"When These Tragedies Happen, They Call Me"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 24 2012 2:09 PM

"When These Tragedies Happen, They Call Me"

85080894
WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 25: Recording artist Usher Raymond IV shakes hands with U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) at meeting prior to a hearing on improving America's commitment to service and volunteerism at the House Education and Labor Committee hearing room on February 25, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images

It was the question about "grandstanding" that did it. Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Sen. Bob Menendez, both D-N.J., had called a press conference to talk about some stuck legislation that would regulate extended magazines. They'd brought it up after Jared Lee Loughner bought one of those magazines and used it to spray bullets outside of a Tucson Safeway; the bill had gone nowhere. Now they were talking about it again, flanked by Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette and by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-NY, who ran for Congress after her husband was killed by Colin Ferguson's bullets while riding the Long Island Rail. And every question was either about the NRA, or about something another politician had said.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

"Chris Christie has characterized this event today as grandstanding," said a reporter.

Advertisement

"You're asking me about my governor?" asked an irritated Lautenberg. He meandered through a non-answer, about how the goal was to build legislative support, then announced that the presser was over. Rep. McCarthy interrupted him. She wasn't done.

"I hope that I never have to stand here again at another press conference," she said. "I would like to go home. I would hope that I never have to face another tragedy like this. May I remind the majority of you" -- it was a youngish crop of reporters -- "when these tragedies happen, they call me. I don't call them. So to say that we are grandstanding, because people are killed, or we're grandstanding because some of us know what it feels like to watch your son learn how to walk again -- I own that right, to speak here, because I've been through it."

That shut everybody up. The NRA still hasn't responded, officially, to the Aurora shootings. One reason is that a cynical and experienced press corps knows that the Republican House won't pass any gun control bills, and that endangered Senate Democrats who court the NRA won't pass them, either. (Imagine Joe Manchin going against the NRA.) But McCarthy, who was re-elected by 8 points in 2010, sticks her head up every time there's an opening for gun control.

"I want to remind people," she said, "when everybody says something can't be done -- after Virginia Tech, I passed legislation in the House, it passed through the Senate, and President Bush signed it."

One thing she could have mentioned: The NRA actually got behind that bill.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 23 2014 12:43 PM Occupy Wall Street How can Hillary Clinton be both a limousine liberal and a Saul Alinsky radical?
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Head of Security Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would A Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 11:13 AM Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 11:48 AM Punky Brewster, the Feminist Punk Icon Who Wasn’t
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 1:50 PM Oh, the Futility! Frogs Try to Catch Worms Off of an iPhone Video.
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 1:38 PM Why Is Fall Red in America but Yellow in Europe? A possible explanation, 35 million years in the making.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.