By Julian Pecquet - 01/15/11 11:00 AM EST
President Obama in his weekly address built on his Tucson memorial service plea for both parties to work together to meet the nation's challenges as the House resumes work this coming week.
The president said the reaction to last weekend's shooting that left six people dead and injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and 12 others was a reminder that "we are one American family, 300 million strong."
Obama has earned plaudits for his calls for more restraint in the nation's political discourse. His challenger in the 2008 presidential race, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), praised the president as a "patriot" who "comforted and inspired the country" by calling for greater civility in the nation's political discourse.
"I disagree with many of the president's policies, but I believe he is a patriot sincerely intent on using his time in office to advance our country's cause," McCain wrote in a Washington Post editorial on Friday. "I reject accusations that his policies and beliefs make him unworthy to lead America or opposed to its founding ideals. And I reject accusations that Americans who vigorously oppose his policies are less intelligent, compassionate or just than those who support them."
Last weekend's shooting capped two years of increasingly bitter debate since Obama's election, culminating with inflated healthcare reform rhetoric about non-existent "death panels" and calls to "Bury Obamacare with Kennedy." The left hasn't been blameless in the escalation, quickly jumping on the chance to try to link McCain running mate Sarah Palin to Giffords' shooting before all the facts were known.
Obama in his address called for both sides to temper their comments just as they did when they rose on the floor of Congress this past week to honor Giffords and pray for her recovery.
"One by one," Obama said, "representatives from all parts of the country and all points of view rose in common cause to honor Gabby and the other victims, and to reflect on our shared hopes for this country.
"As shrill and discordant as our politics can be at times, it was a moment that reminded us of who we really are - and how much we depend on one another."
Obama went on to call for both parties to work together to face the "great challenges" facing the country: growing the economy, shoring up the budget and bringing down the deficit.
Already, there are some signs that lawmakers might be a little nicer to one another following their common brush with tragedy. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) on Wednesday led a call for an end to the tradition of self-segregated seating by party during Obama's coming State of the Union address, and McCain and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are among the Republicans who have since embraced the idea.