Like I told you yesterday, the big gun-control push isn’t really about gun control. He knows he has no chance of getting anything but the most modest new regulations through the House, and even that’s unlikely. This is about maximizing his leverage against Republicans on other issues by framing them, as usual, as people who just don’t care enough about Americans generally and children in particular.
So here he is at today’s presser announcing the latest bureaucratic bulwark against gun violence, casually wondering how the GOP can be so obstinate and narrow-minded as to stick to their principles At A Time Like This.
OBAMA: There is no doubt that, you know, the speaker has challenges in his caucus, and I recognize that. I’m often reminded when I speak to the Republican leadership that the majority of their caucus’s membership come from districts that I lost. And so, sometimes they may not see an incentive in cooperating with me in part because they’re more concerned about challenges from a tea party candidate or challenges from the right. And, you know, cooperating with me may make them vulnerable.
You know, I recognize that. But, goodness, if — if this past week has done anything, it should just give us some perspective. If there’s one thing we should have after this week, it should be a sense of perspective about what’s important.
And, you know, I would like to think that members of that — that caucus would say to themselves, “You know what? We disagree with the president on a whole bunch of things. We wish the other guy had won. We’re going to fight him on a whole range of issues over the next four years. We think his philosophy is all screwed up.”
“But, right now what the country needs is for us to compromise, get a deficit reduction deal in place, make sure middle class taxes don’t go up, make sure that we’re laying the foundations for growth, give certainty to businesses large and small, not put ourselves through some sort of self-inflicted crisis every six months. Allow ourselves time to focus on things like preventing the tragedy in Newtown from happening again. Focus on issues like energy, and immigration reform and, you know, all the things that will really make a determination as to whether or not our country grows over — over the next four years, 10 years, 40 years.”
What kind of hyperpartisan conservative monster insists on spending time negotiating the economic policy that’s going to govern the country next year when we could be commiserating about high-capacity magazines instead? Note the boldfaced bit, too. The if-Sandy-Hook-means-anything ploy isn’t limited to pressuring Republicans on the fiscal cliff; he’s already got his eye on amnesty and lord knows what else. The NYT makes a good point in its story this morning about O’s second term, though: How many hot-button issues can he tackle before his political capital begins to deplete and vulnerable Democrats start to panic? There are a huge number of Dem senators whose seats are up in 2014; they can probably pass amnesty without too much worry, as they’ll have cover from Republicans who are worried about electoral demographics, but can they get away with a serious gun-grab push on top of that? At the very least, the big amnesty fight will have to be postponed for a bit. They were planning to go straight at that in January, but public support for gun-grabbing after a mass shooting is ephemeral. O will have to push that first, before the national attention span drifts elsewhere, and then pick up immigration.
Or maybe I’m giving him too much credit and Byron York is right that Obama’s new blue-ribbon panel on gun violence is just a way of punting on that issue while pretending to do something. I’m skeptical — he’s already invested too much rhetorically in the Do Something response to Sandy Hook to disappoint the left by doing nothing — but it’s certainly true that he wouldn’t have bothered with this subject if not for the news last Friday. Any policy that comes out of it will be meager relative to the political risks involved, but he has some political capital to spend right now and he owes his base big time for delivering for him in November so he has to Do Something to prove that he cares. And if, in the course of doing it, he can put Boehner and McConnell on the spot by forcing them to oppose an ambitious Democratic overreach on guns, so much the better for him.
Via Mediaite, here’s Jake Tapper wondering why President Do Something did nothing for the past four years. The honest truth: Because he cared a lot more about being reelected than tackling gun-control measures that might have imperiled his chances in purple states. When push came to shove, winning was more important than Doing Something. And don’t think the left, which has spent the last five days lecturing gun-rights advocates about priorities and callousness, didn’t back him on that all the way.