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January 13, 2011

Obama in Tucson: Scenes of Shift?

There were a lot of strong photos from Obama’s day in Tucson and the memorial service where he delivering the most tone-perfect and powerful speech/sermon since his campaign address on race.

What I’m looking at most carefully though, and what I’m most curious about also, are signs and evidence of honest-to-God bipartisanship. If Obama’s essential nature is to seek consensus and bring people together, we can battle about the political merits of this kind of character but after an event like Saturday’s shooting, and given the diminished condition of the American spirit, there is no one better (if he’ll let himself go more) to provide moral leadership and appeal to a higher nature.

I’m not pollyanna enough, however, to expect or envision a major mood shift in the Capitol, on the airwave or, in particular, on the internets.  Still, I’ve been intrigued by Obama as a compass from early on, and I can imagine, given the deep depressive ditch the country has been in at least since Bush bungled, then exploited 9/11, that the country, and a major swath of the quasi-adults running it, might just be ready to grow up a bit.

So, regarding the pictures, I like the first one not just because it captures “Obama the Sage” but because Obama, Cindy McCain and Senator Kyl (who initially was so willing to torpedo the START treaty simply in the name of GOP intransigience) line up (respectfully) in a row (even if every variant of this pic I could findwith Mac included showed him with a scowl or some odd-long look).

And then, I liked the picture of Governor Brewer, who has otherwise been complete hell-on-wheels, connecting with Obama on the tarmac. Again, who knows how much it’s toeing the line at a high profile moment, but in this window of potential change, I want to believe the expression was as felt as it looks.

Photo galleries 1, 2. Obama’s speech.

(photo 1: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images. caption: (L-R) President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano attend the event “Together We Thrive: Tucson and America” honoring the January 8 shooting victims at McKale Memorial Center on the University of Arizona campus on January 12, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona. The memorial service is in honor of victims of the mass shooting at a Safeway grocery store that killed six and injured at least 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who remains in critical condition after being shot in the head. Among those killed were U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63; Giffords’ director of community outreach, Gabe Zimmerman, 30; and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green. photo 2: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images. caption: US President Barack Obama is greeted by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer upon arriving at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, on January 12, 2011 to attend the memorial event “Together We Thrive: Tucson and America” at the University of Arizona Tucson to support and remember victims of the mass shooting in Tucson. The First Couple will attend a tribute service for the six people who were killed and the 14 wounded in the assassination attempt on congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is fighting for her life in a hospital.)

  • BamaGuy1024

    Hope. At the most unexpected times. If we can only hold onto it, and change things for the better of all.

  • black dog barking

    He’s graying. So are we.

    I see apprehension in Gov Brewer’s face and her clenched hands, a final barrier as she approaches POTUS. Like she wasn’t sure what kind of reception she’d be getting. Or what kind of reception she deserved.

    • Rafael

      It’s more of “Wow, he is tall!”

      She doesn’t deserve any greeting, but politicians must do what they must, I guess.

    • black dog barking

      Looking closer, her hands aren’t clenched in front. Her left hand engages POTUS at the right elbow. Yes, he is tall.

  • Karen H.

    flipping through the photo gallery links, it’s pretty clear Rep. Gifford’s husband is worn out.

  • jmac

    Obama seems to have the Bill Clinton gift of schmoozing, especially with women. It’s a gift that can’t be learned – Gringrich, McCain, Hillary – they don’t have it. It’s the trait that drove the P.U.M.A’s (Party Unity My Ass – Hillary supporters) up the wall. He speaks – people swoon. He has the evangelical preacher lilt.

    As a supporter, I still have a hard time listening to him.

  • Rafael

    Was the empty chair reserved for Boehner?

  • Enoch Root

    If this episode brings about a renewed sense of bi-partisanship on the part of Democrats, then terrorism works, and we can expect to see more Democrats being shot at.

    All this talk of ’shared responsibility’ is really there so the Republicans don’t have to feel so bad. But they should have to feel even worse.

    Given that I hold this position, that’s what I read into Obama in both pictures. In the first one, he’s trying not to grieve in a way that appears weak. He’s keeping himself neutral by not looking, and in fact looks like he’s hiding some anger. In the second picture, he’s a large, faceless unit of human-scale moral measure, which Brewer is stunned to finally see in full, and might recognize as missing from her stature.

  • Vvoter

    With so much of yesterday’s memorial ceremony being about public display, we can learn a lot about our own social and cultural values, even if some of the display may strike us as, well, merely display.

    The photo of Governor Brewer and President Obama shows us that the American way of doing politics requires that a distinction be drawn, at times, between a) matters of government and b) matters of state. Charles Krauthammer drew this point yesterday regarding the POTUS as both head of government and head of state, and how the requirement for one individual to wear both of these hats can sometimes seem like too much to ask. In the photo, Gov. Brewer interacts with Obama, Head of State, not Obama, Head of Government (and Democratic Party).

    Regardless of how ‘liberal’ or progressive we’d like to think we are – and in counterpoint to the common right-wing narrative that liberals and progressives are often ashamed of America – I’m convinced that we ought to concede that the United States of America bears lineage to a political philosophy that warrants our deepest respect and admiration. That philosophy posits shared power and shared responsibility that, during times of stress, reveal a deeply felt American unity that transcends the common fray of daily politics.

    Even if yesterday’s display of national unity, or bipartisanship, does not translate into a watershed shift away from partisan politics in the US, we can tell that when the issue at hand is serious, we choose to display our deepest values. And for that, I am proud to be an American.

    • Michael Shaw

      Reading your comment, it seems that this distinction should be obvious. The fact it isn’t strikes at the core of the problem in and with our politics. Your last paragraph, a sentiment I profoundly share, also captures why I continue to care so much about everything that disturbs me so much.

  • thirdeye pushpin

    well the reappearance of sandra day o’connor may not herald a new era of bipartisanship but her presence echoes a significant moment of partisanship….

    • http://e karen h

      I was thinking about her presence & believe it’s a matter of both respect & protocol. Prez & First Lady in first row w// special guest, cabinet members, and retired justice (highest ranking people & guests), second row senate (particularly Arizona senators & guests), the representatives. I think Brewer must have been in the first row and Boehner would have been as well if he attended (or maybe seated next to Pelosi).

    • http://e karen h

      I should say O’Connor’s presence would be expected as she’s from Arizona & probably knew the Judge Roll. It’s her placement I was thinking about.

  • mermer

    Many people who are successful in these new paradigms that can be adapted to find the fastest, or the new ones come to realize that.

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