Wade Michael Page, the gunman who killed six people inside a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Sunday, had ties to white supremacist organizations, according to wire service reports and a nonprofit group that tracks hate crimes in the US.
If that connection is true, was the attack an act of domestic terrorism? That is how local police are describing the murders, and on those grounds the FBI has been called in to investigate the crime.
“While the FBI is investigating whether this matter might be an act of domestic terrorism, no motive has been determined at this time,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Teresa Carlson on Sunday.
IN PICTURES: Sikhs around the world
According to the Associated Press, Wade Michael Page was a 40-year-old Army veteran who joined the Army in 1992 and was discharged in 1998. Page walked into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee and began shooting as several dozen people prepared for Sunday services. At the end, seven people lay dead, including Page, who was shot to death by police.
Page was known to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which follows extremist organizations. On Tuesday SPLC researcher Mark Potok described him as a frustrated neo-Nazi who was the leader of a racist, white-power band.
In 2010, Page appears to have given an interview to a white supremacist website regarding his music. His band’s name, “End Apathy," was meant to reflect his desire to “figure out how to end people’s apathetic ways," he said.
Page told the website he had attended white-power concerts throughout the US. According to the SPLC, in 2000 he had also tried to purchase unnamed items from the National Alliance, then one of the most important neo-Nazi hate groups in the nation.
Since 2000, hate groups have been surging in the nation, claims the SPLC, increasing by 69 percent.
“This surge has been fueled by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy, an influx of non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority, as symbolized by the election of the nation’s first African-American president,” writes the group.
Domestic terrorism is defined as violence within the United States intended to influence, intimidate, or coerce both the population and the government, according to the language of the USA Patriot Act. If alleged attacker Page meant the shootings at the Sikh temple to “end apathy” in some manner known only to him, it would appear that those actions indeed qualify under this definition.
Most Americans may think of Islamic extremism when they hear the word “terrorism.” However, as the tragedy in Wisconsin unfortunately highlights, the vast majority of these attacks in the US are carried out by non-Islamic American extremists.
“Many law enforcement groups, like the FBI, use the labels of domestic terrorism and violent extremism interchangeably,” wrote the Council on Foreign Relations in a 2011 study on the subject.
To provide some context, the National Counter Terrorism Center does not list the United States among the top 15 nations afflicted by terrorism worldwide.
Unsurprisingly, nations roiled by wider conflicts top that list, with Afghanistan and Iraq ranking at the top of both numbers of attacks and terrorism deaths. In Afghanistan last year, more than 3,300 people were killed by some 2,800 terrorist attacks, according to the NCTC 2011 annual report.
IN PICTURES: Sikhs around the world
Suddenly, Mitt Romney is talking tough.
In a radio interview with Sean Hannity on Thursday, Mr. Romney was asked about Senate majority leader Harry Reid’s allegations that an unnamed Bain Capital investor had told him that Mr. Romney had not paid any taxes for 10 years.
Romney’s response: Senator Reid should “put up or shut up.”
Yes, the famously straight-laced GOP nominee – who, in what we’re sure is a massive coincidence, was recently labeled a “wimp” on the cover of Newsweek – is now using lines reminiscent of a Clint Eastwood movie.
At least he didn’t say “shove it” or “kiss my [posterior]” (that was just his press aide).
Still, it made us squirm a little.
Not because Romney’s choice of words violated any sort of political decorum. These days, politicians routinely use far saltier language than that, and often the public seems to like it. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s blunt retorts – such as calling an opponent "an arrogant S.O.B." or telling coastal residents resisting a hurricane evacuation to “get the hell off the beach” – are widely seen as part of his appeal. Vice President Joe Biden famously dropped an f-bomb (albeit when he thought he couldn’t be heard) at the signing ceremony for the president’s health-care reform bill.
Romney’s not even the first politician to use “put up or shut up.” In late 2010, Sen. Mark Warner (D) of Virginia used the phrase on the Senate floor, talking about the need to address the debt crisis (though he added “excuse the language”). And former British Prime Minister John Major may be forever associated with the phrase, which he uttered at a press conference in 1995, daring opponents from his own party to try to topple him.
It’s just that it seemed, well, out of character for Romney.
Tellingly, Romney didn’t deliver the line with anything even approaching genuine outrage. Listening to the tone of his voice, he could have been talking about his lawn furniture. Or the weather. Right before he said it, he emitted the same nervous chuckle that he makes whenever an interviewer brings up a topic he doesn’t like (a laugh that James Lipton, host of "Inside the Actor’s Studio," called “inert” and “mirthless.”)
