Memorial or Pep Rally?

President Obama speaking at AU, Jan 12, 2011

I got up yesterday morning and watched President Obama’s speech at the Tucson memorial on Wednesday. There is no doubt our President is a great orator. His well-planned speech was powerful in its timely and upbeat message. Perhaps that’s exactly what the citizens of Tucson needed.

The polarization between the right and the left became evident as this national tragedy unfolded.  Some on both sides were quick to turn the horror into a political event. To his credit, the president tried to be very clear, placing the blame for this crime squarely at the feet of the lunatic who pulled the trigger. He cautioned against pointing fingers and blaming each other for this act of lunacy.

Still, the tone and atmosphere of this ‘Event’ was somewhat distasteful. I listened to all of the President’s Thirty-Three minute speech and then started reading the rhetoric from the left and right responding to it. A few things jumped out immediately.  I read somewhere, surely a conservative viewpoint, that the memorial played out as more of a pep rally or stop along the campaign trail, complete with blue tee shirts and cheering crowds.  Someone else said they were actually giving away these blue tee-shirts at the event. Frankly, I didn’t believe it.  I thought, surely they have better sense.  Tee-shirts should be reserved for rock-concerts and Nascar races, beaches and bars, but not memorial services.

This picture from shows a volunteer neatly folding the shirts across one of the nearly 14,000 seats in the University of Arizona’s McKale Memorial Center. (Is it ironic that the volunteer setting out the blue shirts is wearing a red one?) When listening to his speech, I noticed the constant interruption of the cheering crowds which added to the pep rally feel. The whole thing left me feeling a bit uneasy. Obama had the right words, but the venue and presentation kind of sucked.

I recall what one of the President’s closest advisors, Rahm Emanuel, said, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.” It appears the men in blue wasted no time using this crisis as an opportunity to shore up Obama’s shrinking popularity. Should the President have spoken publicly about this tragedy? Absolutely! I look back at past presidents and how they handled speaking about tragic events.

President Franklin Roosevelt gave his “A day that will live in infamy..” speech before congress the day after Pearl Harbor.  When the Space Shuttle Challenger fell from the sky, Ronald Reagan did not immediately book the Astrodome for a public memorial. He addressed the grief of the nation, one-on-one, looking each of us in the eye from the oval office as the Commander in Chief. When the Twin Towers fell, then President George W. Bush also spoke to us calmly and briefly from the White House to address the pain of a nation. Can you imagine the uproar if the President booked Carnegie Hall for the address, and gave out tee-shirts? He would’ve been crucified.

I remember another Democratic memorial turned campaign stop when the Clintons showed up at Senator Paul Wellstone’s memorial. That event had a circus like atmosphere with a sea of blue and party leaders massaging their individual political agendas and encouraging politicians to “Tone down the rhetoric.”

Some on the left said the atmosphere and tone was likely set by the University and had nothing to do with the Democratic party, that college students just don’t know how to act in the face of something like this.  I am reminded of the days following the Virgina Tech shootings and how the students and the president set a respectful tone at that venue.  If you want to see how a memorial is supposed to be, go look at that video:

Someone suggested to me recently that I post something political. My response at the time went something like: “Politics tend to divide people and I don’t want the Prodigal Scribe to be divisive, shoving people farther apart; I want to post topics that can bring us closer together and treat each other better, maybe give someone a chuckle or smile along the way. Not much to smile about in the political arena these days.”

This may be the last political post you ever get from me, so use it wisely. I look back on this event with sad eyes knowing that somewhere along the way someone chose to use tragedy to a political end, and that just left a terribly bad taste in my mouth.


“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies.” ~Groucho Marx

6 thoughts on “Memorial or Pep Rally?

  1. frizztext

    That event had a circus like atmosphere with a sea of blue and party leaders massaging their individual political agendas …

    frizz-comment: – yes for European taste it seems to indicate the dullness of non-educated people. do they only understand what to think and what to fight for, if they are were wearing a blue shirt?

  2. Nelly Blye

    Once Pandora’s lid has been lifted, there is no going back. I can think of no more disgraceful speech then that of George W. Bush at Ground Zero. The scene, with Bush holding a bullhorn in one hand and his arm around the shoulder of a NYC Fire Chief, smacked of a frat party gone bad. Even his tone was frat-like. It was a disgraceful spectacle, without a doubt. To say that GWB did not use 9/11 as a tipping point for his popularity is to deny that the sun sets in the West. Even considering the POTUS’s Arizona speech, GWB has no fear of losing his “Presidential Razzie”. That’s all the politicking that I will proffer.

  3. Mickey Mills Post author

    The two circumstances were as different as lima beans and lock washers. A better comparison would’ve been the “Mission Accomplished” speech. I would’ve had a better time accepting the association. In the first place, GWB was in his second term, so there was the campaign factor is not there. BO’s Arizona speech, which in the context of his speech was appropriate for the situation, had the flavor of a campaign stop. W’s 911 stop was for the emergency responders on scene. To a certain degree emergency responders are somewhat of a fraternity by the definition of the word. If I remember right, he was handed the bullhorn by the fire chief to speak to the crowd. There was nothing scripted. This whole Arizona deal was scripted, branded, and shoved down the throats of anyone who might cast a vote. If you want to make a comparison, compare this speech to W’s six minute tribute at the Virginia Tech shooting memorial – and there was no commemorative tee-shirt.

  4. Mickey Mills Post author

    I agree withe the exit from Iraq and Afghanistan. I disagree about the total fire-arms ban. My position on that is…. If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.

    The “Right to Bear Arms” is a fundamental right of freedom guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. I am against losing any more of the freedoms than we already have. It’s one of the things that makes the US a great country. It’s also one of the things that makes the US a difficult country. With freedom comes responsibility and many people are irresponsible.

    As a side note, the Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, was for Second Amendment rights.

  5. frizztext

    You know there is a great difference of the opinions in Europe and the United States.
    P.S.: Maybe now Gabrielle Giffords would share my opinion. We can’t ask her.

Leave a Reply