Normally I’d wait for video to post but that could take an hour or more, so here are his remarks as prepared for delivery. He did an excellent job, actually, much better than I expected. Some righties will dislike it just because it’s him and some lefties will dislike it because, unlike them, he wasn’t in the mood for voodoo, but most everyone else will think it’s lovely.
Read the full speech and enjoy it now because tomorrow’s political insta-analysis — “Obama’s back!” — is sure to taint the mood. Two noteworthy ad libs to bear in mind before you proceed to the key passages below. First, in the speech’s best moment, he mentioned that Giffords opened her eyes today for the first time. And second, right after the line “it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy,” he punctuated it with “it did not.” He’s not playing the “climate of hate” game here, in other words. On the contrary.
You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations – to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems. Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.
But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.
Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.” Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.
For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.
So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.
But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together…
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. It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.
Note the rhetorical move at the end: Civil rhetoric may be a virtue but that doesn’t mean it’s a lesson of the shooting. He’s obviously aiming this at the left, although naturally they’ll conclude that that can’t possibly be the case. Ace heard a different speech than I did, I guess, but for what it’s worth, this is playing remarkably well thus far among righties on Twitter: Rich Lowry, Jonah Goldberg, Jim Geraghty, Andy Levy, S.E. Cupp, Philip Klein, and Ace’s own co-bloggers Drew and Gabe all thought it was rock solid. Click the image below to watch a key section. Exit question: Er, what was with the audience? Wasn’t this a memorial service?
Update: KP, of all people, is criticizing Obama on Twitter for tacitly validating the left’s “rhetoric” narrative by addressing it in the first place. He had to say something, though. If he avoided the subject, he would have come off as a coward — voting “present” on four days of demagoguery. He dismissed the lefty narrative as best he could within the constraints imposed upon him by having to retain his base.