President Obama's speech at the Tucson memorial was his finest hour, an eloquent rebuke to the purveyors of venom and partisan toxin.
The president wrote a prescription for the relief from what passes for punditry: "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."
The tone and tint of Mr. Obama's remarks recalled Ronald Reagan's speech in the wake of the terrorist truck bomb in Beirut that took the lives of 241 American warriors, most of them Marines, in 1983. Michelle Obama's taking the hand of Mark Kelly into both of hers, when the president spoke of Gabrielle Giffords' ordeal, recalled Nancy Reagan's tearful accepting of the folded flag every hero's mother takes from her son's coffin, acting as the surrogate for the mothers of the slain Marines. These are the moments that bring a nation together in the aftermath of tragedy and torment, and Mr. Obama rose gallantly to the occasion.
The Wall Street Journal expressed the hope that implicit rebuke of those who seek to blame Jared Loughner's violence on the give-and-take of democratic debate "will be embarrassed enough from now on to keep silent."
We can always hope, but the early notices are not encouraging. There is no respite from the relentless mocking of Sarah Palin, whose remarks earlier in the day in reply to the hysterical attempt of the left to blame her for the tragedy in Tucson was surely a large part of what President Obama was talking about when he decried the fact that "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."
A columnist for the New York Times observed the next morning that the president, like Mrs. Palin, rejected as far too simplistic the idea that political speech, however harsh, "was directly responsible for the tragedy." But not too simplistic to peddle: "… what could not have been more different was the tone. Where Ms. Palin was direct and forceful, Mr. Obama was soft and restrained. Where Ms. Palin was accusatory, Mr. Obama appeared to go out of his way to avoid pointing fingers or assigning blame. Where she stressed the importance of fighting for our different beliefs, he emphasized our need for unity, referring to the 'American family — 300 million strong.'"
It's nice to know that a columnist for the New York Times is willing for once to include Republicans and other conservatives in the American family, but it would have been in keeping with the president's admonition to cut out the relentless incivility — to observe the fact that Sarah Palin had been defending herself against the manifold libels of the week, and President Obama was not.
The week's relentless attempt by "the journalists and pundits" of the left to make Republicans and other conservatives the villains of Tucson ultimately failed. The "conversation" has moved on to mental health, and why we decided four decades ago to give criminal crazies a bottle of pills and tell them to get lost. This, alas, is likely to push the pundits of the left to ever more hateful hate speech.
There is, in fact, a syndrome to describe the left-wing punditry. So we must be kind. The medical term for it is "creparus crawlanius," or creepy crawlies. It was discovered first in Chris Matthews, who shouts for MSNBC. Chris suffers from what has come to be called Chris Matthews Syndrome, or CMS. Those with CMS typically imagine that creepy crawlies climb up their legs (and sometimes into their drawers) when they hear a speech by President Obama. Chris let his usual deluge of spittle fly the other night, raging against talk radio in general and popular talkers Mark Levin and Michael Savage in particular. "They … are just in some rage every night with some ugly talk. Ugly sounding talk and it never changes."
Sufferers of CMS typically hear themselves talking and imagine it to be voice of someone else. There's no cure for CMS, not yet even a pill to alleviate the symptoms. Until there is one, the sufferers should reread Dr. Obama's splendid prescription in Tucson.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.
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