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Only Niggling Complaints From Fox News Panel About Obama’s Tucson Memorial Speech

Reported by Ellen - January 13, 2011 -

You know President Obama’s Tucson Memorial speech had to be pretty darned great if the Fox News panel assembled to critique it – a panel that did not include a single Democrat or liberal – found only its length to criticize. Of course, they took some jabs at Democrats and - shades of Paul Wellstone’s memorial – of the not-somber-enough tone. But the panel blamed the audience, not Obama.

The panel consisted of Brit Hume, Chris Wallace and Charles Krauthammer. It probably would have been too much to ask for Alan Colmes or Alicia Menendez or Kirsten Powers or Bob Beckel to be on the panel. But there wasn’t even Juan Williams or Mara Liasson.

Nevertheless, there was nary a harsh word for Obama. The audience was a different story.

Krauthammer nearly gushed. He called the speech a “remarkable display of oratory and of oratorical skill, both in terms of the tone and the content.” Krauthammer noted the “inappropriate” cheering of the audience but said it was not the president’s fault. The speech was “so inspirational,” Krauthammer said, “You could only conclude that he did exactly what he had to do in a difficult environment. I think that tone (the raucousness of the audience) seemed odd and off-the-key for most of the event in a situation of sorrow and grief and yet he turned it around… in a way that I thought was extremely successful.”

Perhaps what really pleased the panel was Obama’s supposed criticism of the left. (I didn't get that take-away but you can read Obama's remarks for yourself here.) Krauthammer said, “He (Obama) did in a way distance himself and offer a critique of those who had used the occasion to attack others. And then he spoke about elevating the civil discourse in the country but not, he said, the way the left and those who have attacked (have).” Krauthammer called it a “brilliant rhetorical approach” that was a “very interesting and successful way of advocating a civil discourse without in any way endorsing those on the left who were talking about uncivil discourse as a cause of this event.”

Wallace sounded more than a little petty as he harped on what he considered the undue length of the speech. He said he looked up President Reagan’s speech after the Challenger disaster, Bill Clinton’s speech after Oklahoma City and Geoge W. Bush’s speech after 9/11. “What joined them all is that they were consoling, they had faith - references to faith and to God - and they were brief. This president followed in that tradition on terms of being consoling…(and) the evocation of faith. He did not have the power of brevity. His speech was literally three times as long as Reagan’s speech and at least twice as long as Clinton’s and Bush’s.” And this matters, why? Did Wallace have an appointment to get to? It didn't seem to matter in his overall assessment since Wallace conceded, “Having said that, I agree with Charles. I think it was a very powerful speech.”

Maybe there’s just a Fox News quota that at least one person on every panel has to criticize Obama for something – and maybe the length of the speech was all anyone could come up with. Surely Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity will later unearth what they claim is evidence of radical Marxism in the speech. We already know that Hannity wouldn't let a little thing like good taste or decency get in the way of attacking a memorial service.

Brit Hume seemed the least won over. He complained, “The sense of mournfulness that you might have expected and sobriety that you might have expected was not to be found tonight.” He also sneered at the “most peculiar” Native American blessing at the beginning. Even when praising Obama, Hume took a swipe at the left. “He behaved, as some of his partisans have not, with considerable dignity and grace.” But, he later added, “It was too long, as these things… almost always are.”

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