It’s too bad, because this was a moment when Romney could have shown some real emotion. Reid has come under fire for making his accusation – which he first offered up in an interview with the Huffington Post – based on information from a sole source that he refused to name. In the same interview, Reid even acknowledged he was “not certain” it was true.
Even “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart – generally not a big Romney defender – called it a cheap shot: “You’re the Senate majority leader! You can’t just run to the Sideboob Gazette with ridiculous speculations about what may or may not be in Mitt Romney’s taxes!”
But instead of scripted rejoinders, what voters really need to hear from Romney is some sort of heartfelt response. It doesn't have to be snappy; it just has to be honest.
It’s telling that, at a point in the race when he most needs to let the public know who he really is, Romney seems to be doing the opposite. Instead of finding his voice, Romney keeps borrowing someone else’s.
When a political campaign plays out on a smart phone, it can sometimes feel, for lack of a better word, small.
On Tuesday, both the Romney and Obama campaigns unveiled new smart-phone apps, highlighting the growing importance of mobile devices in campaign communications.
For what it’s worth, the Romney app – promising early notification of the candidate’s running-mate selection – quickly jumped to a sizable lead in downloads over the Obama app. According to iTunes, the Romney app as of Wednesday morning was No. 15 among free apps, while President Obama’s languished at No. 149. (No. 1 was NBC’s Olympics app, for those who are wondering.)
It may be a sign of greater enthusiasm among Romney supporters. Or it may simply point to the value of a gimmick.
The Romney app, called “Mitt’s VP,” will supposedly be the place breaking the news of Mitt Romney’s running-mate pick, notifying users via an alert – though whether it actually plays out this way remains to be seen. Notably, the Obama campaign in 2008 tried virtually the exact same gimmick with texting, but the news wound up being leaked to the media well before the official text message went out to supporters.
The app will have no ostensible purpose after the vice-presidential selection is announced (which will probably happen sometime before the Republican convention starts at the end of August). But it encourages users to follow the campaign on Twitter and connect on Facebook, and it conveniently gives the campaign a way to track its supporters, who must enter their name, e-mail, phone number, and address.
The Obama app, by contrast, is more complex, and more of a grass-roots mobilizing tool. It helps users find campaign events in their area and gives them an easy, one-touch way to volunteer, make phone calls, and canvass, as well as receive the latest communications from the campaign.
Obviously, to the extent either of these apps helps the campaigns connect with supporters, they’re useful. In 2008, the Obama team was truly groundbreaking in the ways it employed technology; since then, Americans’ reliance on smart phones has increased exponentially, creating even more opportunities for campaigns to communicate with voters.
Still, we can’t help wondering: Who is actually downloading these apps (besides reporters, who have to)? And while we generally consider anything that makes it easier for voters to get involved a good thing, it’s pretty clear the smart-phone campaign has come with some less positive side effects, too.
There’s been a general agreement among the media that the 2012 campaign is not only entering new territory when it comes to technology – but also when it comes to triviality (despite the very serious challenges facing America). Much of the blame has been placed on the fact that social-media communication tends to thrive on cheap shots and ginned-up controversies. It’s fun, but shallow: After all, who can really discuss policy in 140 characters?
This week, BuzzFeed posted a telling screen-shot comparison of subject lines in Obama campaign e-mails from 2008 and 2012. In the 2008 lineup were headings like “Strategy briefing,” “June numbers,” and “Our platform.” In 2012, by contrast, messages went out with the subject lines: “Warning: This picture is cute,” “You’ll need to comb your hair for this,” and “So cool.”
Sure, that may reflect the Obama campaign’s need to distract from the bad economy. But it’s hard to see how an “LOL campaign” that focuses on gimmicks and gaffes will give voters any more confidence in their leaders.
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New York City is chock-a-block full of neighborhoods recognizable by people far outside the city: There's SoHo and "the Village," Hell's Kitchen and, of course, Wall Street. Now, President Obama arrives for a Big Apple fundraiser in NoMad.
NoMad, you ask? Is that a real place?
Even some New Yorkers scratch their heads.
“NoMad – they call it that?” asks the bartender at the Ace Hotel, which many credit with giving some cachet to a neighborhood north of Madison Square that until recently was a no-name district of wholesale shops for jewelry, perfume, luggage, and T-shirts. The hotel is filled with well-dressed young people, working (mostly on Macbook laptops) and, later in the day, having drinks.
