I did not watch President Obama’s speech last night, nor any of the memorial service turned pep rally, but I have read the transcript. After reading through it I have to concur with the majority sentiment that this was a very good if not excellent speech. In fact this is perhaps the best one the President has given, granted that is a pretty low bar. President Obama’s speeches can most charitably be described as vague, but this one contained a very clear message and was very appropriate for the occasion. I was struck in particular by this passage:
You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations, to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems. And much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.
But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.
Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, ‘when I looked for light, then came darkness.’ Bad things happen, and we have to guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.
For the truth is that 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.
Naturally there’s been some blowback by some conservatives horrified at the notion that anything President Obama has done or said could ever garner praise by fellow conservatives. For example, just read the comments to any number of blog postings on the Corner last night. Almost all of the NRO contributors praised the speech, drawing the ire of a large band of followers (though not all, certainly). I’m not really sure what more the President could have said. If there’s any criticism due this speech it is that it does seem a bit over-long. It’s almost like one of those homilies where it feels like the Priest is vamping in order to hit some pre-conceived notion of how long the talk should be. But it is foolish to have expected the President to have delivered a full-blown attack on leftists who engaged in any “blood libel.” The tenor of his remarks were certainly appropriate for the occasion.
I don’t think that President Obama’s political career is suddenly going to be rejuvenated because some right-wing pundits like one speech that he gave. If this wasn’t your cup of tea, fine. I’ve found myself disliking many an Obama oration that others have drooled over, so opinions may vary. But to me this was a speech well worth the praise it has received.