Sounding Presidential

Rich Trzupek is a veteran environmental consultant and senior advisor to the Heartland Institute. He is the author of the new book Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA is Ruining American Industry (Encounter Books).


Yesterday Barack Obama did something that too many elected officials seem congenitally unable to do: he rose above partisan politics and spoke to the nation as a leader should, rather than as another politician angling for personal advantage. Speaking in Tucson at the memorial event held to honor the victims of Saturday’s shooting spree, the president rose to the challenge, avoiding any temptation to point fingers and score political points. Instead the president sounded positively presidential, delivering the kind of message that America’s leaders are expected to deliver in troubled times: a message that emphasizes our common goals and focuses on the promises of the future rather than dwelling on the mistakes of the past.

The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives – to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents.  And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy – it did not – but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.

Interestingly, the three words underlined in the paragraph above – “it did not” – were not included in the prepared text issued to the media, but were uttered by the president during his speech. The inclusion of these three words suggests that the president, or his team – or both – eventually realized that it was very important to emphasize that the madness that drove Jared Lee Loughner to kill six people and wound thirteen more had nothing to do with politics. Like the vast majority of political assassins, Jared Lee Loughner was a loner disconnected from reality. The left’s desperate, knee-jerk attempts to describe him as a person moved to madness by the Tea Party, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin or anyone else on the right were disingenuous at best and downright embarrassing at worst. To his credit, Barack Obama never came close to traveling down that particular road. While he carefully steered a middle course – as a president should – Obama’s express rejection of the notion that political opinion and discourse was a root cause of this tragedy is about as stinging a rebuke of the left as we’re likely to witness during this administration.

Speeches are about style as well as substance and there are always going to be those for whom the former will count more than the latter. During George W. Bush’s administration, some pundits couldn’t bring themselves to dispassionately evaluate the substance of a Bush speech because they couldn’t get past his down-home delivery. Barak Obama’s speaking style elicits the same kind of criticism, albeit from another direction. In a classic Obama speech, the presidential chin is raised defiantly toward the stars and the clipped, staccato delivery suggests – to some – an inherent smug sense of superiority. Personally, I wouldn’t go quite that far, but nor have I ever felt especially connected to Barack Obama when he has delivered a speech. Though I grew up a stone’s throw from where the president first developed his “community organizing” resume, whenever I listen to the president, it sounds like he was raised on a different – far more privileged – planet than I.

Last night, I was able to get past all of those obstacles and I was thankful for the opportunity to do so. Either Barack Obama, or his speechwriters – or both – woke up to the reality that is America in 2011. Heated discourse – which is exactly the sort of discourse that has dominated American politics throughout American history – had nothing at all to do with the Tucson shootings last Saturday. Crazy people continue to do crazy things. That’s the way it’s always been and that’s the way it will always be.

“I believe we can be better.” Barack Obama said yesterday. “Those who died here, those who saved lives here – they help me believe.  We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.  I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite.”

Exactly right. Now, here’s hoping that both parties – and the current administration itself – take this particular message to heart. We can do much better, but it will be up to our leaders to prove that important point.

  • Jaz

    Calling for talking nice to each other coming from a man who talks about, "We won, you lost", "Republicans are the enemy", "people who cling to their guns and religion", "I don't know any of the facts, but I think the police acted stupidly".
    He's made some many nasty comments I can't even think of them all.
    Can anyone else think of more divisive things he's said?
    Yeah come on!