“I’d say we’re in Flatiron, or Midtown,” says a hostess at the Ace. “But yeah, some people say NoMad. I think that’s a real estate thing though.”
Manhattan has few places without a defined name, identity, and history. But the president’s stop at the NoMad Hotel Monday evening, which should net him about $2.4 million (with 60 guests paying $40,000 a head), appears to have landed him in one of those neighborhoods.
The NoMad Hotel at 28th and Broadway, named for its location north of Madison Square Park, opened earlier this year. It may well be the hippest spot so far for a presidential shindig – and one that helps to give an identity to a part of the borough that most people view as a blank.
“Until about five years ago it was sort of a grey area on the map, because it hadn’t had a kind of identity of its own,” says Richard Falk, communications director for Kew Management, a company that owns and operates buildings in the area. The area – south of Midtown, north of Union Square, east of Chelsea – was first referred to as NoMad in 1999, but the name has started to stick during the past year or two, as more hotels and restaurants have moved into the neighborhood, says Mr. Falk.
In the early 20th century, many families had lived in the area, attracted by proximity to the park, but most had moved on by the mid-1900s.
The district's latest incarnation began when real estate developer Andrew Zobler opened the Ace Hotel in 2009. Then, in 2010, Mario Batali’s Eataly –essentially an amusement park of Italian food – opened across from Madison Square Park, pulling in visitors from all over the city. This year, the NoMad Hotel joined the bunch. It features a restaurant run by chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara, who also run the three-Michelan-starred restaurant Eleven Madison Park, winner of the 2011 James Beard award for “outstanding restaurant in America.”
As for the coining of the name NoMad, it follows the trend of many neighborhoods. When it's time to rebrand the area, trendy acronyms have become the way to go, all over the country.
In New York, it started with Soho in 1963. That was followed up by Tribeca, Nolita, and others. Realtors copied the trend in a bid to make areas seem more appealing to buyers: Some agencies list homes in Spanish Harlem as Spaha.
But will NoMad stick?
A New York Magazine story in 2010 asked whether a neighborhood could be created by giving it a trendy acronym, especially if there were no community in place to support it.
“As of now, NoMad is defined, appropriately, by its nonresidents; specifically, its hotels,” wrote author Adam Sternbergh.
Sounds about right.
In an interview with ABC News over the weekend, in the course of defending his decision not to release any more tax returns, Mitt Romney may have unintentionally thrown a little more fuel on the fire – by revealing that he has been audited. And possibly more than once.
Here’s what Mr. Romney said:
“From time to time, I’ve been audited as happens, I think, to other citizens as well. And the accounting firm which prepares my taxes has done a very thorough and complete job,” Romney said, adding: “I don’t pay more [taxes] than are legally due, and frankly, if I had paid more than are legally due, I don't think I'd be qualified to become president. I'd think people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires.”
To be clear: Merely being audited does not in any way imply wrongdoing. And Romney is right that he’s hardly the only citizen to go through it: The Internal Revenue Service says it audits about 1 out of every 8 taxpayers who report more than $1 million in income. That meant that the IRS conducted more than 1.5 million audits in fiscal year 2011.
Still, it’s not an experience most Americans can readily relate to. And we’d wager that the Romney audits were a little more complicated than most.
Reporters have been wondering about Romney's possible audit history for some time. Just last week, Mother Jones ran a piece that questioned whether Romney could be targeted by a task force that the IRS created in 2009 to audit high-wealth individuals who “make use of sophisticated financial, business, and investment arrangements with complicated legal structures and tax consequences” – a description that, the article noted, sounds a lot like Romney.
So far, the task force has audited 36 individuals and found that 24 of them had not, in fact, paid all the taxes they actually owed: “Out of the 36 high-wealth individuals audited in fiscal 2011 and the first five months of fiscal 2012, the IRS discovered an extra $47 million in taxes that should have been paid by 24 people in that group.”
While it’s clear that over the weekend, Romney brought up his audits as a way of implying that his tax forms have been thoroughly scrutinized by the government – and passed muster – he did not explicitly say whether he ever wound up having to pay any penalties or additional taxes as a result of those audits.
So far, the Romney campaign isn't offering much more.
“Mitt Romney has been scrupulous about observing the requirements of the tax code. Mitt Romney is in full compliance with U.S. law and he has paid 100 percent of what he has owed,” campaign spokesman Ryan Williams told Business Insider.
