Tucson Won't Be Wellstoned

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 13 2011 10:37 AM

Tucson Won't Be Wellstoned

It's tough to tell whether the "buzz" about an event is real. Last night, there arose a chorus of mostly-conservatives on Twitter attacking the tone of the memorial service in Tucson. There was some coverage on Fox News -- there's some more today -- of this, but it didn't define coverage. Nonetheless, Glenn Thrush reports that Robert Gibbs was asked about it, and surmised that the 13,000-odd people in attendance were "celebrating the miracle of those who survived" when they cheered.

We have a point of reference for all of this. In 2002, conservatives and Republicans complained that the tone of a memorial for Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) was too political, too cheery. Wellstone's sons explicitly asked the crowd -- which included Republicans like Trent Lott -- to "win this election for Paul Wellstone."

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Is that going to happen to the Tucson memorial? It shouldn't. There was no partisan political message, although I suppose you could say that the president's criticism of "cynicism or vitriol" buttressed what Democrats had been saying recently. I'd also argue that the tone in Tucson was more like the tone at the impromptu rally in New York City on September 13, 2001 --  the "bullhorn moment." Wellstone was killed in an airplane accident. The Tucson victims were killed by a gunman who is awaiting trial and whose creepy smiling face has been made famous since Saturday. Thousands of New Yorkers -- people didn't know how many at the time -- were killed by terrorists who committed suicide, but were led by terrorists still on the loose. ("The people who did this," in Bush's phrase.)

It isn't up to anyone else how somebody grieves a local tragedy. And the tone at Tucson was understandable if you understand what, exactly, they were grieving or angry about.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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