Independent’s Eye by Joe Gandelman
Will the shocking shootings in Arizona prove to be a turning point for America? Whether they are or not, the assassination attempt and murders could be a turning point for three key American political figures: Barack Obama, John McCain and Sarah Palin.
In the space of a week, all three chimed in on the shootings. Obama’s and McCain’s unifying comments reminded voters why they originally supported them. Palin’s comments ““ made via two media venues within a week ““ reminded swing voters (and some Republicans) that she is a divisive force who shows no signs of going beyond attack or defense modes. And no sign politically maturing.
In Obama’s case, a lingering mystery is how someone who seemed so charismatic and such a great communicator during his 2008 campaign could seem so utterly boring and inept in communication once in office. But in his Arizona speech, Obama rose above a well-crafted speech to connect as a Head of State, Healer in Chief, husband ““ and, most of all, as a father.
I listened to his speech on XM radio while driving from Bakersfield to San Diego. And when he talked (sometimes haltingly) about the loss of 9-year-old victim Christina Taylor Green, I pulled over and wept. The shootings sickened me but Obama’s comments about how a trusting, idealistic little girl’s life came to a sudden and brutal end — and our duty as adults to make the world as young people dream it to be — hit a nerve.
Apparently my reaction was not isolated. A Washington Post/ABC poll found Obama’s approval rating up to 54% after the speech. Almost eight in 10 gave him thumbs up for his response. 71 percent of Republicans said they approved of his leadership following the shootings.
Meanwhile, John McCain showed signs that his 2000 bipartisan incarnation has not totally vanished. In an op-ed in the Washington Post, he reverted to his old persona by praising Obama’s Tucson shooting speech, defending Obama’s patriotism and suggesting regret for some of his own past statements. It suggested that the 2011 McCain may be somewhere between the 2000 version (maverick) and 2010 version (fierce partisan).
And Palin? Except among her supporters, her Facebook video was perceived as a mistake since it underscored her seemingly defensive fixation on herself. So I was convinced that when she sat down with Fox News’ defense lawyerly Sean Hannity for an interview she’d take the first step towards PR recovery.
Palin defended (again) her use of the term “blood libel.” She suggested the Arizona shooter was a leftist (NO PROOF of that). She was angry. Defensive. And she never mentioned the shooting victims.
Even old shoot-from-the–mouth former House Speaker Newt Gingrich felt compelled to say Palin has become “more controversial,” should “slow down” and “think through what she’s saying and how she’s saying it.”
Palin increasingly seems to be the lack of impulse control candidate who’ll utter whatever snark she wants, or use whatever term she has read without considering its precise meaning.
Palin AGAIN gave the impression that her political world is all about Sara. The rest of us are political players — with liberals, independent voters, and RINO Republicans mere extras as she obsessively dotes on her preferred cast sitting stage (far) right. Her Hannity interview was a mistake following a mistake.
You could suggest that Sarah Palin should have quit while she’s behind but she did that already in Alaska.
Yet remember (1) A good week does not a good career shift make (Obama and McCain’s gains could be short-lived). (2) A bad week does not a bad career shift make (Palin can rebound), (3) A skunk is always a skunk (Politicians may not change at all).
The unseemly truth: In the end, it’s the voters ““ particularly swing voters ““ who, as time goes on, will decide who stinks the least. And that’ll be the one who’ll truly be on the long-term ascent.
Copyright 2010 Joe Gandelman
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org and can be booked to speak at your event at mavenproductions.com.
Follow Joe Gandelman on Twitter @joegandelman