Via the Standard, I’m happy to assume that this is heartfelt, although of course no other answer is possible politically. We’ll see tomorrow how well his former boss does in taking his advice. If you’re expecting the sort of trainwreck that happened at the Wellstone memorial, you’re kidding yourself. Obama and his team are way too smart to descend to that level of grotesque political hackery, especially given how they cherish his “above the fray” image. Here’s what we know right now:
Obama’s staff said he plans, at some point, to deliver a speech that soothes the nation while urging a ratcheting down of often-violent political rhetoric. It’s not clear if Wednesday’s appearance will provide that opportunity, but he’s certain to strike that theme in the State of the Union address, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 25.
If I were him, I’d shy away from heavy-handed lessons and simply emphasize Giffords’s humanity. She’s young, likeable, soft-spoken, and politically centrist; a lot of people, I’d bet, have come to identify with her as they’ve learned more about her this past weekend, so all he has to do is drive home the idea that congressmen — as much as Americans traditionally enjoy deriding them — are people too. Any lessons about civility, rhetoric, “tone,” and so forth will be drawn by the listener implicitly and organically from that. And if he throws in an aside about the perils of jumping to conclusions (like he did after the Fort Hood shootings), so much the better.
Speaking of not letting a crisis go to waste, I linked this WaPo piece in Headlines quoting No Labels co-founder Mark McKinnon as saying of the shootings, “It’s a real tragedy, but it’s also a real opportunity.” More:
“They recognize that we need to have a civil dialogue,” McKinnon said. “They recognize we need a moment of calm.”…
Moments of bipartisanship have weighed on the nation’s political leaders before. Most were short lived.
“We are hopeful but not starry-eyed about it,” said Matt Bennett, Third Way’s vice president of public affairs. “After 9/11 there was a lot of hope that would be the end to this nastiness in politics but that lasted about three weeks.”
People on Twitter are calling McKinnon a ghoul for using the shootings to promote his agenda, but I’m not sure that’s fair. He’s not saying that he wants people to join No Labels or even to move to the center; I took him to mean, per the point above, that maybe reminding partisans of the basic fact of a politician’s humanity will make them more reluctant to toss rhetorical grenades going forward. Like I said last night, that’s a worthy end, but grafting the “rhetorical excess” narrative onto this particular incident inescapably leads to the sort of scapegoating and disinformation we’ve been writing about for the past two days. It’d be great if there was some way to separate the means from the end, but I’m not sure there is.
Update: Matt Welch’s take on McKinnon is, er, less charitable.