for physical violence has a long history in America.
- Marshall Fishwick
Violence is as American as cherry pie.
- H. Rap Brown
Watching President Barack Obama wipe away a tear as he spoke to the nation on the day a 20-year-old Adam Lanza dressed himself up like a Navy SEAL and took out 20 little kids and six of their teachers, it was clear the President was a good man and a deeply-committed father of young children.
The same day, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg noted the President's touching emotions but quickly stressed it was time to strike hard and fast on gun control legislation. The problem of violence in America had gone unaddressed for decades and weapons were becoming more accessible and more lethal.
Meanwhile, Dan Rather told Rachel Maddow he felt President Obama returned to his first term M.O. and caved in to the right on the Susan Rice nomination for Secretary of State. Rather felt the President didn't like to initiate fights and that when they came or were on the horizon, his first move, before the fight even began, was to concede and seek a centrist compromise.
But watching the President's authentic sadness you had to wonder whether some of his troubled spirit might have been because he knew what this extraordinary killing spree in a Norman Rockwell Connecticut town meant for him as a second-term president. Following on the Virginia Tech, Gabrielle Gifford and Batman movie theater massacres, this instance of the systematic gunning down of six- and seven-year-olds was so incredibly efficient that it seemed even beyond the pale for the United States.
He faced three conflicting challenges:
First, there would be a resounding outcry from the left to do something on gun control, of which Bloomberg's pointed remarks were only the beginning. The issues were to do something about military assault weapons like the AR15, better mental health screening and the influence of violence in video games and movies.
In Hollywood, producers were tripping over themselves canceling premiers for violent movies and going through TV shows to find offensive violent material. Newtown did seem to make Hollywood pause and look into its soul. But money talks and the market rules.
Second, powerful opposition to any kind of controls or bans on guns was certain to come from the National Rifle Association and the far right. The President could count on a well-funded campaign to muddy the waters and chip away at any proposed legislation.
Immediately after Newtown, the right-wing National Review published an editorial saying nothing would come of this sudden gun control fever. "The guns of America aren't going anywhere any time soon," they wrote, "and generic calls to 'do something' -- even insofar as doing something is desirable -- must reckon with this fact."
The NRA was silent. After four days, they dropped this enigmatic statement: "The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again." By the end of the week, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre shattered any misguided hopes of NRA compromise by poking his head out of his bunker and calling for police officers in every school in America. More guns! "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," LaPierre said. It brought visions of a crusty Charlton Heston waving a flintlock: "From my cold dead hands!"
The Dead Elephant in the Room
Then there was the third, and by far the most daunting, challenge facing the President. We might call this challenge the hypocrisy factor -- or the 900-pound dead elephant stinking up the room that no one wants to talk about.
Thanks to history and the condition of our militarized republic in the post-George W. Bush era, the President has committed himself to cold-blooded killing as a solution to problems, a policy that inexorably feeds into a growing cycle of violence that Martin Luther King spoke so eloquently about before he was shot to death. What goes 'round comes 'round.
The President has a hit list of targets he approves and SEAL assassin teams and drones to do the dirty work. Moral concerns have been suspended. These strikes have tallied up, at a bare minimum, 176 dead children, almost nine times the number of dead children in the Newtown incident.