The President's 900-Pound Stinking Elephant
The tendency to identify manhood with a capacity
for physical violence has a long history in America.
- Marshall Fishwick
Violence is as American as cherry pie.
- H. Rap Brown
Watching President Barack Obama wipe away a tear as he spoke to the nation on the day a 20-year-old Adam Lanza dressed himself up like a Navy SEAL and took out 20 little kids and six of their teachers, it was clear the President was a good man and a deeply-committed father of young children.
The same day, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg noted the President’s touching emotions but quickly stressed it was time to strike hard and fast on gun control legislation. The problem of violence in America had gone unaddressed for decades and weapons were becoming more accessible and more lethal.
Meanwhile, Dan Rather told Rachel Maddow he felt President Obama returned to his first term M.O. and caved in to the right on the Susan Rice nomination for Secretary of State. Rather felt the President didn’t like to initiate fights and that when they came or were on the horizon, his first move, before the fight even began, was to concede and seek a centrist compromise.
But watching the President’s authentic sadness you had to wonder whether some of his troubled spirit might have been because he knew what this extraordinary killing spree in a Norman Rockwell Connecticut town meant for him as a second-term president. Following on the Virginia Tech, Gabrielle Gifford and Batman movie theater massacres, this instance of the systematic gunning down of six- and seven-year-olds was so incredibly efficient that it seemed even beyond the pale for the United States.
He faced three conflicting challenges:
First, there would be a resounding outcry from the left to do something on gun control, of which Bloomberg’s pointed remarks were only the beginning. The issues were to do something about military assault weapons like the AR15, better mental health screening and the influence of violence in video games and movies.
In Hollywood, producers were tripping over themselves canceling premiers for violent movies and going through TV shows to find offensive violent material. Newtown did seem to make Hollywood pause and look into its soul. But money talks and the market rules.
Second, powerful opposition to any kind of controls or bans on guns was certain to come from the National Rifle Association and the far right. The President could count on a well-funded campaign to muddy the waters and chip away at any proposed legislation.
Immediately after Newtown, the right-wing National Review published an editorial saying nothing would come of this sudden gun control fever. ”The guns of America aren’t going anywhere any time soon,” they wrote, “and generic calls to 'do something' — even insofar as doing something is desirable — must reckon with this fact.”