What Critics Had to Say About President Obama's Tucson Memorial Speech

Barack Obama - Memorial - Tucson, Arizona - 2011
Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

While the president is credited with his measured words, the audience seemed "celebratory rather than somber," writes one.

President Barack Obama delivered a stirring speech in Tucson Wednesday night, speaking for 33 minutes about the shooting victims and appearing to tear up while discussing the death of 9-year-old Christina Greene.

But the 14,000-strong crowd, gathered in the University of Arizona - Tucson's McKale Memorial Center, treated what should have been a somber event like a political pep rally, which "made the event turn literally sophomoric," according to a New York Post columnist.

"The president's stunning speech was marred by the feeling of the evening that surrounded it and the appalling behavior of the crowd in Tucson listening to it," added John Podhoretz of the Post. "It was as though no one in the arena but the immediate mourners and sufferers had the least notion of displaying respectful solemnity in the face of breathtaking loss and terrifying evil."

Podhoretz pointed out "the professor with Mexican roots who spent 10 minutes talking about himself and then rushed through the Native American blessing he was supposed to be delivering…the twinkly student-body president praising the heroic savior of Gabby Giffords for having fetched her (the student-body president) many cups of coffee during late-night working sessions."

"Worst of all," he went on, "there was the crowd, which bubbled over with excitement and enthusiasm. The tone of the event came to resemble a pep rally, no matter the monstrous fact of the six dead and the many injured."

Added the Washington Post, "Because the crowd was not limited to those who had loved ones injured in the shootings and included many college students, it often seemed celebratory rather than somber. Obama seemed to struggle a bit at the start with the excitement of the crowd but warmed to it as he went -- always mindful, however, of keeping the victims, their families and what had been lost at the center of the proceedings."

The Washington Post was quick to say it's not "offering a judgment on whether or not it was an appropriate tone for a memorial service, but rather that it made for at-times incongruous sounds and images on television."

But Fox News' Charles Krauthammer praised the speech as "inspirational," and Brit Hume noted, "The audience was really in control of this event [but] President Obama went with it…he behaved as some of his partisans have not, with considerable dignity and grace."

The New York Times wrote: "Mr. Obama’s speech, delivered amid sorrow, offered a fresh glimpse of the candidate who used hope as the tool to inspire his [supporters]."