After Mandela died last week, Dave Weigel wrote an item telling people to "Go Ahead, Politicize Mandela"in response to some twitter requests to cut out the partisan sniping for a while.
I'm sympathetic to that point of view...but I also think there's an etiquette issue here, too, as I also said a while ago. And I think that for at least a short while -- a pause -- the etiquette issue deserves precedence over the politics.
Basically, it's polite to wait a short bit before jumping into partisan or other political point-scoring, and people should be polite.
I want to emphasize: short bit. I'm talking pause, not some sort of long-term ban. I agree that there's absolutely nothing wrong with using any event as an excuse to score partisan points or to press a political argument. Politics is important! Those who want to take action don't need to apologize for it.
However, etiquette tells us that we should act as if we respect the feelings of others, and of those feelings one would have to think that grief ranks pretty high up. Mourning is not in itself political, even if the person being mourned was intensely political; even if, as happens in some cases, the cause of death was intensely political. Those of us who live in a political world should remember that not everyone does, and that it may be particularly crass and hurtful to have to deal with that stuff along with one's grief.
I have no rule of thumb for how long a pause is appropriate. Certainly long enough that one's first encounter with, say, a natural disaster isn't going to be a slam at the president (or the Speaker, or whoever) for supposedly causing it. And certainly not so long that the media spotlight has moved on. I'm thinking hours, not days.
But yeah. Really, your Very Important Point about Ronald Reagan and Nelson Mandela could probably wait six hours, or even to the next day, without overly diminishing whatever positive effect you wanted to get out of it; you didn't need to post it on that first day. Even if you think it's outrageous that some conservatives could profess to be mourning Mandela without renouncing Reagan. There's plenty of time for that on the second day, or at least the fourth hour. The same applies to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and whatever else sparks this kind of thing. You aren't going to be sacrificing any important political advantage if you hold off at least as long as it takes for the press to get the basic facts figured out.
After that, though? Absolutely have at it. After all, all of us live in a political world, whether we realize it or not, and after a point pretending that we all agree about everything ceases to be polite and is, instead, just condescending.
Where is the line? I don't think there's a hard-and-fast answer to that. It depends on the medium, on the occasion, on the tone...lots of stuff. The point is to balance two equally worthy things: the respect that mourning and grief deserve, and the virtue in action. Etiquette rules and norms generally help us get through tough calls in these areas, but we don't have much to help us (and certainly not on twitter), so we need to muddle through. Look: there are plenty of things I'd say about a colleague or acquaintance after she passed away to an outside friend who didn't know the deceased that I would never in a million years say to her family members at the funeral. Given that there are few recognized rules, all we can do is to try to be sensitive -- without shortchanging the rest of it.
So what I have is Pause, then Politicize. Okay?