Not one of the 23 executive orders President Obama signed – flanked by schoolchildren whom none of us want to see murdered and before an audience that included relatives of murdered schoolchildren – would have prevented the massacre at Sandy Hook.
Did the main idea of the sentence above come through – that the president’s latest orders would not have stopped the heavily armed monster who entered a Connecticut school last month and killed 20 children and six adults? Or was your brain overwhelmed by anxiety signals arising from the imagery of vulnerable youngsters?
The overwhelming imagery is no accident. It’s emotional manipulation, and I’ve never seen a more lowdown exercise of it than the White House’s “gun violence” event this week. What President Obama put the nation through was the propaganda equivalent of a slasher movie, a disgustingly crude attempt to jam our emotional buttons and frighten us into surrendering more of our rights to live free of centralized government surveillance and control.
Such pandering, of course, fails to address the cultural factors – godlessness, fatherlessness, a pornographically violent “entertainment”-media complex – that drive this most transgressive form of violence. Postmodern developments all, they help us see why, for example, well-armed settlers opening up the West didn’t ever shoot up the village school.
Here’s what I call “Obama’s Choice”: Do Americans want happy, live children or some old constitutional provision? Do members of Congress – the president’s main target along with the Constitution – want an “‘A’ grade from the gun lobby,” as he put it, or to give parents “peace of mind when they drop their child off for first grade”? Gazing into the shiny button-eyes of the four children on stage, America heard the president say: “If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.”
Yes, yes, yes, we reply. Yes, Mr. President, go ahead and sign the executive orders that put in place what amounts to a national database of kooks as defined by federal bureaucrats who consider conservative beliefs and military personnel to be crazy automatically. Yes, empower and encourage our doctors to add to that registry innocent patients who have committed no crime but who, like returning veterans, may have sought counseling. (Meanwhile, continue to permit confidentiality laws to silence attorneys with knowledge of clients’ actual criminality.) Outlaw the sale of high-powered guns and ammunition – equalizers in the face of home invaders, terrorists, drug gangs and, yes, a democratic government turned tyrannical. And tell me again why the Department of Homeland Security – emphasis on “homeland” – acquired more than 1 billion rounds of ammunition (including hundreds of thousands of hollow-point bullets) last year? And why did DHS order an additional 200,000 hollow-point bullets in December? What possible domestic threat requires a stockpile like that?
But I am looking away from the hearts and bunnies at the White House. I am supposed to be concentrating on the letters from little ones who, in the wake of Sandy Hook, President Obama said, asked him to take such measures. As the president put it: “On the letter that Julia wrote me, she said, ‘I know that laws have to be passed by Congress, but I beg you to try very hard.’”
There was a burst of laughter, perhaps unexpected, given that the president was winding up for a solemn pledge. “Julia, I will try very hard,” Obama continued, taking up his gauntlet against enemy-Congress on behalf of Julia and her four brothers and sisters. As the president also told us she wrote: “I know I would not be able to bear the thought of losing any of them.”
Nor would any of us – the normal human reaction. What is now a disgraceful part of American history is the spectacle of a president harnessing this normal human reaction to drive his own power grab. This makes his calculation far worse than President Jimmy Carter’s famous invocation in 1980 of his 13-year-old daughter, Amy, as his moral goad against nuclear weaponry in a debate with Ronald Reagan. Thirty years ago, Americans in the debate audience burst into laughter, too. In those days, however, derision over the president’s emotional pandering stuck. This time around, the derision in the room seemed aimed at Congress.
Obama went on. “But she’s right. The most important changes we can make depend on congressional action. … Get them on the record. … Ask them what’s more important, doing whatever it takes to get an ‘A’ grade from the gun lobby that funds their campaigns, or giving parents some peace of mind when they drop their child off for first grade.”
Outside the claustrophobic White House bubble – definitely not a gun-free zone – Americans are as concerned as the president with protecting their children. Even more so, I think, since schools attended by the president’s daughters and other children of privilege are protected by armed guards. Why one solution for elites and one solution for everyone else? Famously, Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association has asked this same question – and been crucified for doing so by media stars and politicians whose children also attend well-guarded schools.
The NRA produced a commercial to ask this question that the media not only refuse to ask but gnash their teeth over: “Are the president’s kids more important than yours? Then why is he ‘skeptical’ about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools?”
White House spokesman Jay Carney decried the NRA for using the president’s children as “pawns in a political fight,” even on the very day the president was using all of our children as pawns in his war on the Constitution. Carney went on, projecting outrage: “But to go so far as to make the safety of the president’s children the subject of an attack ad is repugnant and cowardly.”
The NRA wasn’t attacking the “safety of the president’s children.” The NRA, in fact, called for a similar level of safety for everyone’s children.
The president’s problem is that would leave the Constitution intact.