for."

Barack Obama became president not for anything he had achieved, but because he spoke so well of hoping to achieve something. His speeches offered poetry without details or solutions. They were highly celebrated theater, especially by the elites and celebrities. Fast forward to today.

Political operatives on the Left have been hoping for a tragic event to boost the president's poll numbers ever since the midterms. If only we had an Oklahoma City, they wished aloud. Oklahoma City saved Bill Clinton's presidency! Cue the tragedy in Arizona. Nineteen individuals were shot, six killed, and a sitting Congresswoman critically wounded by a lone gunman. A nation's eyes turned to Tucson.

We all know the rest of the story. The Left immediately began to blame conservatives (especially Sarah Palin and the Tea Party) without any evidence whatsoever. When that evidence never materialized, it didn't stop them from seeing invisible bogeymen where they wished to see them. Dissent used to be patriotic in the bad old days when Republicans were in charge. Now the Left was blaming dissent for causing death, violence, and destruction. Incredibly, they were blaming a mainstream political ideology, conservatism, for the tragedy.

The divide this narrative created was more than enough to require saner voices. Every politician and pundit on the Right pleaded for sanity, to stop the blame game and instead put the focus where it belonged - on bringing the shooter to justice and praying for the victims and their families. Most of this advice was ignored by the mainstream media or considered wise only so long as conservatives were willing to admit their rhetoric played some sort of imaginary role. A moral equivalence was made between those on the Left accusing their political opponents of causing the shooting and those on the Right trying to clear their name from such egregious smears with increased rhetoric.

Insert the president and his soothing voice of pragmatism. Given the chance to play good cop to the kos kids (and Krugman's) bad cop, Obama would take the exact same position conservatives had all week (but without the baggage of having to defend himself against false accusations). He would appear to rise above it all, post-partisan, a healer and not a divider. He would call for unity without having to offer any policy solutions, none were necessary (maybe stricter gun laws or a push for the Fairness Doctrine, but that could always come later from his henchmen in Congress). The solution to the crisis manufactured by intolerant blowhards on the Left was, as it turned out, the president's greatest strength - a speech. A speech could freshen his message of HOPE and allow him to rehash his "this is the moment the planet began to heal" mumbo-jumbo from the campaign trail.

It was the perfect scenario, the one political operatives had been dreaming of to resuscitate the image of their diminished leader. Obama would give a speech to bring the country together! Nevermind the blame his party irresponsibly placed on their political opponents is exactly what divided the country in the first place. The stage was set. The players were ready for the heroic third act. All cameras would be on the president. Turns out dead bodies make great political theater, even better than Democratic donors dressed in white doctors coats. Lucky for President Obama.

There's no doubt the speech President Obama gave in Arizona lived up to his past speeches. Obama was clean and articulate, if not noticeably gray (too gray, I might argue, as if his handlers wanted him to appear weathered and aged by the crisis). Were this a political event, you would praise him for another terrific speech that moved the sheeple (especially the college age sheeple) and caused a few enthusiastic fans to faint. It was a grandiose photo-op worthy of it's own slogan and t-shirts. In fact, the event got both, entitled "Together We Thrive."

There's only one problem. This was not a political event. It was a memorial service to pay tribute to the precious lives lost when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a Safeway in Tucson. The families weren't there to pose with the president and help him kick-off his reelection bid. They were there because they had watched loved ones die. These were grieving wives, fiances, mothers, fathers, and daughters, and they deserved better than the tacky atmosphere that made this memorial service one to forget.

Even the name of the memorial service told you everything you needed to know about its purpose. Together We Thrive. Who? The victims??! I don't think they'll be thriving. Can you imagine using such a theme to describe the recently deceased? Together We Remember would have been a far more appropriate theme, but perhaps wouldn't have made as cool of a t-shirt. The only person thriving on Wednesday in Tucson was President Obama, and truth be told, Together We Thrive is a nearly three year old campaign slogan previously rolled out in his run for the presidency.

In essence, the event was a few hundred yards short of presidential. I watched Ronald Reagan's address after the Challenger disaster again (delivered from the Oval Office) just to remind myself what we should have been expecting. A few short pleas from the Commander-in-Chief could have gone a long way to quieting the disruptive cheers and whistles from the rowdy crowd on Wednesday. But when every cheap seat comes with it's own free Organizing for America t-shirt, when attendees are invited to the event with emails from political groups, you are setting the tone for anything but a somber memorial service. It was a speech that should have been delivered in a smaller venue or perhaps even from the Oval Office as Reagan delivered his, but then it couldn't have served as political optics. This event was about one thing: paying tribute to our celebrity president, not the memories of those who perished, and that's disheartening.

Words. Just words. And what president has ever done words better?

1 comment:

  1. "This event was about one thing: paying tribute to our celebrity president, not the memories of those who perished..."

    Exactly. I just found this article online and I wish I had found it sooner. I don't think I've seen anyone articulate what I was feeling watching that memorial service w/ a sick feelning in my stomach until I read your words here.