Obama might give speech about “greater context” of Arizona shootings. What could go wrong?

He’s handled it well thus far, actually, by keeping things low key. But alas, my friends, alas.

Mr. Obama was considering delivering a speech about the greater context surrounding the shooting, but advisers said it was premature to do so until Ms. Giffords’s condition stabilized and more became known about the gunman’s motives…

The subtext for the political discussion was the new balance of power in Washington, and how the shootings might play into Democratic efforts to regain initiative — and Republican efforts to keep it — after their losses in November. Both sides emerged from the weekend cognizant of the ways in which a politically charged act of violence, whatever the actual motives or mental state of the gunman, can recalibrate the national dialogue…

Some Democrats were urging him to look back to recent history, when President Bill Clinton seized the political high ground after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, placing blame on the growing antigovernment sentiment.

There are indeed some Democrats who are urging that. One “veteran operative” who spoke to Politico yesterday said, with exquisite ruthlessness, “They need to deftly pin this on the tea partiers.” Meanwhile, at Newsweek, Jonathan Alter wonders whether The One can turn “tragedy into triumph” and actually cites Rahm’s now-infamous line from 2008 about not letting a crisis go to waste. (Quote: “The same goes for a shooting spree that gravely wounds a beloved congresswoman.”) And in a piece authored by Glenn Thrush, whom Karl singled out earlier for his narrative-building skillz, Politico is pushing the idea of an “Oklahoma City moment” replete with quotes from Paul Begala about The One moving us to a “higher ground.” There are three ways a presidential speech on this can go, I figure. One is Obama doing his gauzy “let’s disagree without being disagreeable” thing, which will give Chris Matthews a full-body tingle but leave pretty much everyone else feeling “eh, fine.” Two is giving the left what it wants by going full-bore demagogue on Limbaugh, Beck, Palin, et al., which would make an already toxic political moment insanely radioactive. If he’s remotely serious about promoting a healthier dialogue, he’ll avoid that at all costs. Three is Obama gently scolding the left for being quick to point fingers about the shooting before they had the facts (which, of course, The One was also guilty of vis-a-vis Henry Louis Gates and Sgt. Crowley). That would earn him some momentary, ephemeral goodwill from the right but would enrage liberals, who would see it not only as an instance of him blaming the wrong side but of trying to ingratiate himself with centrists ahead of 2012.

The only solution? Give a speech that incorporates all three elements so that everyone ends up with something to be annoyed about. Which, I assume, is precisely what he’ll do, if only because it would put him in the familiar role of an above-the-fray messianic figure helping Americans to become better humans by overcoming our petty partisan concerns. He’s headed to Arizona on Wednesday so he’ll have to say something. If not that, what? While you ponder that, for your viewing pleasure, here’s a flashback to November of, er, “veteran operative” Mark Penn casually suggesting that a “similar event” to Oklahoma City would help Obama out a bunch by giving him an opportunity to reconnect with Americans emotionally. I was going to give you the clip of O talking about Arizona in the Oval Office today (you can watch that here), but this is useful as an example of seeing how reptilian political ghouls think. As Nick Gillespie says, the real takeaway from the reaction to the Giffords shooting might be how instantly we politicize everything, including people being shot in the head, “for the cheapest moment-by-moment partisan advantage.” Can The One resist that? Stay tuned.

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