    • marat1

      Aware of the thrashing the Democrats would get in the November elections, a mere day or two at most before the election he spoke to the nation's Hispanic community, urging them to "get out there and PUNISH YOUR ENEMIES." Meaning, of course, those nasty, racist Republicans and Conservatives–the very segment we all KNOW really do not "care about the people." Obama is so centered on plying some advantage to splitting the American public, that it is purely disgusting. Even more so because of the UTTER hypocrisy of his entire campaign built on being "The Great Uniter." When Hassan, the Muslim shrink went on a rampage at Ft. Hood, muttering "Allahuh Akbhar," the Islamic warcry for murder while pulling the trigger, Obama spoke to Americans saying…."Uh, lets not JUMP to any conclusions." This guy is a walking HYPOCRITE of the FIRST order. He had no trouble thrashing the police of Cambridge, Mass. when the black historian Gates was picked up by police on suspicion of perhaps being a neighborhood burglar. And he had NO trouble in thrashing the law enforcement agencies of Arizona when he brought a lawsuit upon the state–DESPITE the fact that their Immigration Law was a carbon copy of the Federal Law BUT……DEMANDED ENFORCEMENT. Arizona had a team of lawyers deal with the racial profiling issue, forbidding it "without just cause." No matter. Obama IMMEDIATELY pounced on the state, saying "now we're gonna have a Hispanic grandma going out for an ice cream being harassed." TOTAL hypocrisy–PROTECT THE MUSLIM but CAPITALIZE on the Hispanics for votes. The message he sent? "Well, some laws really don't need to be obeyed. Like immigration."

  • Chezwick_Mac

    What happened in Tuscon was a tragedy…and Obama's speech was presidential indeed, but we've suffered tragedies before and life goes on. I don't want to seem as if I lack compassion; the death of 9-year old Christie was particularly devastating. But again, life goes on. We have important work to do; the Dems (and their big government agenda) are on the ropes and this is no time to let up. The fate of our country is at stake.

    Folks, the entitlement age is over with, our politicians just don't know it yet. We are going to have to make budget cuts over the next decade that will make the Obama debt commission's "painful and controversial" recommendations seem absolutely timid by comparison. There will be an inevitable rise in the misery index (and all the attendant sob-stories), but this can't deter us from our historic obligation.

    Unless we change our entitlement culture, we are going to bankrupt the next generation. 70 million baby-boomers are going to retire over the next 18 years. How can we possibly pay for our unfunded liabilities which total over $112 TRILLION?
    http://www.usdebtclock.org/

    An economic default could easily create conditions for political upheaval, including a potentially violent revolution with racial overtones as the young (largely non-white) revolt against the tax burden of supporting the old (mostly white). It's a nightmare contemplating how thin the veneer of civilization is when we're confronted with pervasive want.

    The alternative is to suffer dramatic reductions in our social safety net and our standard of living NOW. I vote the latter. Last November, so did the American people. Let's get on with it!

    • Jim C.

      I salute your willingness to talk about the issues that face the country and not speculate about motivations and add to the "crazy." As a liberal I am always willing to hear a conservative's take on the issues facing the country, and entertain any proactive solutions offered. "Less government" isn't always what's called for, in my book–but certainly I think it works as a default position.

      • Chezwick_Mac

        I appreciate the generosity of your comments, but I have to ask you, what is YOUR answer to our crushing debt that was brought on by big government, MORE big government? I'm not pointing fingers here…most of the debt was accrued during Republican control of the WH and Democratic control of Congress (although the trajectory of deficit spending during the first two years of Obama has sky-rocketed).

        My feeling is that a lower tax rate will facilitate competitiveness and economic expansion, which will bring in more revenue for government…but that the projected revenue must be used to service the debt…or at the very least, balance the budget. Meanwhile, massive budget cuts and austerity measures are in order to restore our fiscal health.

        What's YOUR solution?

        • Jim C.

          I don't have the answers, I think it's a choice of lesser evils. I tend to agree that raising taxes in this economy is not the best idea but may be necessary to tax the top percent short term to begin to pay for what we've borrowed (and anyway, did Bush's tax cuts give us growth?) What I worry about if we don't do this is more job loss, insecurity, and uncertainty. But there will be no quick fix. Because we've essentially lived in a bubble we're going to have to make do with less. And it will be humbling.

        • Jim C.

          I'd like to bring all our troops home, yesterday, and help transition them into jobs and positions of leadership. I think the sooner we accept that we just cannot afford to be the world's policeman and that others are going to have to pick up the slack, the better we'll be as a country for it. Unfortunately there are very powerful interests who don't see it that way. I'd also like to see manufacturing and other jobs return to our shores as well. We have to restrict corporate personhood much more severely. Multinational corporations scare me–too much autonomy, too much concentrated power and intel, and no loyalty involved.