Likewise, MSNBC’s First Read reported: “The Romney campaign will not say what year he was audited – only that he was found to be in compliance and that the audit took place more than 10 years ago.” (Which strikes us as odd, since Romney, in the ABC News interview, clearly seemed to be referencing more than one audit when he said, “From time to time, I’ve been audited.”)
It all raises more questions than it answers – and may put even more pressure on the candidate to release more of his tax returns.
IN PICTURES: On the campaign trail with Mitt Romney
Once again, it’s personality versus performance.
The overarching dynamic that has come to define the 2012 campaign is neatly encapsulated in this week’s developments: Just as bad news on the economic front threatens to imperil President Obama’s bid for reelection, Mitt Romney finds a way to remind voters why they don’t like him.
Mr. Romney’s “European Vacation” hasn’t culminated in the destruction of Stonehenge (yet). But already, the candidate is rivaling actor Chevy Chase in his clueless ability to insult and offend. First, Romney had to clear up remarks in the British press from an anonymous “advisor” who claimed that the former Massachusetts governor had a better appreciation of the two countries’ “Anglo-Saxon heritage” than the president. And then, in an interview with Brian Williams of NBC News, Romney suggested that London wasn’t prepared for the Olympic Games, citing concerns about logistics and security.
The British tabloid The Sun put it succinctly: “Mitt the Twit.”
Ironically, Romney’s trip abroad was supposed to be a breather from the daily drama of the campaign trail – a kind of extended photo-op, where the former Olympics head could drop by the 2012 Games and hold some noncontroversial meetings with a few top US allies.
Instead, it has been a nonstop gaffe machine.
And here’s the thing that must be driving the Romney folks up a wall: It has all come at precisely a moment when Romney had one of his best opportunities yet to seize the advantage in this race.
Recently, Mr. Obama made what may prove to be his biggest gaffe of the campaign cycle, with his “you didn’t build that” comment. Although it’s pretty clear in context that the president was referring to roads and bridges, not businesses, the remarks had a dismissive tone that infuriated many small business owners. It gave the Romney campaign an obvious opening to attack the president as being on the side of government rather than free enterprise. Republicans have already cut several ads featuring the line, and the Romney campaign has been holding “We Did Build It” events around the country with small business owners.
But driving a message with surrogates doesn’t have the same effect when the candidate himself is out of the country, putting his foot in his mouth.
Likewise, Romney should be using this moment to focus attention on new signs of weakness in the US economy: Economic growth is slowing, and polls show that voter attitudes about the economy are increasingly pessimistic.
As we wrote a few days ago, the fact that polls show Obama is still even with or slightly ahead of Romney at a time when voters are growing more and more gloomy about their economic future seems almost gravity-defying. The main factor that seems to be preventing Romney from taking the lead is likability – where he trails Obama by an eye-popping 20 points, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
The past two days aren’t going to do anything to improve that number.
Think you could be president? Play Gaffe Dodger: The presidential election game
According to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, President Obama has widened his lead over rival Mitt Romney. He’s now six points ahead (49 to 43 percent nationwide), up from a three-point lead (47 to 44 percent) last month.
In the key swing states, Mr. Obama’s doing even better. NBC/WSJ has him leading by eight points in the top 12 battlegrounds.
This is good news for the president. So why does it feel as if he’s in a tougher spot than he’s been in for much of the campaign?
Well, the poll shows Obama’s negatives are up, as are Mr. Romney’s – a result of the attack ads that both sides have been running. Even there, however, the numbers look worse for Romney, who, the poll points out, would be the only modern nominee to have a “net negative” favorability rating (meaning more people view him unfavorably than favorably).
No, the really scary poll number for Obama is this one: Only 27 percent of voters think the economy will improve over the next year. That’s down eight points from last month. And that level of economic pessimism is very dangerous for an incumbent.
In fact, it seems almost incredible – the political equivalent of defying gravity – for Obama to have gained ground in the horse race even as Americans’ views on the economy have grown increasingly, alarmingly, sour.
The question is whether Obama can continue to defy gravity like this all the way to November. Given the strikingly strong levels of dislike for Romney – who trails Obama by 20 points on likability in the poll – the president may still be able to stay on top. But we can’t imagine it will continue to be this easy.
In coming days, Obama will have to deal with yet another jobs report that’s likely to be less than inspiring – and this time, he may not be able to turn the media focus onto Romney’s business record and taxes as an alternate story line. And the Obama campaign is clearly still worried about fallout from the president's "you didn't build that" gaffe – as evidenced by the fact that they’ve released a new ad directly addressing it. (Note: When the president has to say in a commercial, “Of course Americans build their own businesses,” that’s not a good sign.)
