This is a useful way to wrap up (hopefully) the coverage of Our National Conversation On Rhetoric as it’s a stark example of how easily the propaganda about Palin’s culpability in the shootings was accepted as a political fact of life. There are two ways a reporter could address yesterday’s oratorical bookends by her and Obama. One: “Hey, isn’t it insane that Palin had to give this speech? People don’t normally have to point out that they’re not responsible for a mass murder that they’re not linked to in any way, do they?” Call that the “reality-based” approach. Two: “How silly of Palin to set up an unfavorable contrast with Obama by giving a defensive speech on a day when he’s pushing uplift. Don’t her advisors know anything about ‘messaging’?” We’ll call that the “you’re badly missing the point” take. It’s true as far as it goes — Palin’s team should have anticipated that some viewers will naturally compare her tone to his, notwithstanding the two speeches’ dramatically different circumstances — but it’s also utterly banal and lazy. What’s a more constructive use of a political reporter’s time — pointing out to his audience the eminently apparent fact that, yes indeed, Palin’s tone doesn’t compare favorably to Obama’s in this case? Or pointing out, in case they’re not aware, that that might be because she had to respond to an endless Orwellian smear tying her to a homicidal lunatic? Accuse The One of complicity in mass murder and, I assure you, his reaction won’t be sunshine and candy canes either.
The “badly missing the point” take is what I was getting at in goofing on Politico yesterday. For political media, whether any facts exist that link the right to Loughner is more or less immaterial; what matters is that the left’s narrative of tying the right to Loughner exists and, as such, it’s a fact of political life that should be assimilated and covered like any other. Obama’s eulogizing the victims of a shooting and Palin’s defending herself from the repulsive charge that she’s somehow responsible for the body count, but since they both spoke on the same day, well, that’s good enough for a moronic superficial horserace-type comparison. Politico:
At sunrise in the East on Wednesday, Sarah Palin demonstrated that she has little interest — or capacity — in moving beyond her brand of grievance-based politics. And at sundown in the West, Barack Obama reminded even his critics of his ability to rally disparate Americans around a message of reconciliation…
The former Alaska governor has a knack for supplying rhetoric that will delight her supporters, send her critics howling and invariably create a frenzy of coverage. But her response suggests she is capable of hitting just that one note…
But for much of the eight-minute talk she was defensive and showed little interest in doing anything other than channeling the understandable resentment of her ideological kinsmen over the blame-casting. And that won’t appeal much to a political center that — even while they may not think Palin is in any way responsible for Tucson — preferred more conciliation even before the jarring attempted assassination of a member of Congress.
A homework assignment for aspiring speechwriters: Try to write an address titled “I Didn’t Kill Anyone” without sounding aggrieved. More from the Times:
Ms. Palin’s decision to post the video on the Internet on Wednesday morning all but invited comparisons to the president’s previously announced appearance at the memorial service for those slain in Arizona.
And her choice of words — most notably the accusation that her critics were guilty of “blood libel” for the things they have said about her — made it impossible to ignore the video as merely another statement from a politician…
[W]hat could not have been more different was the tone. Where Ms. Palin was direct and forceful, Mr. Obama was soft and restrained. Where Ms. Palin was accusatory, Mr. Obama appeared to go out of his way to avoid pointing fingers or assigning blame. Where she stressed the importance of fighting for our different beliefs, he emphasized our need for unity, referring to the “American family — 300 million strong.”
Nowhere in the piece does the Times explain precisely what “things they have said about her.” If you read it without knowing the backstory of the past several days and the left’s obsession with her crosshairs map, you might think Palin had posted a video to eulogize the victims and then inexplicably launched into a tirade against the media halfway through based on old grievances, like the Couric interview. The closest it comes to filling the reader in is to quote her denouncing “mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy.”
And on we go. Here’s some refreshing candor from Lloyd Grove: Yes, it’s unfair to compare the two speeches — but why should that stop us?
The prematurely retired Alaska governor had to serve up her remarks, really a litany of complaints against her critics and political adversaries, while seated in front of a non-working stone fireplace, apparently at her home in Wasilla—a claustrophobic setting framed by an outsize American flag.
The president got to deliver his affecting half-hour of heartfelt reflection and soulful inspiration—repeatedly interrupted by standing ovations—to an arena at the University of Arizona filled to the rafters with 14,000 mourners, notably members of his Cabinet and the Supreme Court, the governor of Arizona, the astronaut-husband of wounded Rep. Gabby Giffords, the heroes who risked their own lives to save others, the doctors and nurses who tended the injured and bleeding, and the friends and families of the six people, including a 9-year-old girl, who were killed by a gun-wielding maniac Saturday morning at a shopping center.
“At the end of the day, after listening to the president, we’ll know why he’s president and she never will be,” said Robert Shrum.
To the speechwriters: For extra credit on your assignment, figure out a “presidential” way to explore the theme, “I Didn’t Beam Homicidal Mind Control Rays into that Crazed Gunman’s Brain.” The big joke here, of course, is that the only “presidential” way Palin could have handled this — according to the media, I mean — would be to simply let this whole thing slide. That’s what presidents do, right? Thick skin, stiff upper lip, even when their enemies are being terribly unfair to them. When it comes to politics, that’s business as usual. My point this week, though, and Ace’s point at his site, has been that this episode isn’t business as usual. This isn’t some standard “Palin’s using rhetorical dog whistles for her Christian base!” attack. This is a congresswoman bleeding out of her head on the sidewalk with six bodies lying around her, one of them a little girl, and Palin being blamed for it instantly. And yet according to Keith Ellison, the proper response here should have been to validate that accusation by implication by saying, gee, yeah, I guess I should have toned it down. I’m not known for being a Palin fan (as, er, any actual Palin fan could tell you) and even I can’t contain my indignation at the charge. And yet she’s supposed to just mellow out and take it because political reporters who won’t flatly correct the record for their readers think it’s bad “optics” to do otherwise? Unbelievable.