Recently I have been receiving some sharp criticism from the side of the aisle that I sit in. My fellow followers of conservative ideology were taken back by my praise of President Obama’s handling of the tragedy in Tucson and the speech he offered at the Tuesday evening memorial service on the campus of Arizona University.
Indeed some of the voices on the right that I most respect were not in agreement with my positive characterization of the President’s handling of the situation and the speech he gave. Leading conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin denounced the Arizona memorial and in his own way essentially described the event as a campaign rally and equated it to the shamefully exploited and disrespectful memorial service that was given some years ago in Minnesota for Senator Paul Wellstone.
Wellstone’s tragic death in a plane crash, just weeks before Election Day, was turned into a political convention that launched the campaign of Wellstone’s replacement on the ballot, former Vice President Walter Mondale.
Another acquaintance of mine wrote on Facebook “it was a pep rally…they passed out t-shirts for God’s sakes….”
Sentiments like hers were most common. They are also hard to dispute.
T-shirts certainly were handed out and although I question the poor taste of such branding, I do not question the intentions and I am also cognizant of the fact that the T-Shirt gimmick was not the inspiration of the White House or DNC operatives. This was all initiated and coordinated by the University of Arizona and its president, Robert Shelton. But here too, I do not believe that the University leadership meant any real political message. I believe that as is the case with most institutions of liberal bends, the ingrained fear of deep psychological wounds scaring mass groups of youngsters for life, led them to try and create a theme that could help insure that students walked away from the memorial with something positive to focus on. In this case they tried to make that focus one which stated that from this tragedy, hope can rise if we unite against the type of hate and anger that led to these shootings.
No matter what the intention though, it was not one that was orchestrated by President Obama or his political operatives.
Other aspects of this memorial service worthy of critical discussion were the often inappropriate cheers that rang out from the audience and even worse, the boos that were offered when Arizona’s Republican rose to speak.
While uncalled for and disturbing to me, this too I can not blame on President Obama.
The audience was predominantly made up of University of Arizona students, a group of young, not so bright, cocky, college age kids, kids of the age group that went gaga for the President when he ran in 2008 and voted for him in historic numbers. They are of a liberal mentality, a mentality that is often based on hypocritical thinking. That is why they led partisan cheers and jeers while they sat at a memorial service for the dead, and demonstrated their partisan tendencies, while wearing their T-Shirts that touted the importance of unity and listened to a speech by the President that called for us to tone down our differences. No one ever claimed that today’s college kids were a particularly bright and respectful lot.
However, I feel it is important to separate the audience’s actions from the Presidents.
That distinction is quite important and if conservatives fail to make that distinction, they will be putting our cause at a great disadvantage. If we fail to properly acknowledge the fact that President Obama tried to change the national storyline which blamed the shootings on conservative, anti-government dialogue, and if we fail to acknowledge the meaning of the words he spoke and the message sent in his handling of the shootings in the days that followed, then we will be risking our own ability to be taken seriously.
The best example of the harmful atmosphere created by not giving credit where credit is
due, can be seen in the years of George W. Bush’s presidency. No matter what President Bush did, he was attacked. Once the shock of 9/11 wore off, the left lambasted President Bush and hung him in effigy for everything and anything that he did, regardless of its merits. For many of us, it got to the point where we knew that no matter President Bush did, he would be attacked. This in turn led conservatives to ignore the left’s criticisms of the President. We just could not take their irrational treatment of him seriously.
Now in turn, conservatives can stoop to the same level which our loyal opposition held for many years or we can approach our political differences of opinion in a way that will give people no reason to not take us seriously. In this case, by not acknowledging the positive way in which President Obama held the nation’s hand during this unsettling event, will be weakening the position that we will be in, the next time that we disagree with the President on those policy positions that we find most important.
As I stated in my initial assessment of the President’s speech at the memorial service in Tucson, he rose to the occasion. He convincingly did his best to diffuse the national debate that tried to lay blame for the shootings at the feet of people like Sarah Palin and groups like the TEA Party and he did so in a way that still honored the victims in a respectful and dignified manner. For this we must thank the President, not attack him. For this we must depart from political partisanship and as Americans support our President. If we fail to do that, we will be acting just as distastefully and disrespectfully as the audience at the memorial service that booed Arizona’s Governor.