On another cold and gray day in a winter that seemingly will never end, with both thunderstorms and snow in the forecast, it gave us a sunny and heartwarming feeling on Wednesday to hear President Barack Obama sounding very irked.
A proposal to expand background checks for gun purchases had just failed to win a required super-majority in the Senate, effectively ending all legislative attempts at gun control until the next media-fueled public frenzy, and the president was clearly displeased. Speaking in the White House rose garden shortly after the vote, Obama had a scowl on his face and anger in his voice as he claimed his opponents had “willfully lied”
about the proposal. Looking as if he were about to spit, as we say out here in gun country, Obama declared it “a pretty shameful day for Washington.”
Except for the slightly higher than usual dudgeon, the speech was typical of Obama. Characteristically unable or unwilling to acknowledge the possibility of an honest disagreement with him, he accused the senators who had voted against the proposal of political cowardice. He also cited “some polls” to claim that 90 percent of the public was in favor of the plan, making it odd that a political coward would defy such an improbable majority of public opinion, but apparently the “gun lobby” induces much fear in the hearts of weaker men.
Obama vowed to continue his quest for further gun control measures, but for the moment it looks unlikely that he will succeed. The Senate also voted Wednesday on a bill banning “assault weapons,” which is Democrat-speak for semi-automatic rifles that look somewhat like actual assault weapons, but it went down with only 40 votes
. A few more modest proposals also fell short of a super-majority, with several Democrats who face re-election battles in heartland states defecting from the party line on every vote, and all of the proposals would surely fare even worse in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.
Nor will there likely be a more propitious moment for such gun control measures in the near future. The defeats in the Senate followed an all-out media blitz after a deranged gunman’s horrible massacre at a Connecticut school, the full efforts of Obama’s reputedly irresistible powers of persuasion in a series of cross-country speeches, as well as concerted campaign by the well-organized and well-funded anti-gun lobby, and they will all find it difficult to sustain the effort. A poll not cited by the president suggests that 96 percent of the country
thinks the government has better things to do than pass more laws for law-abiding gun owners to abide, and the public is likely to grow even wearier of the debate in the wake of Wednesday’s votes.
Despite all the hoopla, the vote also came at a time when there were plenty of distractions to provide cover for any Democrat feeling party pressure to vote against his constituents’ wishes. Wednesday’s news cycle was dominated by contradictory and quickly-retracted reports about the bombings at the Boston Marathon, along with the strange case of an Elvis impersonator from small-town Mississippi allegedly sending ricin-laced
but bi-partisan hate mail to a Republican senator from his state and the president, and much of the media would have been quite content to let a total gun ban go unremarked.
The failure to pass anything under such favorable circumstances will be considered a significant political setback for the president, and we suspect that’s why he seemed so very angry in the rose garden. Obama insisted that the proposals would somehow save some unspecified number of lives, and he no doubt believes it, but lives were also at stake in Benghazi and Fort Hood and Fast and Furious and at the Boston Marathon, and he never seemed so thoroughly peeved when making speeches on those matters. It takes a political defeat to really get under the president’s thin skin, and that’s why it gives us a sunny and heartwarming feeling to see it from time to time.
— Bud Norman