Rhetorical bookends

RHETORICAL BOOKENDS…. The political world spent a fair amount of time yesterday pondering the career-changing errors of Sarah Palin’s video message, and its petty, defensive, resentful qualities. A half-day later, that same political world saw President Obama speak at a memorial service, delivering an inspiring address.

The New York Times noted this morning that the day was therefore “bookended by two remarkable — and remarkably different — political performances that demonstrated the vast expanse of America’s political landscape…. Unless — or until — Ms. Palin runs for president and wins the Republican nomination, there are not likely to be many single days in which the two very different politicians are on display in such dramatic ways.”

I can only assume Republicans won’t care for the comparison. Jonathan Martin noted what was plainly true: Obama thrived where Palin failed.

At sunrise in the east on Wednesday, Sarah Palin demonstrated that she has little interest — or capacity — in moving beyond her brand of grievance-based politics. And at sundown in the west, Barack Obama reminded even his critics of his ability to rally disparate Americans around a message of reconciliation.

Palin was defiant, making the case in a taped speech she posted online why the nation’s heated political debate should continue unabated even after Saturday’s tragedy in Tucson. And, seeming to follow her own advice, she swung back at her opponents, deeming the inflammatory notion that she was in any way responsible for the shootings a “blood libel.”

Obama, speaking at a memorial service at the University of Arizona, summoned the country to honor the victims, and especially nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, by treating one another with more respect. “I want America to be as good as Christina imaged it,” he said.

It’s difficult to imagine a starker contrast.

Watching Palin yesterday morning, she looked caustic and small. Watching the president last night, he looked like a giant national leader, which in turn made Palin shrink even further, to the point at which she’s hardly visible.

And what a relief it would be if this turn of events made it that much more difficult to see her again going forward.