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Glenn Beck praises Obama for Tucson speech. Can partisan pause last?

Some of President Obama's sharpest critics – from Glenn Beck to Pat Buchanan – spoke positively of his speech at the memorial service in Tucson Wednesday. But the collegial tone will be tested next week with a repeal of health-care reform on the docket.

President Obama speaks Wedensday at a memorial service for the victims of Saturday's shootings in Tucson, Ariz.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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By Linda Feldmann, Staff writer / January 13, 2011

Washington

Fox News talker Glenn Beck called President Obama’s address Wednesday night at the Tucson memorial service “probably the best speech he has ever given.”

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Pat Buchanan, who wrote speeches for President Nixon, called it “splendid.” Michael Gerson, chief speechwriter under President George W. Bush, says “it had a good heart.” Fox News panelists Brit Hume, Charles Krauthammer, and Chris Wallace all voiced praise.

Some conservatives have suggested that Mr. Obama should have given such a speech sooner after last Saturday’s shooting rampage at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's event for constituents.

And then there’s talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who suggested a more craven reason for the timing of the speech. He accused Obama of waiting to deliver his message of “civility” until the polling data were in, confirming that most Americans don’t buy a connection between the shooting and heated political rhetoric.

But even in his populist conservative manner, he found an indirect way to acknowledge some positives in the speech.

“Fox loved it," Mr. Limbaugh said. "The Fox All Stars, when this was done, were slobbering over the speech. It was predictable. They were slobbering for the predictable reasons – it as smart, it was articulate.... It was everything the educated, ruling class wants their leaders to be and sound like.”

So for once, most of ultra-divided Washington could agree on something: that Obama had succeeded in expressing the nation’s grief and hope after a tragedy, and appropriately used the occasion to address the larger issue of civility in public discourse.

The White House’s own truce on partisan bashing extended into Thursday. At his news briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs refused comment on former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s controversial video released Wednesday morning, in which she said the heat she had taken for her own political speech constituted “blood libel.”

“I’m happy to speak to what the president said and how he came about saying it, but I’ll let others opine on that,” Mr. Gibbs said after about the third try by reporters to elicit comment on the Palin video.

Hours earlier, speaking to reporters on Air Force One on the way back to Washington, Gibbs also declined comment on House Speaker John Boehner’s decision not to attend the memorial service in Tucson, and reports that he had turned down a ride on Air Force One to attend.

"I don't think that's appropriate for me to get into," Gibbs said.

Even as the White House stays above the fray, partisans from both parties are still taking their digs at each other. And soon enough, the White House, too, will wade back into a more adversarial posture, as will the Democratic and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill. The next election cycle – including the race for the presidency – is already under way. And both parties are eager to proceed with their agendas.

Next week, the House will resume its normal business, including a vote to repeal Obama’s health-care reform, which had been scheduled for this week. .

A statement from an aide to House majority leader Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia suggested attention to the tone of the debate.

"It is our expectation that the debate will continue to focus on those substantive policy differences surrounding the new law," said Congressman Cantor’s spokesman, Brad Dayspring, according to CNN.

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