          • Chezwick_Mac

            1) Yes, the Bush tax cuts indeed generated five solid years of economic growth after the 2000-02 recession

            2) I agree completely, we cannot afford playing the world's policeman and we should indeed bring our troops home; the possible difference between us here is that I believe doing so will have serious national-security repercussions

            3) The multinational corporation is the most effective mechanism ever devised for the creation of goods and services for a mass market…and the absence of "loyalty" is precisely what makes it so; It has no intrinsic impetus except profit motive. Having said that, I strongly agree that we must stimulate our domestic manufacturing base. Historically, producer societies dominate consumer societies…and we are witnessing this first hand as the magnetic pole for global finance and power shifts from American to China. The question is, how can we turn things around? Should we undermine our WTO obligations and subsidize domestic industry through tax policy, thus igniting trade wars with our competitors and in the process, dramatically driving up the cost of goods? What about accepting the fact that our wages and benefits are pricing our goods out of the global market, and that a fall in living standards (lower wages and less benefits) is the only way for us to effectively compete?…(ahhh, but the unions will never sit for it).

            It's a quandary, friend. I fear that whatever the solution, the American people have become so addicted to our culture of entitlement and plenty that we're simply no longer hard-wired for accepting sacrifice. Responsible austerity policies enacted by one party or the other will likely result in repudiation at the polls.

  • Rifleman

    They "eventually realized" loughner has more in common with them than conservatives, and the dp/left smear attempts were backfiring. He could have condemned the smears five days ago, but he didn't. He waited to gauge the political winds before he took a position. This was just face time for a hypocrite.

    • beckmeister

      My take is that Obama was told that the army of supporters to the cause of continuing to undermine our country's way of life would do the heavy lifting. To enhance his own image, he was spared having to partake in the vitriole against the right. Instead, he was given a "presidential" speech to read. I do not, for a minute, believe that the effort to discredit Beck, Limbaugh, Palin and others will abate. Instead, the president was protected from getting involved in the campaign. Both goals were achieved: 1)to discredit the right and, 2) to protect the president.

    • trickyblain

      Face it, Rifleman, the only people who have anything in common with Loughner are Oswald, Booth, and certain residents of mental health facilities. Calling Obama a hypocrite, in this case, serves only to show that you have a pre-programmed position – even when he does well, you need to find some nefarious motivation — however much of a stretch it is.

      Of course Loughner was not a product of Glenn Beck and talk radio. But the judge he killed had previously received many threats from people who were upset about the very subjects railed on every day here at FPM. Just yesterday, a man was arrested for threatening to kill a Democratic Congressman — he was angry about Dems "stealing" from him. The difference b/t heated political rhetoric in the past and that of today is that today's rhetoric stops short of logic. One can just say "he's destroying the country," and morons froth. In the past, said morons were largely illiterate; they were not part of the political dialogue. Now anyone can chime, regardless of intelligence, instincts or mental stability.

    • trickyblain

      And your response yesterday was confusing. I was talking about the big run on ammo when Obama was elected due to the fear he was going to outlaw firearms or something. A trip to my local gun store, to buy .30-06 ammo for my Garand, is exactly the same as it was pre-Obama. Federal firearm law has not changed, nor has there been a major effort to change it.

      • coyote3

        Yeah, we still have the same illegal federal firearms laws.

  • Amused

    "more in common " ? Lougner ? ? With WHO ??? You're a great example of what , mainstream Americans are getting real fed up with .[ and your counterparts on the left ] Such a statement and attitude is no better than that which you criticize . So who is a hypocrite ?

    • FreedomFace

      Correctly put, "With WHOM???"

    • Dennis X

      Amen, at a time when joe miller gang roughed up a reporter and ron paul gang beat down a woman. Ask jaba the rush if he wants to play nice. fox during the campain, " Obama's babys moma" or beck calling the president a racist, please. People on the right are lowest form of trash on earth.

      • coyote3

        Well, Tyrone, I don't know, but maybe Obama is a "racist". I don't really care for that kind of label, because it is kinda hard to define. Doesn't matter what "race" is involved, if your proposals are illegal.

