With the failure of the Democrats’ attempt to exploit the Newtown school shooting to press forward gun control measures, President Obama took to the microphones along with the relatives of Sandy Hook victims to demonize his opposition. This, of course, was his strategy all along: knowing that he did not have 60 votes in the Democrat-controlled Senate to pass his gun control legislation, he pressed forward anyway, hoping to paint Republicans as intransigent, immoral tools of the gun lobby who don’t care about dead children. After demonizing Republicans, Obama hopes, he can press Americans into voting Democrats back into power in the House of Representatives.
On Wednesday afternoon, Obama played his part to perfection. Mark Barden, father of a first-grader murdered in Newtown, introduced him. Flanking Obama were other Newtown victims; Vice President Joe Biden, face creased in supposed emotional agony, his arm around the mother of a Sandy Hook victim; and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who has been one of the lead advocate for gun control on behalf of the administration.
“On behalf of the Sandy Hook parents, I would like to thank President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden,” said Mark Barden, father of a first-grader murdered in Newtown. “We will not be defeated. We are not defeated and we will not be defeated ….. I’d like to end by repeating the words by which the Sandy Hook promise begins: Our hearts are broken. Our spirit is not.”
He then introduced President Obama, who blasted away in a carefully calculated and calibrated assault on gunowners, Republicans, and all those with the temerity to disagree on his gun control proposals. Lashing out with more emotion than he has on any issue of his presidency, Obama played up to the cameras, all the while using gun violence victims as a backdrop.
Obama said that he had acted in response to the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and Sandy Hook. “Families that had known unspeakable grief,” Obama said, reached out “to protect the lives of all children …. A few minutes ago, a minority in the Senate decided it wasn’t worth it.” Standing on the graves of the children of Sandy Hook has become rote for this president.
“The American people are trying to figure out how can something have 90% support and nothing happen,” Obama raged. “Nobody could honestly claim that the package [Toomey and Manchin] put together infringed on our Second Amendment rights …. Their legislation showed respect for gunowners and it showed respect for the victims of gun violence. And Gabby Giffords, by the way, is both …. She supports these background checks.” Actually, opponents of the Toomey-Manchin bill rejected by the Senate have made their rationales clear repeatedly. It is President Obama who has failed utterly to provide evidence that would suggest that the bill would prevent gun violence in any material way. But no matter: the political show was on.
Obama launched into an assault on the NRA. “The current leader of the NRA used to support these background checks …. But instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill. They claimed that it would claim some sort of Big Brother gun registry, even though the bill did the opposite. This legislation actually outlawed any registry … unfortunately, this pattern of spreading untruths about this legislation served a purpose.”
Obama then ripped legislators who voted against Toomey-Manchin as tools of the gun lobby: feckless, spineless, and devoid of all logic. “Most of these Senators couldn’t offer any good reason why we wouldn’t want to make it harder for criminals and the mentally ill to buy a gun. There were no coherent arguments why we wouldn’t do this. It came down to politics … They started looking for an excuse, any excuse to vote no.”
Obama continued, “This didn’t make our kids safer. Victory for not doing something that 90% of Americans, 80% of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done? It begs the question: who are we here to represent?”
Then Obama turned to his own exploitation of victims of violence using guns. He defensively set up straw men and then wildly chopped them down. “A prop, somebody called them. Emotional blackmail, some outlets said. Are they serious? Do we really think that thousands of families … don’t have the right to weigh in on this issue? Do we think their emotions, their loss is not relevant to this debate?” Nobody has argued that victims don’t have the right to weigh in. But President Obama has used victims as backdrops, openly stated that those who disagree with him do not care about victims of gun violence, and put forward victims as the chief advocates for his policy prescriptions. He has indeed exploited tragedy. And he would do so here, too.
All of this was setup for the coup de grace: a request for more power. Because, after all, Obama was never going to win this debate. He didn’t have the votes, he didn’t have the evidence, and he didn’t have a decent piece of legislation to propose. What he did have was unbridled faux moral indignation and a compliant press.
But he needs more. He needs a majority in the House. And he asked for it. “So all in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington. But this effort is not over,” said Obama. “If this Congress refuses to listen … the real impact is going to have to come from the voters.”
“The memories of these children demand [gun control],” Obama concluded.
What he meant was obvious: the memories of dead children in Sandy Hook demands that voters give Obama more Senators and more Congresspeople. How convenient for him.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).