(Newsweek) — President Obama is off to a good start in his handling of what the networks are now calling “The Tragedy in Tucson.” The moment of silence he asked for on Monday at 11 a.m. — resonant for older Americans of the exact hour on November 11 each year that the World War I Armistice was once observed — is an appropriate expression of what we need right now: Less Noise.
But silence will not be enough. This horrific event offers the president a chance to show leadership qualities that he’s inexplicably hidden away in some blind trust. The shootings and the resulting debate over the climate of incivility play to his strengths as a calm and rational leader. Just as Bill Clinton’s response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings helped him recover from his defeat in the 1994 midterms, so this episode may help Obama change — at least in the short term–the trajectory of American politics.
..Whether or not he attends the funerals for the Tucson victims, Obama’s big chance to lead will come in his State of the Union address on January 25. He can both to speak to the moment thematically and confront the substantive concerns raised by the tragedy.
Conservatives like to argue that these are isolated incidents carried out by lunatics and therefore carry no big lessons (unless the perpetrator is Muslim, in which case it’s terrorism); liberals view them as opportunities to address various social ills. Obama is in the latter category and should act accordingly. “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel famously said in 2008. The same goes for a shooting spree that gravely wounds a beloved congresswoman.