by Max Brantley
.... When he first heard about the violence and protests last night, he rushed to condemn the administration before anyone knew fully what was going on. After he had had a few hours to think, he dug himself in far deeper with a graceless press conference whose dominant theme was partisan criticism of the administration.
In short, when faced with a 3 a.m. test, he reacted immediately, rather than having the instinct to wait. And after he waited, he mistook this as a moment for partisanship rather than for at least the appearance of statesmanlike national unity. The irony, of course, is that resisting the partisan impulse today would have been the greatest possible boost to his horse-race prospects two months from now.
Think of this temperament and these instincts in a command role, and with stakes much higher than they were today.
UPDATE: Hillary Clinton's statement today strikes just the right tone. It calls others to support the U.S. and condemn violence, but it defends free speech, no matter how reprehensible. Please note:
But even if it were possible, our country does have a long tradition of free expression, which is enshrined in our Constitution and in our law. We do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be.”
I have to note that this statement follows news yesterday that Republicans are making political hay out of their support — and that of other cowardly politicians — for legislation aimed directly at repressing distasteful views. I refer to legislation — found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court and its Republican majority — aimed at limiting speech in the vicinity of funerals. It was an overreaction to a lunatic fringe; shameless pandering, and essentially unnecessary, given the effective responses from biker groups and others to the nut group that spawned the legislation. But there's no pander too shameless for Republicans, even un-American speech repression. How many of those who want to make speech illegal in certain U.S. circumstances are defending the film that enraged the Arab world and calling criticism of that film somehow a U.S. apology, as Mitt Romney so dishonestly did? On a more trivial ground, a Republican state senator and others in the GOP Taliban yesterday said there should be no news coverage of the secretary of state's firing of the long-time Capitol Santa Claus and hypocritical commentary from a Republican campaign consultant. Of course these items were news. Small news. But news. It was yet another indication of Republican reverence for speech — they revere it if they approve of it. Philosophically, they sound positively Egyptian.