For what it's worth, Obama's speech at the memorial service left me cold. Pace Joe Klein, but it seemed full of warmed-over pabulum to me. It's all very well to exhort us to use "words that heal," and I can't argue with avoiding "words that wound" (or whatever his precise phrase was), but what about when we really have no option? How can one use "healing" words when in the middle of a genuine, passionate debate? I oppose just about everything that, say, Jim DeMint stands for. Is there a "healing" way to say that? I agree that we should all try to avoid vilifying "the other side," but I didn't hear anything last night that the President hadn't already said a million times already during the 2008 campaign. And don't get me started on being an American "family." Whatever meaning the word "family" has is lost if one conflates it with "nation."
And I know I've already said it, but I'm going to say it again -- I found the atmosphere during the memorial deeply strange. Admittedly, I only tuned in at the point that Gov. Brewer (who, I think, was very gracious) started speaking, but the cheering and applause for Janet Napolitano, Eric Holder and the President seemed totally out of place at an event to honor the dead and wounded. I really don't want to be overly critical, but I think the tone was far too much in keeping with a pep rally and not nearly solemn enough for the circumstances.
Obviously, one shouldn't keep score and judge a moment of national tragedy as a time to score points. However, as far as addressing the American people as a leader goes, not a particularly memorable day for anyone from my perspective.
Update: No big surprises, but it seems that everyone in the whole world feels differently than I do. Which is fine, but doesn't change my opinion.
Update the Second: Aha! So I'm not alone. Good. Also, Fallows mentions this reader comment:
You'll forgive the emergence of my inner curmudgeon, but I couldn't possibly care less about the wants of an 18- t0 25-year-old audience. Unless they were all related to the victims, their desires are hardly germane. In fact, given the high likelihood that a college audience would do such juvenile things as whoop at the mention that a deceased victim went to their school, perhaps that was an argument for holding the event elsewhere. Rather a smaller and more respectful audience than a capacity crowd, if you ask me.
Yet MORE update: Over to you, Michael Chabon.