Libération , France
Gun Control: The Obama Method
By Lorraine Millot and Fabrice Rousselot
Translated By Charlotte Schwennsen
18 December 2012
Edited by Laurence Bouvard
France - Libération - Original Article (French)
Two emotionally charged speeches… and we take time to reflect. The White House’s response to the Newtown massacre, which is not the fourth but the eighth of the Obama presidency -- only counting the massacres that took at least five lives, namely those of Fort Hood, Binghamton, Tucson, Oakland, Aurora, Oak Creek, Minneapolis and Newtown -- reveals a lot about the Obama method. After wiping away a tear in his first address to the victims on Friday, Obama made it clear that the response would take “weeks” and that his role would be, above all, to “use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators.”
Lyndon Johnson, to whom the U.S. owes Medicare, Medicaid and major advances in civil rights, would have proceeded completely differently, his former advisor Joseph Califano said Monday morning in an op-ed published by the Washington Post. “We have only two weeks, maybe only 10 days before the gun lobby gets organized,” warned Lyndon Johnson, who ordered his team and his allies in Congress to quickly legislate after the assassination of Robert Kennedy, which followed that of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. Obama could also act immediately, benefitting from the lame-duck session and the end of the current Congress’ course, Califano argues.
But Obama is not Johnson, as this Newtown massacre once again reminds us. Haste is certainly not his trademark, and the 44th American president still prefers to take time to weigh and reweigh all his options. Rather than rushing to Congress to demand, at the very least, a ban on assault weapons, which was among his commitments in 2008, Obama asked his advisors and secretaries to present him with broader proposals, including security in schools and improved psychiatric care. Very tight-fisted with his political capital and very sensitive up to now on the question of arms control, Barack Obama plans to leave Congress and public opinion, notably in the form of the petitions that have multiplied since Friday, to test the waters before putting his weight in the battle. The White House’s response will be a question of weeks rather than days, as Press Secretary Jay Carney did not stop repeating to increasingly impatient American journalists.
If emotion is strong enough and if members of Congress succeed in agreeing on restrictions to the trade of weapons, Obama could, of course, rejoin the arena and then take credit for the result. But many would like a more courageous president. Infuriated by this method, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post went so far this Tuesday as to suspect Obama of waiting for another massacre.*
Even in his address in Newtown, Obama minimized the problem of the killings by only mentioning four during his presidency -- those whose grounds he visited -- when they number at least eight. As another Washington Post article recalls, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is supposed to keep an eye on the proliferation of weapons in the United States, has not had a director for six years. Its interim director, Todd Jones, currently carries out its functions part time in Minnesota, where he is also a federal prosecutor.
*This claim could not be verified.
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