Obama’s Tucson Speech Wins Rare Praise From Conservatives

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Photo: David Becker/Getty Images

You know it's a good speech when conservatives are not only united in their praise, but also find almost nothing to even nitpick about it. Part of the reason the right has reacted so favorably toward President Obama's remarks at the weird college pep rally/memorial service last night is because of his very direct chastisement of liberal partisans who have tried to pin the blame for the shooting on Sarah Palin, the tea party, or Republican talking heads. But, also, it was just a damn fine speech. Here's what conservative pundits and political commentators are saying about it.

Rick Lowry, Corner/National Review:

The pep-rally atmosphere was inappropriate and disconcerting, but President Obama turned in a magnificent performance. This was a non-accusatory, genuinely civil, case for civility, in stark contrast to what we’ve read and heard over the last few days. He subtly rebuked the Left’s finger-pointing, and rose above the rancor of both sides, exactly as a president should. Tonight, he re-captured some of the tone of his famous 2004 convention speech. Well done.

Marc Thiessen, Post Partisan/WP:

President Obama's address at the memorial in Tucson was really two speeches in one. The first speech was brilliant. The second was courageous. In the first, Obama delivered a traditional memorial address, and did so with elegance and eloquence ... [H]e pivoted to a second speech on our political discourse — and delivered a clear rebuke to those on the left who were so quick to politicize this tragedy and assign blame to their political opponents ... This was unexpected. It was courageous. It was genuine. And the president deserves credit for saying it.

Erick Erickson, Red State:

Mr. Obama gave a stunning rebuke to his own base who’ve engaged in a horrific blame game all week ... Contrast that with what his supporters have been up to all week. It is disgusting. Let us also not forget that the President’s own Democratic advisors were hoping he would seize on this moment as a way to polarize the country against the right and the tea party movement. While many will say parts of his speech were campaign-ish, let’s not forget that the President has failed miserably at every speech he has given as President. So a campaign style speech was the only way for him to deliver. And I think he did as a President must do.

David Frum, Frum Forum:

The president’s challenge, as so often, was to make a human connection. In that, he succeeded tonight. He paid tribute to the individuality of the lost, honored the pain of the bereaved, and was crucial in bringing together the collective community acknowledgement of grief that is the only available comfort to those who mourn.

Peter Wehner, Contentions/Commentary:

Last night in Tucson, Barack Obama resurrected the best qualities from his 2008 campaign. On a difficult occasion, he showed grace and reminded us of the power of words to unify and uplift. More than at any other point in his presidency, Mr. Obama was president of all the people and spoke beautifully for them.

Wall Street Journal editorial:

President Obama rose to the occasion yesterday evening at the memorial ceremony for the victims of Saturday's murders in Tucson, not least because he spoke to the better angels of our democracy.

John Podhoretz, New York Post:

The sentences and paragraphs of President Obama's speech last night were beautiful and moving and powerful. But for the most part they didn't quite transcend the wildly inappropriate setting in which he delivered them.

Jonathan Tobin, Contentions/Commentary:

While the content of President Obama’s speech was entirely appropriate, one has to wonder about the tone of the event. The fact that his speech was interrupted several times by cheers and applause lent what was supposed to be a memorial service the air of a campaign rally. While it was a fine speech, I can’t help but question the way his audience thought it was appropriate to behave in this manner or why the president didn’t ask them to calm down and stop the demonstrations.

John Pitney Jr., Corner/National Review:

President Obama gave a fine speech reminding us that there is more to life than politics, and more to politics than self-interest.

Jennifer Rubin, Right Turn/WP:

As for the president, I was immediately struck by how old and gray he looks. He did not smirk and play to the crowd as Bill Clinton surely would have done. His sober demeanor lessened the cringe-sensation when the assembled hooted and cheered. As for the president's speech, it was one of his better moments because it avoided politics.

Abe Greenwald, Contentions/Commentary:

[H]is words, and particularly his focus on nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green’s appreciation for America, were laudable and affecting. It is now only left to his base to be sane, respectful, and honest.

Paul Mirengoff, Powerline:

Tonight, in my estimation, President Obama delivered a brilliant, spellbinding, and fitting speech about the Tuscon shootings. This was the best speech I've ever heard him give.

Michael Gerson, Post Partisan/WP:

It is the temptation of a former speechwriter to judge speeches based purely on their technical merit. But this can be a mistake. History will judge if this was a great speech, but it had a good heart.

Related: Heilemann on Obama’s Moral Challenge