Senator McCain got it wrong in his January 16th Washington Post editorial when he enthused that President Obama’s Tucson speech was admirable. No doubt his remarks were well-intentioned and I think they were well received by most of us, but too much of importance to the nation was left unsaid for it to be labeled admirable.
This was an opportunity for Obama to do what he has not done very well these past two years — to be and to act presidential. Instead, he failed to provide the wisdom and guidance the nation so desperately needs at this time.
After expressing his sympathy for the victims and families of this great tragedy, he should have paused, looked into the camera and spoke directly to the dishonest, ignorant political and news media pundits who, unrestrained for a week, had so viciously lied in ascribing motives to and in blaming the innocent. He should have said, “I have a message for all of you who have tried to turn this hideous event into a political circus. Your actions are despicable. Now knock it off!” Instead, he mealy mouthed, “Our political discourse should be more civil than it currently is.” The six people killed and the thirteen wounded deserved much straighter talk than that from the President of the United States.
One concise, heartfelt, healing statement that Obama’s speech contained was, “Make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.” These were good words — presidential words — and I’m sure they were said from the heart.
He also took a page from President Carter’s book who once proudly told the nation that he had turned to his young daughter Amy for guidance on how to run the nation. In this instance, Obama turned to the precious nine year old Christina for guidance. He said, “That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed.” Then he said, “I want us to live up to her expectations.” Presidents should be setting the standards for nine year olds and helping them understand what are acceptable beliefs and expectations for citizens of this great country, not following what he thinks is a nine year old’s guidance.
Of course, no Obama speech would be complete without a few falsehoods sprinkled in. He mentioned a school book entitled “Faces of Hope” where written into the margin beside Christina’s photo is, “I hope you know all the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart.” Then he adds that, “Here on earth, we place our hands over our hearts.” But Obama places his hand over his heart when the National Anthem is played only because of the scathing criticism he got for not doing so. Before the criticism, pictures showed him standing while the anthem was played with his hands clasped tightly together in front of him.
Obama also opined, “For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack.” On the contrary, we do know exactly what caused it. The local community college that the shooter, Jared Loughner, attended had to summon the police five times because of his outbursts. Ultimately the college suspended him from classes until he underwent a psychiatric evaluation, which he never did. A fellow student suggested that he would probably one day go on a shooting spree.
So the signs were clear for anyone who was willing to see them – his family, the police, the sheriff, the college and the community. This is a shooting that need never have occurred. But it did happen and the nation desperately needs to recognize, identify and curtail such acts of madness. Presidential leadership and guidance is essential to helping us truthfully and intentionally label those acts for what they are.
Unfortunately we have elected a man to lead us who knows neither how to lead nor where to focus our attention. The fault is ours, the electorate. The nation can and will survive Mr. Obama, but it cannot continue to survive an electorate whose judgment is so bad and whose common sense is so lacking that it elects such a man to be its president.