By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Jan 13, 2011 at 11:00 AM

It was certainly a non-traditional memorial service Wednesday night, with an audience of thousands of cheering people filling the hall at the University of Arizona.

As he began to speak, the president seemed to be put off his rhythm by the applause. But he quickly found a voice, eventually overcame the pep-rally atmosphere and ultimately overtook the rambling event honoring wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others killed and wounded by a gunman.

The president's Tucson speech was a rare recent example of Barack Obama offering a deep emotional connection with his audience. He'd done it before, as a presidential candidate in his speech on racism, or in his first big national speech at the 2004 Democratic convention.

But since becoming president, the Obama who speaks to the nation seems colder and more dispassionate, a hyper-rational technocrat, a dry college professor offering a lecture.

On Wednesday night, he offered a heartfelt, but even-handed speech that was part eulogy and part call to Americans to find common ground rather than new reasons for division.

"At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -- at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do -- it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds."

He ended with a touching memorial to the youngest victim of Tucson, 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green.

"If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit."

While he spoke directly to the Tucson audience, remembering the dead and honoring the heroes of Saturday's shootings, the president was also speaking to the cameras in front of him, and to the prime-time audience at home.

It's a message that transcends what happened over the weekend and cuts through all the partisan barking and squawking on Twitter and on talk radio.

The other speech: Meanwhile, Sarah Palin took to the Internet Wednesday for her own remarks on the Tucson tragedy -- with two words jumping out of her text: "blood libel."

It was an unfortunate use of an emotionally-charged term. Blood libel has historically described the ancient and untrue claim that Jews murder Christian children and use their blood in rituals.

There are other rhetorical uses, but the term is tinged with historic meaning and emotion. It became the focus of commentary on her video through the day on Wednesday and clearly was a bungled attempt by Palin to express her anger over the use of her "bulls eye" map of congressional districts she targeted last fall, including the Arizona district represented by Giffords, who is Jewish.

The media message here is for politicians to employ advisers and speech writers with an understanding of the impact of such phrases -- or who at least know how to use Wikipedia. Something may sound good to the ear, but quickly turn into a clunker; and the phrase dominated the commentary on Palin's video.

What she said was, "Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible."

Here's the complete Palin speech:

Mark your calendar: The Milwaukee Film Festival has announced its 2011 dates: Sept. 22 through Oct. 2. More details won't be announced until spring.

Ah, spring.

And the festival had good news this week with the announcement by baseball commissioner Bud Selig and his wife, Suzanne, that they're giving the festival $100,000 this year, and another $150,000 next year and the year after.

On TV: If you want the ear worm running through your brain before you see them in Milwaukee, Cheap Trick will be on "Conan" tonight at 10 on TBS performing "Dream Police." The "Dream Police" concert starts a multi-date run at the Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Bingo Casino  on Jan. 20.

  • CBS has renewed "Big Bang Theory" for three more seasons, a pretty remarkable vote for stability in a continually-changing media climate.
  • Jimmy Fallon is co-hosting today's fourth hour NBC's "Today," at 11 a.m. on Channel 4. He's filling in for Kathie Lee Gifford, who's taking a day off.
  • "Dr. Phil" star Phil McGraw is taking credit for sending Ted Williams into rehab to deal with his drinking problem. He'll continue his involvement in the story of the golden-voiced homeless guy (which is quickly developing into a tragedy) on today's show at 3 p.m. on Channel 12.
  • Deadline Hollywood reports that NBC has shelved the proposed "Rockford Files" remake -- at least for next season
  • Gwyneth Paltrow won't be in promos for this weekend's "Saturday Night Live," since New York's weather has kept her from flying in from London. She's still scheduled to host the show.
  • BET's Tuesday premiere of "The Game" pulled in 7.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research numbers. the top ad-supported sitcom telecast in cable history.

Showtime says no: Showtime, considered the most likely home for History Channel's canceled mini-series, "The Kennedys," has passed on it.

Here's the trailer for the mini-series:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.