  • http://netzero.com Steve Chavez

    When the networks went Live at the beginning, it showed the good Sheriff laughing, high fives, hand shakes, pats on the back, and other encouragements! This shows that the CYCLE OF HATE THAT HE STARTED BY BLAMING THE WRONG PERSONS AND GROUPS, which was then the catalyst to hacks at CNN, MSNBC, HUFFPO, and many websites to incite their base into a Palin and Fox hatefest! These actions then turned what was supposed to be a somber and respectful memorial service into a Political Pep Rally! The Sheriff has no business at a memorial service since he partly in charge of the investigation!

  • davarino

    I am glad the president held such a speech, but why didnt he do the same thing after the Fort Hood shooting? Whats different? I think I disagree with Rich, I think Obama did this for political reasons. The crowd were obviously there to worship Obama. What was with all the clapping? There was nothing to clap about.

    • FreedomFace

      This was a campaign speech, not a memorial. Like I said, he's the opportunistic Fraud-in -Chief.

  • http://www.granitesentry.com granitesentry

    It's just exhausting listening to calls for civility from the leader of a party known for it's bloodthirsty partisanship, seen most recently in their libeling of conservatives in the wake of this terrible tragedy. The Left has been slandering and lying about the Right for generations now. If there is a vigorous response, it's only because the once Silent Majority finally got a belly full AND the internet has finally given them a voice. More at http://www.granitesentry.com.

    • MollyBrand

      Amen! He let his media goons go for 5 days spreading their poison so he could stay above the fray and kick off his 2012 campaign and this author gives him kudos. For God's sake, who cares about his 'speech'- the whole thing was a Roman coliseum spectacle-these people were brutally murdered and shot, congresswoman Giffords is still fighting for her life and they give out t-shirts. I never thought I would see this on frontpage.

      • Jim C.

        This event resonated throughout the country because the target was political (albeit in a crazy way) and that brought tensions boiling to the surface. A president is expected to speak to such situations, and he did so with sweetness and solemnity.

        Not hard to understand.

        • coyote3

          Everyone is entitled to formulate their own definition, and interpretation, I guess.

    • http://www.granitesentry.com granitesentry

      …its bloodthirsty partisanship… Dang it.

  • Lfox328

    The clapping and whooping was unseemly; the speech's words were all right, but the tone with which it was delivered was NOT. The shouting (by the President) and the pauses for applause were indicative that the speech was a launch point for Campaign 2012.

    Ain't it great that the crisis didn't go to waste!

  • dude911

    you cant get good fruit from a bad tree…obieOne might be capable of "sounding" presidential…but he will never be truely presidential in America because he is anti-American…his socialist ways will always underscore the meaning of his words…so while he may "sound" presidential…his intent is treasonous…

  • 2maxpower

    sorry. ..but this is where conservatives get screwed again. the rhetoric has all …ALL directed at the conservatives.

    …and the president makes a moral equivalent of the conservatives with the nasty leftists. PC sucker again.

    and what the hell was the this pep rally at the what should have been a solemn event.. a freaking circus.

  • http://dmefat.blogspot.com/ brad

    It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Obama would give a speech like this, it does a psychiatrist to fathom why some think it has merit or believe in his words after two years of his governance.

    • Jim C.

      Why would they believe Obama's words? maybe the fact that he has delivered on so many campaign promises and presided over the creation of more jobs than all those created dring Bush's entire 8 years.

      • coyote3

        What did that yankee president say? Something about fooling some of the people all the time?

  • BLJ

    Obama made this speech for one reason only. To try to save his hide. He had to tow the line and not point any fingers.

    This was just another campaign speech to a politician who is always campaigning. He is as phony as a 3 dollar bill. And worth about as much.

  • FreedomFace

    Obama is the Opportunistic Fraud-in-Chief, and will be until he is out of office. He has new handlers now, who are using Obama's acting ability and a new script to convince the world he no longer is the most leftist president in American history.

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

    • trickyblain

      Or, as W famously said..

      "Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice…er…uh…ack…won't get fooled again!"

