Early Friday morning in Aurora, Colo., we were reminded that there remains in the world the existence of pure, sociopathic evil — an inhuman monster who celebrates death and has no sensations from a beating heart of feelings, empathy or anything other than the glorification of death.
The impulse to extrapolate, exploit and, yes, politicize such a tragedy is hard to overcome. As my Republican friend and fellow blogger Rich Galen wrote on Sunday night:
“I do not want to diminish, in any way, the gravity and horror of the event that occurred in Aurora, Colo., Friday morning. … There are no easy answers. There are no black-and-white solutions. Sometimes bad people do bad things.”
Two men, however — one is our president; the other would like to be — came forward and reminded us who they really are and made us feel good about them, ourselves and our country again.
President Obama, talking to what was supposed to be a political rally in Fort Myers, Fla., on Friday morning, about 11 hours after the tragedy, spoke the right words with the right tone and made us proud that he was our president, regardless of party or partisan loyalties.
“If there’s anything to take away from this tragedy, it’s the reminder that life is very fragile. Our time here is limited and precious.
“My daughters go to the movies. What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater?
“There are going to be other days for politics. This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection.”
About an hour later, on the East Coast in Bow, N.H., Mitt Romney said:
“I stand before you not as a man running for office, but as a father and grandfather, a husband and American.”
Romney also offered the serenity of a man of faith, and tried to provide a sense of hope even in the midst of the incomprehensible and senseless murders of innocent people.
“Today we feel not only a sense of grief, but perhaps also of helplessness. But there is something we can do,” Romney said. “We can offer comfort to someone near us who is suffering or heavy-laden. We can mourn with those that mourn in Colorado.”
He went on to quote a verse in 2nd Corinthians: “Blessed be God who comforteth us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble.”
“What we do know is how evil is overcome, and we’re seeing that great power today in the goodness and compassion of a wounded community,” he said.
I wondered: How many Americans who heard these two men taking a time-out from the venom and name-calling of this campaign felt like I did when I heard their comments on Friday — as if a cool breeze had cut through the stifling hot air of this depressing presidential campaign?
Then just two days later, on Sunday morning, I watched an Obama campaign ad mocking Mitt Romney as he sang a rendition of “America the Beautiful,” with sarcastic subtitles about Romney’s support at Bain for outsourcing of jobs. That charge was called by “Fact Checker” Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post “misleading and unfair”; and then, immediately following, a Romney ad accusing Obama also of outsourcing jobs using federal subsidies to his campaign donors — an ad that the same Kessler gave a rating of “Four Pinocchios” — meaning the ad was filled with lies.
Whoever reads this column today — whatever your politics — whoever you are supporting for president — please join me in telling President Obama and Mitt Romney — on Twitter, on Facebook, on their presidential campaign websites:
Please give us more of what you gave us last Friday morning after the horrible tragedy in Aurora.
Debate the issues and help inform us of the real choices we face. Reassure us that there can be decency in politics in America once again.
And most of all: Tell your campaign managers in Chicago and Boston to pull the plug on the negative attack ads.
Please — just tell them in one word:
Lanny Davis, the principal in the Washington law firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, which also specializes in legal crisis management, served as President Clinton’s special counsel from 1996-98 and as a member of President George W. Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (2006-07). He currently serves as Special Counsel to Dilworth Paxson and is a partner with Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele in Purple Nation Solutions, a public affairs-strategic communications company. He is the author of the forthcoming book, “Crisis Tales – Five Rules for Handling Scandal in Business, Politics and Life,” to be published by Simon & Schuster. He can be followed on Twitter at @LannyDavis