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President Obama’s Call For Civility

President Obama

President Obama speaks during a memorial service in Tucson, Ariz., for the six people who were killed and 14 wounded in the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

The Morning Line starts off this Thursday with a look at some of the reporting on President Obama’s remarks at Wednesday’s memorial service in Tucson.

The New York Times: “Obama Calls for a New Era of Civility in U.S. Politics”

“The president directly confronted the political debate that erupted after the rampage, urging people of all beliefs not to use the tragedy to turn on one another. He did not cast blame on Republicans or Democrats, but asked people to ‘sharpen our instincts for empathy.’

“It was one of the more powerful addresses that Mr. Obama has delivered as president, harnessing the emotion generated by the shock and loss from Saturday’s shootings to urge Americans ‘to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully’ and to ‘remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.'”

The Washington Post: “Obama calls for healing, not blame”

“President Obama comforted a community suffused with grief and summoned the nation to recommit to a more civil public discourse as he delivered a eulogy Wednesday evening urging Americans to talk with each other ‘in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.'”

The Wall Street Journal: “Obama Calls for a More Civil Nation”

“President Barack Obama called on the nation to resist the temptation to assign blame for a shooting rampage here that may never fully be explained, but to emerge from the tragedy a more thoughtful, civil nation.”

The Los Angeles Times: “Obama urges Americans to debate ‘in a way that heals'”

“President Obama, facing the challenge of consoling Arizona and uniting the nation, urged Americans on Wednesday not to point fingers of blame but to ‘expand our moral imaginations’ and to “sharpen our instincts for empathy.'”

The Arizona Republic: “Grief, energy mix as Obama honors victims, heroes”

“Four days after a gunman opened fire on a congresswoman and her constituents in Tucson, President Barack Obama joined thousands of Arizonans at an emotional memorial service Wednesday, counseling them and the rest of the nation to remember the fallen in ways that heal instead of wound.”


Surrounded by three of her closest friends from Congress and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords opened her eyes Wednesday for the first time since being shot in the head during Saturday’s rampage in Tucson.

The remarkable turn of events came as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was encouraging Giffords by telling her she needed to get up because they were going out for pizza. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., then told Giffords she expected her to recover in time for a summer trip to New Hampshire, where their families have vacationed together before.

“And that’s when she started to open her eye,” said Wasserman Schultz, in a briefing with reporters aboard Air Force One on the flight back to Washington from Tucson following the memorial service at the University of Arizona.

Gillibrand described the excitement in the room as Giffords struggled to get her eyes open: “And then she finally opens her eyes and you could she was like desperately trying to focus and it took enormous strength from her. And Mark could just — can’t believe it. I mean, he’s so happy. And we’re crying because we’re witnessing something that we never imagined would happen in front of us,” said Gillibrand.

Wasserman Schultz said the power of the moment simply was too great for her and others to keep their emotions in check. “It was such a moment. And we were just in tears of joy watching this and beyond ourselves, honestly. And then Mark said, you know, touch my ring, touch my ring. And she touches his ring and then she grabs his whole watch and wrist. And then the doctor was just so excited. He said, you don’t understand, this is amazing, what’s she’s doing right now, and beyond our greatest hopes.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was also in the room at the time. The three lawmakers had flown in with the president and were spending some time with Giffords before making their way to the memorial service nearby.

It was at that memorial service Wednesday night that the public first learned of Giffords’ progress. Going off of his prepared remarks, the president said he’d just come from the University Medical Center after visiting with Giffords and other shooting victims still hospitalized. “And I want to tell you — her husband Mark is here and he allows me to share this with you — right after we went to visit, a few minutes after we left her room and some of her colleagues in Congress were in the room, Gabby opened her eyes for the first time. Gabby opened her eyes for the first time,” President Obama said as the crowd of 14,000 applauded.

“Gabby opened her eyes. Gabby opened her eyes, so I can tell you she knows we are here. She knows we love her. And she knows that we are rooting for her through what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult journey. We are there for her,” said the president.


In the wake of the Tucson shootings, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., is urging his colleagues to abandon the traditional partisan seating arrangement at the State of the Union address on Jan. 25.

“On the night of the State of the Union address, we are asking others to join us — House and Senate members from both parties — to cross the aisle and sit together. We hope that as the nation watches, Democrats and Republicans will reflect the interspersed character of America itself. Perhaps by sitting with each other for one night we will begin to rekindle that common spark that brought us here from 50 different states and widely diverging backgrounds to serve the public good,” Udall wrote in a letter to bipartisan congressional leaders.

Udall is picking up on an idea floated earlier this week by Third Way, a centrist Democratic group.

No word yet from the office of House Speaker John Boehner in response to Udall’s request.

For more political coverage, including Wednesday’s memorial service in Tucson, visit our politics page.

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