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Giffords Shooting: A Rahm Emanuel-esque ‘Crisis to Exploit’?


In 2008, then-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel notoriously remarked that the nation's economic meltdown was a prime opportunity for Democrats to push forward with their liberal agenda. "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," he said.

Only hours after last Saturday's tragic shooting in Arizona that left 6 dead, more than a dozen injured and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords fighting for her life, a number of liberal commentators urged the White House to seize the crisis situation and turn a political profit for Democrats. Newsweek's Jonathan Alter even echoed Emanuel's past comments and urged President Obama to turn "tragedy into triumph."

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. ...

Even if he makes a good speech, the president may find that the memory of the Tucson tragedy fades quickly. Sad to say, if Giffords had died, she would have been mourned and soon the conversation would have moved on. But Giffords lives, thank God, which offers other possibilities. We won’t know for weeks or months whether she can function in public. If she can, she will prove a powerful referee of the boundaries of public discourse—more influential, perhaps, than the president himself.

On Tuesday, Emanuel stepped forward to downplay his past comments.  Now embroiled in a strong campaign to be Chicago's next mayor, when reporters' asked Emanuel to elaborate on how this latest crisis shouldn't go to waste, the Democrat seemed taken aback.   "That's not intended for this moment; it doesn't apply to this moment," he said.

Despite Emanuel's insistence that the wake of Saturday's shooting is no time to exploit a shaken public, a number of lawmakers -- from both sides of the aisle -- are proposing new laws directly related to the tragic event, including new gun control regulations and restrictions on free speech.

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