Published January 10, 2011
President Obama swiftly made a statement to the press Saturday after the Arizona shooting that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., critically injured, also killing six others and wounding 14. By Sunday, the president had called for a national moment of silence and signed a proclamation that flags will be flown at half staff and canceled a trip to New York. He plans to attend a memorial service in Arizona on Wednesday.
Obama also took the highly unusual step of sending FBI Director Robert Mueller to the scene.
This contrasts the timing and extent of how he handled both the Fort Hood shooting and the attempted Christmas Day bombing in 2009.
Democratic strategist Maria Cardona says it is obvious that the president and the White House has evolved in handling of tragedies.
"No question about that. All presidencies go through a learning curve," Cardona said. They understand some lack of response in crisis before now, I do think they have looked at that, and understood this needed to be very quick."
On Nov. 5, 2009, Army Major Nidal Hasan is accused of going on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas, killing 13, including military personnel, and wounding about 30 others.
The president went ahead with this scheduled remarks at a Tribal Nations Conference hosted by the Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian affairs, and for several minutes thanked those attending, even offering a "shout out" before addressing the shooting.
Many said his tone and brevity were off mark.
Similarly, after the botched Christmas Day underwear bombing in 2009, the president was criticized for taking a whole day to address the nation on the incident.
Former Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino, who is also a Fox News contributor, noted while all scenarios are different, there are some common guidelines to follow in moments of tragedy.
"It's tempting to compare every incident and in some ways there are similarities - they are crises - but there isn't a one-size fits all approach to responding. A good rule of thumb is to comment immediately and offer supportive statements and the dispatch of help if appropriate, and then to wait and not get ahead of the facts," Perino said. "In a crisis there are many questions that are unanswered for a while and it's important not to try to give answers that later turn out to be wrong."
Every administration is under some level of scrutiny with how they react to tragedies, and their responses often can mark and define the legacy of a president.
For example, former President Bush was both praises and criticized for his responses in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
The morning of Sept. 11, he was criticized for continuing to read and take part in an event in a Florida classroom, even though he later addressed the nation from Florida.
Then he had the so-called "bullhorn" moment while touring the wreckage at Ground Zero was praised for capturing the leadership and resolve of what first responders needed to hear.
Obama's supporters praise him for being measured and pausing to digest information. But it's also a point of criticism from many that he doesn't show enough passion or emotion, rarely going off of his scripted teleprompter statements. But in his remarks on the shooting, Obama emphasized his emotional response.
"And as president of the United States, but also as a father, obviously I'm spending a lot of time just thinking about the families and reaching out to them," Obama said Monday.
Obama may even include the shooting as part of his State of the Union event later this month, and FOX News has learned that Obama is considering a trip to Arizona in an effort to console the victims and the nation.
"I think this kind of national tragedy is a terrific opportunity to continue to bring people together this one really speaks to his strengths as a consensus builder," Cardona said.