On November 6, 2009, the day after Maj. Nidal Hussein allegedly killed 13 people at Ft. Hood, Texas, President Obama made a brief statement to the nation. "This morning I met with FBI Director Mueller and the relevant agencies to discuss their ongoing investigation into what caused one individual to turn his gun on fellow service men and women," the president said. "We don't know all the answers yet, and I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts."
As the president spoke, there was much public speculation about Hasan's possible motive -- there were reports, for example, that he shouted "Allahu Akbar!" before he began shooting; that he visited websites associated with Islamist violence; that he wrote Internet postings justifying Muslim suicide bombings; that he considered U.S. forces his enemy; that he opposed American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as wars on Islam; and that he told a neighbor shortly before the shootings that he was going "to do good work for God." Still, Obama warned the nation against "jumping to conclusions" about a motive for the murders.
Now, Obama is preparing a speech on another killing spree, the shootings in Tucson, Arizona that targeted Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, killing six and wounding 14. Obama has made three public statements about the violence, each expressing regret for the event, sympathy for the victims, and a determination to find the cause. But even as television, radio, the Internet and print publications have been filled with speculation about the killer's motive, Obama has not cautioned against "jumping to conclusions," as he did in the Hasan case.
"We do not yet have all the answers," the president said in a written statement Saturday. "What we do know is that such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society."
"A suspect is currently in custody, but we don’t yet know what provoked this unspeakable act," the president said in public remarks later on Saturday. "A comprehensive investigation is currently underway, and at my direction, [FBI] Director Bob Mueller is en route to Arizona to help coordinate these efforts."
On Monday, Obama spoke again, this time during a press appearance with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. "We have a criminal investigation that is ongoing and charges that no doubt will be brought against the perpetrator of this heinous crime," Obama said. "In the coming days we're going to have a lot of time to reflect. Right now, the main thing we're doing is to offer our thoughts and prayers to those who've been impacted, making sure that we're joining together and pulling together as a country." Perhaps Obama's "a lot of time to reflect" was an indirect appeal to people to ease up on speculation about the crime, but if it was, it was quite indirect. And it certainly wasn't the specific warning against "jumping to conclusions" that the president issued after the Ft. Hood shootings.
On Wednesday Obama will make a more definitive statement about the Arizona shootings when he travels to Tucson for a memorial service. Perhaps then he will address the extensive charges, made mostly by his supporters, that the violence was the result of overheated rhetoric from Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, Rush Limbaugh, and Republicans in general. Will Obama take the side of those who blame the violence on the political Right? Or will he place the blame solely on accused shooter Jared Loughner, whose apparent mental illness fits no recognized political template?
When Obama made his main speech about the Ft. Hood killings, at a November 10, 2009 memorial service, he devoted 61 words of a 2,000-word speech to the killer's motive. "It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy," Obama said. "But this much we do know -- no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor. For what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice -- in this world, and the next."
In that speech, Obama took care to place blame squarely on the accused killer, Hasan, and not on any larger idea, ideology, faith, or political viewpoint. What will he say when the time comes to discuss the crimes of Jared Loughner?