I missed President Obama’s speech last night due to a prior commitment at the Arlington Committee of 100. I came home & was watching the clip of Obama telling the crowd Rep. Giffords had opened her eyes for the first time when my phone rang. It was my friend Jon, who loves nothing more than his kids & hates nothing more than politicians. His policy preferences are libertarian, but our political conversations typically consist of me trying to convince him that, well, um, not all politicians are completely corrupt.
“That was one of the most amazing speeches I’ve ever seen. I mean, I’ve watched speeches from John F. Kennedy, Churchill … that was amazing,” he began. “It’s like he wasn’t even a politician.”
Moments like last night let Obama be Obama – rising above the politics and the 30-minute news cycle to unite Americans of all walks of life and let anyone (Republican or Democrat) who refuses to set aside politics & join the moment look petty & very, very small.
Looking smallest of all was Sarah Palin, who may have ended her own political career.
Remember how Richard Nixon rescued his political career with his “Checkers” speech? This was the opposite of that.
Palin decided to wait until the day of the memorial service to boldly address the controversy from the isolated, insulated comfort of her living room. Josh Marshall put it best: “Today has been set aside to honor the victims of the Tucson massacre. And Sarah Palin has apparently decided she’s one of them.”
Palin could’ve made a simple statement honoring the victims & putting off the political debates for another day. But that would be antithetical to Palin – she must fight, she must be the victim, she must make it personal & political, and the collateral damage is for someone else to clean up. To ask her to do otherwise would be asking the sun to rise in the west.
I’ve been taking bets with anyone willing that Sarah Palin would be the GOP’s nominee in 2012, because given the choice between someone who’s wrong but reasonable like Mitch Daniels & a paranoid extremist like Palin, today’s GOP chooses the extremist every time.
This morning, I would no longer take that bet. As much as the GOP wallows in extremism, it’s also stone-cold & clear-eyed politically. And every GOP political operative knows that if it’s Obama-Palin in 2012, the Obama campaign would only need one commercial to win: A 30 second spot contrasting Obama’s unifying presidential leadership with Palin sitting alone, railing conspiratorially about blood libel.
I can hear whiny political hacks like Brian Schoeneman shrieking now about how I’m politicizing tragedy. But one of the few days I connected with George W. Bush as a human being was when he was so shaken by the shuttle Columbia disaster that he could barely get out “May God continue to bless America.”
And if you didn’t get choked up when President Obama told Daniel Hernandez, “Daniel, I’m sorry, you may deny it, but we’ve decided. You ARE a hero.” … your soul may have been stolen. You may need to hire Samuel L. Jackson & John Travolta to retrieve it.