He did add to his prepared remarks that incivility did not cause this tragedy, but he stopped short of a full rebuke of the complete irresponsibility of those who have been stoking anger at conservatives who—as far as we know—had nothing to do with this.
When the president did lay blame, it was on Americans in general. Among the many odd assertions he made: suggesting that “what a tragedy like this requires” is that “we align our values with our actions.” We were told to “expand our moral imaginations.”
A mentally ill gunman opened fire at a Safeway. A lack of “aligning” or “imagination” really wasn’t the problem. Obama chided Americans to “be better,” as if we somehow caused this shooting to happen. He said, “We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.”
Now if Obama isn’t talking about political discourse here, I don’t know what he’s talking about. Certainly he can’t be suggesting that how you treat the mailman or your mother is at issue.
Let’s be clear: How we “treat each other” also is not what caused this shooting. Mental illness combined with a gun and a 33-round high-capacity magazine collided to produce a tragedy. This may not have been the venue to discuss this in such pointed terms, but it also should not have been used as an opportunity to push further into the media bloodstream the lie that hostile rhetoric or incivility even played a role in this, let alone caused it.
Multiple polls have shown that Americans reject the assertion that political speech incited the shooter. Nothing has come up in the investigation to suggest it played a role. In fact, it’s been reported that a friend of gunman Jared Lee Loughner flatly rejected heated rhetoric as an issue, telling Good Morning America, “He did not watch TV. He disliked the news. He didn’t listen to political radio. He didn’t take sides. He wasn’t on the left. He wasn’t on the right.”