Obama to attend Arizona service

President Obama will travel to Arizona on Wednesday to attend a memorial service for those killed in Saturday's shootings that targeted Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) for assassination, according to a White House official.

The news that Obama would visit Tucson, where six people were killed and more than a dozen others were wounded by a gunmen on Saturday, came after a day in which the shootings overshadowed a White House agenda focused on diplomacy and foreign affairs. 

For much of the Monday, the president sought to balance the roles of comforter and commander in chief as he shuttled between work on foreign affairs and comments on the shootings. 

White House officials said Obama and his staff were going about administration business even as the shooting cast a pall around the building, leaving officials speaking in hushed tones and the president disclosing that his own reflections were those of a president “and also a father.”

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Obama met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and the White House continued to prepare for a state visit with Chinese President Hu Jintao scheduled for next week. Separately, Vice President Joe Biden landed in Afghanistan for an unannounced visit.

The White House and Obama dealt with another tragedy after former congressional aide Ashley Turton, wife of Obama aide Dan Turton, was killed in a car fire on Capitol Hill early Monday. 

Ashley Turton was an energy-company lobbyist and former chief of staff to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). Dan Turton serves as Obama’s deputy director of legislative affairs for the House.

Obama’s meeting with Sarkozy largely focused on progress in the global economic recovery, but Obama quickly flipped to the shooting of Giffords after its conclusion. 

Obama spoke to reporters of the “heinous” nature of the crime, and he applauded the heroics of some at the shooting who are being hailed for preventing the massacre from being worse.

“Obviously, all of us are still grieving and in shock from the tragedy that took place,” Obama said. “Gabby Giffords and others are still fighting to recover. Families are still absorbing the enormity of their losses.”

Obama led the nation in a solemn moment of silence from the White House South Lawn on Monday morning before meeting with Sarkozy in the Oval Office. 

Aside from economic issues, the president said he and Sarkozy spoke about their joint efforts in Afghanistan through NATO and other pressing global security issues.


—This story was updated at 8:47 p.m.