Obama’s also going to be competing more and more with the “veepstakes” frenzy, as speculation about Romney’s running mate mounts, giving the Romney campaign plenty of free – and probably mostly positive – media.
And who knows what sort of “October (or September or August) surprise” may lie ahead to complicate things further for the president.
A few other interesting tidbits from the NBC/WSJ poll:
- Obama is getting more blame than Romney for running a negative campaign – with 22 percent saying he is, versus 12 percent saying Romney is (though 34 percent fault both candidates).
- It looks as if Romney has made some progress when it comes to one aspect of his image – “flip-flopping.” Last fall, Obama held a 14-point lead over Romney on “being consistent and standing up for his beliefs.” Today, that lead has shrunk to just two points (Romney has gained ground and the president has lost it).
- The percentage of voters who regard Obama’s health-care law as a “good idea” has reached its highest point yet, at 40 percent (though that still trails those who regard it as a “bad idea,” at 44 percent). Thirty-one percent now feel “strongly” that it was a good idea, up from 25 percent last month.
IN PICTURES: On the campaign trail with Mitt Romney
Congress’s non-partisan budget umpire had some relatively bad news for both Republicans and Democrats in its updated scoring of the president’s health-care reform legislation.
The new estimates for the law’s cost and scope were prompted by last month's Supreme Court’s ruling that states did not have to accept the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) requirement to expand Medicaid coverage. Several states run by Republican governors who are opponents of the law have said they will not expand Medicaid to include those earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty limit, as posited in the law.
Republicans hell-bent on repealing President Obama’s signature health-care legislation would have to find some $11 billion per year over the next decade (for a total of $109 billion) to offset the law’s repeal and avoid increasing the nation’s debt, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio on Tuesday.
In addition, the law as currently constituted will save taxpayers $84 billion, the CBO said, as greater government-subsidized participation in health-care exchanges is more than offset by lower costs from fewer Americans enrolling in Medicaid.
“These numbers tell a powerful story,” said House Democratic whip Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland in an e-mailed statement. “The health reform legislation we passed in the Democratic-controlled 111th Congress is achieving the goals of expanding access to insurance coverage and controlling the growth of costs for Americans’ care.”
Republicans could take some solace in the fact that the $84 billion figure is down from $210 billion that the CBO had estimated in 2011 due to a variety of factors, including the Supreme Court’s ruling, changes in the rate of growth of Medicare, and the Department of Health and Human Service’s decision to halt the implementation of the law’s long-term care insurance provision.
But Democrats have to contend with the CBO’s estimate that some 3 million more Americans will go without health-care coverage in 2022 due to the Supreme Court’s ruling. Costs are going down while coverage is also declining because, as the CBO writes, two-thirds of those who will find themselves without Medicaid coverage will also be unable to access state health insurance exchanges.
If the law is fully repealed, as many as 30 million Americans, however, would be without health care insurance by 2022, according to the CBO.One conservative health-care analyst did see a benefit from potential repeal, however.
“The Supreme Court decision liberated the near-poor,” said National Center for Policy Analysis President John Goodman in an e-mail. “Residents in states refusing Medicaid expansion for people between 100% and 138% of the poverty level will now be eligible for much better, private insurance coverage.”
The CBO also estimates that repealing the law could cost somewhere in a “broad range” around 0.5 percent of GDP (currently, amounting to about $1.5 trillion) in the decade following 2022.
Still, the CBO warned that any estimates about the complex legislation and its impact on the massive US health-care market are highly uncertain.
Repeal projections “are quite uncertain because they are based, in large part, on projections of the effects of the ACA, which are themselves highly uncertain. Assessing the effects of making broad changes in the nation’s health-care and health insurance systems requires estimates of a broad array of technical, behavioral, and economic factors,” the CBO wrote.
Will the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shootings inject gun control into the 2012 presidential debate?
That’s what New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg hopes. Mayor Bloomberg has long been one of the nation’s loudest voices calling for greater restrictions on American gun access, and on a radio show Friday morning he demanded that President Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney say what they’d do about this issue.
“I mean, there are so many murders with guns every day, it’s just got to stop,” Bloomberg said on talk show host John Gambling’s WOR show. “And instead of the two people – President Obama and Governor Romney – talking in broad things about they want to make the world a better place, okay, tells us how. In the end, it is really the leadership at a national level, which is whoever is going to be president of the United States starting next Jan. 1, – what are they going to do about guns?”
