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Issues & Insights

Can’t Any Democrat Remember Obama’s Plea For Civility After The Giffords Shooting?

President Obama signs H.R. 3801, the Ultralight Aircraft Smuggling Prevention Act of 2012, in the Oval Office, Feb. 10, 2012. This bill is the last piece of legislation that former Representative Gabrielle Giffords sponsored and voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives. Vice President Joe Biden, former Representative Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly attend the signing ceremony. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In January 2011 in Tucson, a 22-year-old schizophrenic murdered a federal judge, a 9-year-old girl and four others, and maimed Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords with a point-black shot into the brain, shooting 19 in all at a constituents gathering outside a supermarket in Giffords’ district. She was his target.

Four days later, President Barack Obama visited a packed University of Arizona at Tucson basketball arena and gave what Democrats and Republicans alike praised as possibly the best speech of his presidency. Liberal writer Garry Wills was effusive, reminded “of the lesson of the fallen that Lincoln took from Gettysburg … The sharing of praise for all who suffered and aided the suffering made me think of another speech, Henry V’s at Agincourt.”

Then-Fox News host Bill O’Reilly wrote that “Obama did a service to the nation by asking people to stop hurting each other with irresponsible words. He is now on the record decrying the ideologues who are damaging the country.” As O’Reilly noted, however, “The problem is that some of the president’s most ardent supporters are responsible for the current madness.”

Eight and a half years later, they still are.

After the trouncing Democrats received in 2010 in reaction to ObamaCare’s enactment, Obama’s popularity zoomed up eight points in response to the speech, which was watched by tens of millions. Democrats running for president today, though, obviously aren’t impressed with Obama’s call for respectful language from 2011.

“What we cannot do,” Obama insisted, “is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. That we cannot do. That we cannot do,” he repeated to enthused applause. “Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let’s 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 that our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

And Obama stressed that “only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud,” referring to Giffords and the other victims.

“We should be civil because we want to live up to the example of public servants like [Judge] John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.”

How well did the candidates who debated one another on Tuesday and Wednesday nights do sticking to questioning President Donald Trump’s ideas without questioning his love of country?

Trump As The Devil Incarnate

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden said, “Everybody knows who Donald Trump is” and two weeks ago in Iowa characterized Trump’s tweets against the four far-left Democratic urban congresswomen of the socialist “Squad” as “flat racist.”
  • California Sen. Kamala Harris said that as state attorney general, “I’ve preyed on transnational criminal organizations that have preyed on women and children, and I will tell you: we have a predator living in the White House,” provoking wild applause. “Donald Trump has a predatory nature and predatory instincts.”
  • Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said, “Donald Trump disgraces the office of president every single day … We need to call out white supremacy for what it is: domestic terrorism. And it poses a threat to the United States of America. We live in a country now where the president is advancing environmental racism, economic racism, criminal justice racism, health care racism.”
  • Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called the president “a guy who’s a racist, and a sexist and a homophobe” and “we have got to take on Trump’s racism, his sexism, xenophobia.”
  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said Republican “enablers in Congress … are supporting naked racism in the White House.”
  • “I have had it with the racist attacks,” said Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. “I don’t think anyone can justify what this president is doing. Little kids literally woke up this weekend, turned on the TV, and saw their president calling their city, the town of Baltimore, nothing more than a home for rats.”
  • New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said, “Donald Trump, from Charleston [sic] to Baltimore to even the border, is using the tired old language of demagogues, of fearmongers, of racists.”
  • Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke said, “We’ll call his racism out for what it is.”
  • Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet said, “the president’s racist rhetoric should be enough grounds for everybody in this country to vote him out of office. That one thing alone should be enough.”
  • Former HUD secretary Julian Castro was asked by CNN’s Don Lemon about “the president’s racist tweets attacking Baltimore and congressman Elijah Cummings” (which, truth be told, contained no racist slurs and echoed statements Cummings himself has expressed about the condition of Baltimore, using identical words). Castro replied, “First of all, the president is a racist, and that was just one more example of it.”
  • New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said, “Donald Trump has really torn apart the moral fabric of this country, dividing us on every racial line, every religious line, every socioeconomic line he can find” and declared: “The first thing that I’m going to do when I’m president is I’m going to Clorox the Oval Office.”

Only Two Years Since The Near-Assassination Of Scalise

Add to that litany the fact that in June the Democrats’ Senate leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, called Trump’s federal judge appointments a “parade of narrow-minded, often bigoted people who we’re putting on the bench simply because they’ve been members of the Federalist Society.”

Perhaps the memory of the Giffords and Judge Roll shooting has faded, but the attack on House Republicans practicing for an annual congressional baseball game in Virginia, nearly killing then-House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, was only two years ago. And the assailant in that case, slain by police, was not believed to be mentally ill, but rather motivated by sheer political hate.

“To the former Illinois home inspector, Donald Trump and his whole family were traitors who needed to be imprisoned. The Republican Party was worse than terrorists,” according to a Los Angeles Times story at the time.

Why don’t these Democratic candidates — or the Squad members, whose hate language against Trump is even more inflamed — care that they might spark more assassination attempts?

And where is Barack Obama?

If the former president — the most popular figure in the Democratic Party today — really believes it requires more political civility to prevent future shootings of elected officials and other government figures, why hasn’t he spoken up and told his fellow Democrats, eight years later, that they have a moral obligation to ratchet down their hate-filled rhetoric?

The 44th president need not scold Democrats exclusively. Granted, Trump hasn’t exactly ever taken Obama’s advice and tried to sharpen his own “instincts for empathy”; there may never have been a president who has used more vulgar rhetoric, including questioning his opponents’ patriotism. And Democrats would no doubt argue that Trump has given them no choice. But Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh could all describe what happens to those who fight the Democrats playing by Marquess of Queensberry rules.

If Obama really believes his legacy is as unifier of the nation, there’s never been a better time than now.


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Thomas McArdle

Tom McArdle @MacArdghail, longtime Senior Writer for Investor's Business Daily, was a White House Speechwriter for President George W. Bush, National Political Reporter for Washington political columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, Managing Editor of Human Events, and has worked as a writer for CNN and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. His work has appeared in National Review, the American Spectator, The Hill, the Washington Examiner, Newsmax, and the National Catholic Register. He has appeared on Fox News and numerous talk radio programs. He is a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, M. Stanton Evans' National Journalism Center in Washington, Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, and at 17 was one of Curtis Sliwa's original "Magnificent 13" Guardian Angels.

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Issues & Insights is a new site formed by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our goal is to bring our decades of combined journalism experience to help readers understand the top issues of the day. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis, because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

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