  • http://apollospaeks.townhall.com ApolloSpeaks

    THE TUCSON TRAGEDY AND THE STATE OF OBAMA'S PRESIDENCY

    If as the desperate, vicious political left claims that the "toxic" political atmosphere in Arizona caused by SB 1070 and right wing anti-immigration racism was the motivating factor in Loughner's shooting rampage, then the tragedy was an unintended consequence of Barack Obama's victory over Arizona's John McCain. Indeed, because of Obama's victory Jane Brewer replaced Napolitano as Arizona's governor. This in turn led to the signing of SB 1070 (which Napolitano would have vetoed) thus unleashing the firestorm and frenzy over illegal immigration which supposedly influenced Loughner to strike.

    continued

  • http://apollospaeks.townhall.com ApolloSpeaks

    But in truth McCain's defeat of Obama would not have saved those 20 innocent people from tragedy that day. Obama or no Obama, 1070 or no 1070, Tea Party or no Tea Party Jarad Loughner would still have been a twisted devil worshipping drug abusing kid with a deadly festering grudge against Gabby Giffords that started three years earlier. As the flag burning Loughner hated American politics as much as he hated America, as he worshipped a skull as his God signifying his love of killing and death for its own sake, he would have shot Gabby Giffords all the same…….

    Click my name for the rest of the article.!

  • Wiley

    The whole premise of the speech, and all of the praise about it, is based upon something that was intentionally created by Democrats and leftists: blaming the right for the murders. You see, we're all feeling better now, not because truth has been got at, or because he told us we must work to help the insane, or punish violent crime more readily, or things of that sort. No, it's that we were told we must move on from partisan bickering. And thus the implication remains: right wing "vitriol" is what caused those murders. There was only a "need" for him to restore calm and remind us of our better selves because lies conjured by the left drove millions into a frenzy and remain the narrative as to why this happened. Chalk up another sick and twisted win for the left.

  • Jim C.

    In situations like this, a president is expected to speak to it and defuse the situation. He did so magnificently, even according to this website, which I give them credit for recognizing. What part of that don't you understand?

    • Wiley

      See my post below this. It's a sick and twisted technique, and no one plays it as well as the left. It ruins marriages, friendships, and businesses. And it will (if it hasn't already) ruin this country.

  • Wiley

    In short: Demonize your opponents; create a riot. And then send your guy out there calling for a restoration of peace and harmony. Textbook.

  • BLJ

    Saul Alinsky would have been proud.

  • USMCSniper

    Most Americans are moderate, tolerant, and ambivalent in their political attitudes. This has always been true and it is, if anything, more true today than in the past. The culture war is almost entirely an elite leftist phenomenon, driven by a small group of activists on the left who exert influence far out of proportion of what they have to offer the American people. Liberal elitests think they're better than everybody else, so they're doing it for everybody else's benefit. They are superiorists. They are entitled. They are aristocracy. They're born to lead. How many of them actually worked for what they have? Oh, there's the occasional exception, but most of them are entitled in their own minds.

  • Reason_For_Life

    Obama sounded "presidential". Big deal. I've heard drunks in bars sound presidential. Talk is cheap.

    When Obama acts presidential, call me.

  • http://www.mysapce.com/freddawes1776/ Fred Dawes

    ALL Is BS its what the boss's want the big boys want right now obama playing nice but in the end game its not about what you want its about what the rulings want. and face facts the culture war is over the third world rulers have the big win the USA Is now just a-want-to-be dictator rulership and within 10 years you will be living in a third world monkey house.

  • HenryCrux

    SO, HOROWITZ TOO IS AGAINST FREE SPEECH AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT ! HE TOO CAN HARDLY WAIT UNTIL WE FINALLY BECOME A CLEAN MACHINE ROBOTIC REPUBLIC! ALL WE HAVE IS FREE SPEECH – EVERYTHING ELSE HAS BE SHAT UPON AND BECOME USELESS – NOW THEY WANT OUR VERY VOICE!

