The first major campaign event of the 2012 presidential election was held on Jan. 12, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz. Barack Obama, speaking at a memorial service held at the University of Arizona for the six people killed in the Jan. 8 massacre, gave a splendid, heartwarming address. It probably was the most presidential speech he has given.
Mr. Obama applauded the victims' sacrificial nature and community spirit, and gave special attention to 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who, he said, was just getting interested in public service, which is why she was at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' meet-and-greet event.
Now, at the risk of sounding like someone who won't give due credit, I'm going to make the case that a lot more was going on here than a memorial service.
When, for instance, have you been to a memorial service where cheers and yells punctuated the eulogy and where political campaign T-shirts were draped over seats or given out to mourners at the door?
Two other aspects of the event bear analysis. Mr. Obama has been widely and rightly praised for saying that no one knows what motivated the shooter. It would have been nice if he had done this when left-wing loons, including Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, spent days falsely accusing the Tea Party, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin of complicity, but at least he finally said it.
His call for unity and civility is also welcome, but it contains a subtle message: Now that the left has slandered conservatives, it's time to call a truce.
Years ago, a common practice in boys' play was the invocation of "King's X" in the middle of a game or fight. It meant, "timeout." The sneakiest fighters would get in a good jab, cross their fingers (which signified sanctuary offered by the church) and cry, "King's X!"
Liberals now calling for civility are employing the equivalent. It's the perfect way to chill opposition in the run-up to 2012, unlike, say, 2008. Running against John McCain, the Obama team constantly vilified the Bush presidency.
With this radically leftist administration attempting to turn America into a socialist beggar state, it would surely benefit the incumbent for everyone to pipe down about those blatant, unconstitutional power grabs occurring almost daily. King's X, indeed.
Another calculating element in the speech was this: "In George and Dot, in Dorwan and Mavy, we sense the abiding love we have for our own husbands, our own wives, our own life partners."
"Life partners?" That's either same-sex or cohabiting couples. In the not too distant past, a president would have paid homage to the victims' marriages without stretching for politically correct "inclusion."
Finally, there's Mr. Obama's sweet eulogy to little Christina. Anyone not touched by his words must have a heart of stone. But Mr. Obama went a bit further:
"I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us, we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations."
Well, hold on. Children, God bless them, are not morally superior. In fact, they plot and hoard and steal and throw tantrums. It takes a lifetime to burnish away the layers of selfishness that plague us all. Psalm 53 reminds us that "there is none who does good, no, not one." This idea that we can learn from innocent children is a liberal fallacy originating in Rousseau's myth of the noble savage. It takes wing in such nonsense as the late John Denver's song "Rhymes and Reason," in which he admonishes adults:
"It is here we must begin
To seek the wisdom of the children
And the graceful way of flowers in the wind
For the children and the flowers
Are my sisters and my brothers."
Hmm. If you think about it, this puts children on a par with plants. But Mr. Denver (full disclosure: I like his music) goes on:
"It is written from the desert
To the mountains they shall lead us
By the hand and by the heart
They will comfort you and me
In their innocence and trusting
They will teach us to be free."
Children teaching us? Isaiah 11:6 says "a little child shall lead them," but it was in the context of the coming Messiah, not a New Age pipe dream.
The great American divide runs far deeper than politics. It's about worldview. One side, like America's Founders, believes that human beings incline toward evil and that no system can perfect our nature and that most worsen it. Our only hope is in God and in limiting man's power over man.
On the other side are those who believe man is naturally good. If we create a powerful enough government directed by really smart young people, we'll evolve toward John Denver's vision of childlike generosity.
Children may be able, as the Scriptures indicate, to model childlike faith. Expecting any more is downright childish, but it sure makes good campaign rhetoric.
Now, I hereby invoke King's X, so I don't want to hear any criticism over this column.
Can't we all have some unity here?
Robert Knight is senior writer for Coral Ridge Ministries and a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union.
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