If history is any guide, however, Bloomberg is likely to be disappointed. In recent years high-profile tragedies similar to the Colorado killings have generally not produced sustained, high-level political debate about possible gun control legislation, said gun control expert Kristin Goss in an interview with Current TV.
“I don’t think either party has any interest in touching the subject of gun control in an election year,” said Goss, an associate professor at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, on Current TV’s news blog.
After tragic shootings that receive national media coverage the focus tends to fall on the individual who carried them out, according to Goss.
Polls tend to bear this assertion out. In the wake of the 2011 Tucson shootings, which left six dead and Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords gravely wounded, there was no significant change in public attitudes toward gun control and gun rights, according to the Pew Research Center. A Pew survey found the US largely split, with 49 percent saying it was more important to protect the right to own guns, and 46 percent saying it was more important to control gun ownership.
Few respondents to the poll saw the Tucson tragedy as emblematic of broad social problems. Fifty-eight percent judged such events “the isolated acts of troubled individuals.”
In general over the last decade or so there has been a pronounced shift in national attitudes toward guns, with more Americans lining up on the gun rights side of the issue, according to Pew and other pollsters.
In 1990, for instance, Gallup found that 78 percent of Americans favored stricter gun control laws, while 19 percent favored less strict or unchanged gun laws. By 2011, only 44 percent favored more gun control, while a majority of 54 percent favored looser gun regulations.
“Gallup trends on gun control show that Americans have grown less supportive of strengthening gun laws in the United States over the last two decades, notwithstanding a number of tragic gun attacks during that period,” wrote Gallup’s Frank Newport and Lydia Saad in 2011.
Politicians can read polls, of course, and this trend shows why it is unlikely that President Obama or other Democrats will use the Aurora tragedy as a reason to push an ambitious new gun law agenda.
Activists on the issue are a different case, however. Some gun control groups on Friday were already citing Aurora as a means to rally support for congressional action.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which was founded by former Reagan press secretary James Brady after he was wounded in the assassination attempt on his boss, posted a petition on its web site for visitors to sign if they felt the Aurora tragedy was a reason to help prod lawmakers towards more gun control legislation.
Meanwhile, the contestants in the presidential contest emphasized the sadness of the movement and the need to put politics aside, for now.
“We can mourn with those who mourn in Colorado,” Mitt Romney said in an appearance in Bow, N. H.
The horrific shootings in Colorado probably won’t have any long-term impact on the presidential race.
But in the short term, it’s likely to impose a temporary “truce” on a campaign that had become strikingly nasty.
“I know many of you came here today for a campaign event,” the president said. “But this morning we woke up to news of a tragedy that reminds us of all the ways we that are united as one American family.”
Calling it "a day for prayer and reflection," the president said: "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 it is precious. And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things. It's not the trivial things which so often consume us and our daily lives. Ultimately, it's how we choose to treat one another, and how we love one another."
“Our hearts break with the sadness of this unspeakable tragedy,” he said. “I stand before you today not as a man running for office, but as a father and grandfather, a husband and American. This is a time for each of us to look into our hearts and remember how much we love one another. And how much we love and how much we care for our great country. There’s so much love and goodness in the heart of America.”
Both the president and Mr. Romney also issued written statements earlier Friday morning, offering prayers for the victims and emphasizing that the perpetrator must be brought to justice.
The next few days could be a critical moment for the president in particular: a chance to show leadership and bring the nation together, at a time when the public is looking for a sense of solace and resolve. In the past, national tragedies have often resulted in some of history’s most memorable presidential touchstones. Ronald Reagan’s speech after the space shuttle Challenger blew up was one of the most powerful moments of his presidency. Bill Clinton’s remarks in the following the Oklahoma City bombing were seen by many as a turning point for his presidency, setting the stage for his political comeback after his party’s humiliating midterm election losses.
On the other hand, Obama has arguably already had one of these moments: The January, 2011, shooting of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in which six people were killed and fourteen wounded.
Speaking of the death of nine year-old Christina Taylor Green at the memorial, Obama memorably said “I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it.” He also urged a better kind of political discourse: "At a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do,'' Obama said, "it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds."
While Obama's remarks were well-received in general, and the nation did see a brief toning down of political rhetoric, it didn’t last long. And there's little indication that it changed the national political landscape.
Even the current political truce won’t extend to every aspect of the campaign: While both campaigns announced they would suspend political advertising in Colorado (a key swing state), attack ads in other states will likely continue to run as scheduled.
[Editor's note: This story was updated at 1:20 p.m., Eastern time, on Friday.]