WASHINGTON -- For Democrats, there wasn't much missing from President Obama's State of the Union speech -- except some thought there could have been a little bit more about Gabby Giffords.
Taking another step in her remarkable recovery after her near fatal shooting last year, Rep. Giffords (D-Ariz.) attended the address as one of her last acts before submitting her resignation Wednesday.
In what likely will go down as one of the most touching moments from a presidential speech to Congress, Obama stopped on his way in to wrap Giffords in a warm hug. But he didn't carry that embrace of her to the podium.
Obama had mentioned Giffords in his speech last year, when she was still in a coma and represented by an empty chair in the House chamber. So while Democrats thought the president's public show of affection was certainly adequate, they noticed an absence of words.
"I wish he had said something about Gabby Giffords," said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), pausing to collect his emotions before adding, "But I think that hug that he and she shared was probably statement enough."
"Gabby and I were in the same class in Congress, so it was very special to see her in the chamber tonight," added Yarmuth, who otherwise rated Obama's speech as "the strongest example of leadership President Obama has ever shown."
"I thought he would give a farewell to Gabby Giffords, who has really triumphed over some difficult times," said Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.). "I'm sure he has reached out over and over again. But I thought it would have been a nice farewell to her until she comes back and makes her next step."
"I think the hug said it all but, yes, there could have been a tribute to Gabby," said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.). "She inspires this Congress; she inspires this country."
Others thought the hug said more than words ever could. "I think if you watched when the president came in, there was a special moment where they hugged, and I quite suspect that a lot of newspapers will show that picture," said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.).
Words or deeds mattered less to Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who simply said he'd miss the Arizonan.
"Gabby Giffords warms everybody's hearts when she walks into the room," Ellison said. "She's just a symbol of courage and fortitude, and I'm just sad she's not going to run again because she was a great colleague."
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