  • alexander

    Yes, we all agree – it was a huge tragedy, but some have no objectivity:
    MSM "news" – Republican judge KILLED! – 10 second news, end of it.
    Democrat wounded, recuperating – 24 hrs a day, every day news.
    MSM urinalists have missed their shrink visits, having their noses………..u know where

  • HenryCrux

    SO, HOROWITZ TOO IS AGAINST FREE SPEECH AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT ! HE TOO CAN HARDLY WAIT UNTIL WE FINALLY BECOME A CLEAN MACHINE ROBOTIC REPUBLIC! ALL WE HAVE IS FREE SPEECH – EVERYTHING ELSE HAS BEEN SHAT UPON AND BECOME USELESS – NOW THEY WANT OUR VERY VOICE!

    • http://logistory.blogspot.com/ noway2no

      No just a people who speak the truth. Barry Soetoro has no occasion with it however.

    • USMCSniper

      Ahhh,,,.errrr,,, hmmm… that was stupid. Hehhheh heheh hheh Shutup Buttmunch!

  • HenryCrux

    Dear USMCSniper, when I Posted "SO, HOROWITZ TOO IS AGAINST FREE SPEECH AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT ! HE TOO CAN HARDLY WAIT UNTIL WE FINALLY BECOME A CLEAN MACHINE ROBOTIC REPUBLIC! ALL WE HAVE IS FREE SPEECH – EVERYTHING ELSE HAS BEEN SHAT UPON AND BECOME USELESS – NOW THEY WANT OUR VERY VOICE!" You replied by posting, "
    Ahhh,,,.errrr,,, hmmm… that was stupid. Hehhheh heheh hheh Shutup Buttmunch! Which proves my point, free speech is all you have left – fight for it!

  • FPM.Com Subscriber

    Good article! -when right things are said (or done), that merits commendation! But let's continue to be wary … and not put on 'the blinders'!!

  • Tom S

    I WAS LISTENING TO THE RADIO IN THE CAR AND OBAMA IS INTRODUCED TO SPEAK AND THEN ALL THIS APPLAUSE….FORGIVE ME BUT I DIDNT THINK THE PARTICULAR OCCASION CALLED FOR APPLAUSE….I WAS PUT OFF BY IT AND SO I JUST TURNED THE RADIO OFF….

  • dude911

    when a lion acts like a kitten you dont go over and scratch the little kitties ears…

    i mean…

    when a vulture pretends to be an eagle you always honor its nobility….

    i mean…when wile e. cayote wears a sheeps skin its ok to let him in flock…

    oh…well you know what i mean…once a socialist marxist, always a marxist….you cant trust hollywood either!!

  • HenryCrux

    Obama and Clinton are using this nut murderer to cover up their own love of Murder – Abortion is not Murder it is a good clinical procedure that saves lives – but when it is used to murder a little innocent baby it should not be called "abortion" but "murder". What hurts Obama and Clinton is when you tell the truth about what their number one love is: Baby Murder! Soon it will be against the law to tell the truth about their love and practice of Baby Murder because it might drive some of us to try to save many babies by killing those responsible for the daily murder of thousands of innocent babies. Kiss free speech goodbye.

  • HenryCrux

    When Murderers of Babies Plead to have extreme accusations silenced forever, you know they fear the truth.

    Obama and Clinton are using this nut murderer in Arizona to cover up their own love of Murder – Abortion is not Murder it is a good clinical procedure that saves lives – but when it is used to murder a little innocent baby it should not be called "abortion" but "murder". What hurts Obama and Clinton is when you tell the truth about what their number one love is: Baby Murder! Soon it will be against the law to tell the truth about their love and practice of Baby Murder because it might drive some of us to try to save many babies by killing those responsible for the daily murder of thousands of innocent babies. Kiss free speech goodbye. Everyone is buying the Planned Parenthood Euphemism "Abortion" instead of what baby murder really is, "The most premeditated and cold blooded murder of totally innocent human beings ever committed or conceived of." Don't you dare call it "murder" or soon you will hear a knock on your door, or a "click" on your phone. You know in your heart I am not kidding.

  • USMCSniper

    Obama's speech is Harvard's version of Rodney King's "Can't we all get along" which he while the gangs blacks pull whites out cars and killed 50 people dueing the Watts riots, and for Obama he means "You conservatives just shut up and cooperate and we will all get along following my agenda only.

  • kafir4life

    The day after BamBam's speech a friend asked me if I heard the President and if he made me cry. I responded with no and almost daily.