Spare Us the Usual Partisan Blame Game During Terror Crises, Mr. President
A big reason why no version of any gun control proposal passed the Senate with 60 votes Wednesday was because none, or almost none, of the senators believed it would actually prevent another massacre. Vice President Joe Biden, leading the president’s gun task force, declared, “Nothing we’re going to do is going to fundamentally alter or eliminate the possibility of another mass shooting or guarantee that we will bring gun deaths down to 1,000 a year from what it is now.” (Video here.) I don’t need to rehash it much: the Newtown shooter stole the guns he used; none of the recent massacre perpetrators purchased their firearms at gun shows; most of them hadn’t done anything that would flag them in the instant check system until they pulled the trigger; police ignored the warnings of the Aurora shooter’s psychiatrist, and so on.
When we learned the details about the Newtown shooter, it was painfully clear that no policy, short of banning private gun ownership and forcibly collecting every last firearm in private hands could prevent something like that from happening again. And yet the whole argument for this bill was driven by invoking Newtown every moment possible.
Even my half-hearted cut-Toomey-some-slack argument was based upon the political realities, not the sense that the bill would prevent another awful day. Suburban soccer moms who have marinated in the Oprah-fied feel-don’t-think culture for decades demand “something be done” so incumbents who want to appeal to those soccer moms must appear to be attempting to “do something,” regardless of whether it accomplishes the stated goal. (My cynicism may be appalling, but it does enjoy a lot of supporting evidence and footnotes.)
The White House video of kids begging for gun control, the constant use of the parents of slain children as the primary advocates, the knee-jerk declarations from the likes of Piers Morgan that to disagree with any of the legislative proposals is to desire more dead kindergarteners, all of this represented a particularly ruthless and emotionally manipulative form of politics…
… and then Monday, real life intruded.
Mr. President, we’ve got real problems to worry about, much bigger than whether a feel-good, largely-symbolic measure passes the Senate and you get a political win. Somebody blew up Boston’s happiest day of the year, dozens maimed, families torn apart, and we don’t know (as of this writing) if it’s one guy or a group or whether he’s got more efforts planned or whether he’ll inspire copycats.
(Dear store clerks: if, in the coming days, somebody wants to buy a pressure-cooker and wants to pay cash, take their picture. And if somebody wants to buy a bunch of pressure cookers all at once, feel free to ask a lot of probing questions.)
Some guy decided to take out his grievances with the government by sending Ricin, either not knowing or caring that his most likely victims would be postal workers and unpaid Capitol Hill interns. Across the country, airport terminals, courthouses, high schools, train stations, and city halls are getting evacuated every time someone absent-mindedly leaves their bag somewhere.
We don’t have time for your usual let’s-start-messaging-for-the-midterms pep rallies, Mr. President. We have some non-symbolic problems we would like to see resolved. It’s time to stop worrying about wasting crises and start focusing on resolving them.
Perhaps the president was in a particularly foul mood because of this headline:
At Pivotal Point in Presidency, Obama Routed on Gun Control
Ron Fournier’s lead lays out the cynicism of the whole gun control push from the beginning:
Blame the gun lobby. Blame Republicans. Blame a handful of skittish Democrats who gave the GOP cover. Blame the entire band of demagogues who killed the modest attempt to close loopholes in a law requiring background checks for guns.
Blame them, too, for jeopardizing President Obama’s entire legislative agenda. That was the point, anyhow, right?
Look, Mr. President, it’s not like it was a secret that Baucus, Begich, Heitkamp, and Pryor would be the likely swing votes on the Toomey-Manchin proposal. Heitkamp’s not up until 2018. The Huffington Post’s Elise Foley notices, “None of the Dems who voted no on background checks were invited to dinner with Obama.” Mr. President, if you needed them, did you act like you needed them?
The defeat raises questions about Obama’s ability to unify congressional Democrats and to mobilize supporters via his nascent Organizing for Action, a first-of-its-kind political machine controlled by the White House. The president will need party unity and grassroots muscle to battle the GOP on immigration, federal spending, climate change and other White House interests.
Coming into the week, Obama’s agenda appeared to be at an important juncture—with guns, immigration, and deficit-reduction talks at various stages of progress. Winning an expansion of the background check, even as bolder gun measures failed, would have given Obama momentum to push the other two items.
Conversely, his rivals may now feel emboldened to block Obama’s entire agenda. In their most cynical moments, Republican leaders privately cheer themselves with the fact that a president’s approval rating usually suffers amid gridlock.
Obama’s team took news of the defeat hard Wednesday, with some advisers predicting that gun regulation won’t be revived. It is hard for them to explain the failure of a measure supported by 90 percent of the public without making the president appear weak.
Kemberlee Kaye: “Political opportunism is not an effective means of governance, as @TheDemocrats learned today. Plus, Constitution and stuff.”
Ace: “Obama showed the passion and anger at his personal defeat that he wasn’t able to manage after the Benghazi slaughter.”
Richard Grenell: “More anger on one’s failed Senate vote than on international terrorism is a sure sign of a large ego.”
King Shamus: “Obama throws a temper tantrum because his permanent campaign couldn’t make it happen. He’s basically admitting his failure as a politician.”
John Ondrasik, also known as the voice of Five for Fighting: “I love how politicians only blame politics when they lose.”
Iowahawk: “Most popular president in history can’t persuade own party to vote for commonsense legislation supported by 90% of voters. Or something.”