The New York Times’s lead political blogger Michael Shear was predictably effusive toward Obama’s "soft and restrained" Wednesday night address to the nation, while showing resentment toward Palin’s "accusatory" Wednesday morning video defense of herself: “Obama and Palin, a Tale of Two Speeches.”
The very premise of Shear’s Thursday morning posting was fatally flawed: Comparing the speech of a sitting president to a former vice presidential candidate attacked for inciting the shooting, yet expecting each to offer the same message in the same tone.
Wednesday was bookended by two remarkable -- and remarkably different -- political performances that demonstrated the vast expanse of America’s political landscape.
The day opened at 5 a.m. with Sarah Palin, whose seven-and-a-half minute video statement captured with precision the bubbling anger and resentment that is an undercurrent of the national conversation about our public discourse.
It ended with President Obama, whose plea for civility, love and compassion -- for us to all be not just better citizens but better people -- exposed for the first time the emotions of a leader who has spent two years staying cool and controlled for a nation beset by difficult times.
Whether Ms. Palin chooses to challenge Mr. Obama or not, her video reflected the urgent feelings of her supporters. And Mr. Obama’s speech, delivered amid sorrow, offered a fresh glimpse of the candidate who used hope as the tool to inspire his.
But the purpose of Ms. Palin’s video was clearly to send a different, more sharp-edged message. Just 1 minute and 32 seconds into her talk, Ms. Palin shifted gears, saying she had become puzzled and saddened by the accusations leveled against her and others by “journalists and pundits.”
Shear admitted the actual messages of the speeches were not so different, but found Palin “accusatory” where Obama had offered a “plea for civility, love and compassion.” As if Palin should have been merely meek and mild after being blamed for inciting violence by the media and liberal commentators for three days running.
But 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.”
Shear positioned Obama as national healer without giving Palin any credit for staking out a free speech position or a strong defense of herself in the face of liberal and media smears.
Instead, Mr. Obama echoed the calls for greater civility and fresh reflection about the nature of public discourse. But he did so while urging all sides to abandon what he called “the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle.”
He is likely to be disappointed. Even as he spoke, Twitter messages and emails flew across the internet, with one side assailing the other. And Ms. Palin will likely find little hope in the barrage of criticism that greeted her video.
But Shear’s elaborate balancing act omits the reality that almost all conservatives reacted with anguish to the shooting, while liberal commentators were casting blame on the right from the start.