President Obama, Today Is the Day To Politicize This Tragedy
We don’t need you to cry at the podium. We need you to do something.
Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.
Twenty-seven people are dead, 20 of them children, and you just told the nation that we’re all going to have to “extend a hand to those in need.”* “We’ve endured too many of these tragedies,” you rightly noted, clearly moved by the particular horrendousness of what took place in Connecticut today. And then, holding back your tears, you said this: I react to news like this, “not as a president, but as a parent.”
God, that is unbelievably wrong. React as a president.
Earlier today, your press secretary, Jay Carney, speaking for you, said that today is not the day to talk about gun control. “There is, I am sure, will be, rather, a day for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates, but I do not think today is that day.”
Right, right, today’s not the day because we wouldn’t want to politicize a tragedy. That might make you look crass. And more important than stopping future elementary school students from being shot in the face and head and chest and little legs is for you to show a little tact by rising above your unseemly urge to make this country better. Also, you don’t want to offend anyone directly involved in the shooting. Like the parents of the kids who were murdered this morning while learning basic addition and how to write their ABCs. I’m sure they just want you to stay out of it for the day—keep it to yourself, will ya? Because no one likes a president who would immediately and decisively stand up to stop something like this from happening again. That’s just too political, and you are a statesman.
Plus, the benefit of not “capitalizing” on the tragedy is that, in a few days, most of us will put this whole thing behind us. We have Christmas presents to buy and trees to decorate—this is a very busy time of year! So if you wait this one out, just kind of do the bare minimum of your job, our outrage will probably pass, and you can avoid any of those “usual Washington policy debates.” Those are such a yawn, amirite?
History is on your side. Just this week there was a shooting in a Portland, Ore., mall—did you hear about it? It’s receded in my mind, too. Remember Aurora? Yes, the one with Batman in it! You were running for your second term when that horrific mass shooting happened, so it was definitely not the time to do anything constructive. And then there was another one in Wisconsin—details are hazy in my mind because after a while these rampages all run together. Carney had you covered then, too:
The White House on Monday all but ruled out the possibility that President Barack Obama would make a push for new gun control laws in the aftermath of the shooting rampage in Oak Creek, Wis. Press secretary Jay Carney noted that Obama had called for better enforcement of existing laws in the wake of the massacre at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater last month.
"I have nothing new to announce," Carney said at his daily briefing.
In fact, you ended up winning the election with barely a mention of gun control and got to trot out Gabrielle Giffords in a moving moment at your Democratic convention, so that worked out. I don’t know what you plan to do after your presidency, but unless you are hoping to replace Wayne LaPierre, you are probably safe to go out on a limb here today. Bill Clinton was a lame-duck president at the time of Columbine, but he pushed for tougher regulations and politicized the hell out of that school shooting. Still, that guy was never known for his political skill, so I see your point.
Anyway, I know you have a very busy schedule and are really looking forward to kicking back for the weekend and hugging your kids a little tighter before bed tonight. TGIF. But could you just let us all know: When would be a better day?
Update, 3:54 p.m.: This article has been updated to reflect the most recent death toll. (Return to top.)
Allison Benedikt is the managing editor of Slate's Double X.