President Obama was giving a pretty good speech this afternoon. And then, suddenly, he wasn’t:
Obama: "It's easier for a teenager to get his hands on a Glock than a computer…or even a book!" pic.twitter.com/tTQJHLz5kc
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) July 12, 2016
For now, I shall ignore this flatly preposterous claim, and ask a question instead: Why did the president say this?
I appreciate that, from Obama’s perspective, gun control is important. I also understand that, from Obama’s perspective, there is nothing to be gained by “depoliticizing” this issue. He wants legislative change; his opponents don’t. If he remains quiet on the matter he has no chance whatsoever of winning.
But did this little moment really serve to help his cause? Twenty minutes ago, almost everyone I know thought that the president was doing a good job with his address. Now, at least half of them are irritated and upset. On Twitter, a debate over books and Glocks has broken out. People are shouting at one another. Where there was harmony, now there is discord.
This, remember, was a funeral — a funeral for one of the police officers who was murdered last Thursday. It wasn’t a rally. It wasn’t a White House press conference. It wasn’t a public statement, hastily arranged on the airport tarmac. It was a funeral. Presumably, those attending had all sorts of political opinions. Presumably, some of the cops were Republicans. Presumably, there was some serious disagreement in that room as to how the country should move forward. Wouldn’t it have been better to wait until the proceedings were over to call for change? Wouldn’t it have been more politically effective for the president to have made his push somewhere else?
Again, I am not suggesting that Obama should stay quiet on the matter in general. While I wish that he wouldn’t indulge in crass overstatements, he of course has every right to lobby for whatever alterations to the status quo he happens to covet. I’m just wondering who thought it would be a good idea to make such a nakedly divisive statement at a memorial service. Anyone?