Obama gets some good reviews for his speech in the NY Times (and the sun rose in the east...). Having read the speech, I am a bit of a non-believer - as with his condemnation of both Jeremiah Wright and his own grandmother or the criticism of left-winger Bill Ayers and offsetting righty Tom Coburn, Obama took his normal conciliatory tack of rebuking both sides and presenting himself as the calm man in the middle.
So to appease righties such as myself we heard Krugman seemingly tossed under the bus early in the speech:
Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, "when I looked for light, then came darkness." Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.
For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind.
So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.
But what we can't do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.
Which is fine. Yet a bit later the President adopts Krugman's message:
And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let's remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.
So Krugman et al are wrong to blame the Tea Party and Sarah Palin but right that we all need to be more civil. I don't think for a moment that the man who described his Republican counterparts as "hostage takers" includes himself among those who have lowered the tone, so I am reading this as a call to the right to pipe down.
The NY Times editors apparently heard it the same way:
It was important that Mr. Obama transcend the debate about whose partisanship has been excessive and whose words have sown the most division and dread. This page and many others have identified those voices and called on them to stop demonizing their political opponents. The president’s role in Tucson was to comfort and honor, and instill hope.
Yeah, they know who the bad guys are, so the President didn't need to sully his hands. Please.