Just when you think politics couldn’t get any sillier, it does just that. A few weeks back, in an offhand comment during an interview with The New Republic, President Obama mentioned that he enjoyed skeet shooting at Camp David “all the time.” I found myself wondering why this matter was a big concern to the pistol-packing readers of The New Republic, but that’s beside the point.
The president’s comment launched an inquisition on the cable news channels, as reporters who presumably have other things to cover, such as the meltdown in Mali, the election in Israel and the North Korean missile launch, spent two days hounding the White House press secretary for photographic evidence of the commander-in-chief exercising his right to bear arms.
Not even the Iranian launch of a monkey into space, which definitely ushered the Iranians into the 1950s (expect the Persian language equivalent of Leave it to Beaver to be released any day now), could throw the intrepid newshounds off the scent.
“What did the president shoot and when did he shoot it?” became the war cry of the descendants of Woodward and Bernstein. The press corps appeared intent on catching Obama in a little macho fib. They wanted blood, or at least a whiff of Gunsmoke.
Then the White House released it: the smoking gun. You’ve probably seen the image. There stands the president wearing jeans and a blue-denim shirt, a shotgun set on his left shoulder, and a double blast of smoke coming out of the barrel. Barack Obama’s shotgun became for a brief moment the hottest non-entity in Washington since Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress.
I’m not sure which was sillier: the hyperventilating demands for the evidence, or the decision by the White House to digitally surrender and to tweet the First Skeet Shooter’s picture.
It bears noting that you do not have to be religious to recognize freedom of religion. No one has insisted that the president produce a work of literature in order to prove that he really supports the First Amendment right to freedom of expression (actually he has produced two).
So why in heaven’s name does the president of the United States feel the need to show that he can shoot a gun in order to engage in a discussion on the Second Amendment? It was a loser from the start.
Predictably, the National Rifle Association and others who oppose Obama’s gun control proposals merely scoffed at the photo. You have to wonder: Does Obama really harbor any hope that opponents who have spent years clamoring for his birth certificate are going to accept him as a card-carrying brother-in-arms?
More importantly, what are we saying about ourselves when a sitting president feels so insecure that he has to prove he is willing to discharge a firearm as the price of offering a sane policy prescription to try to prevent another Newtown massacre? At this point does Barack Obama have to prove that he’s a coldblooded macho guy?
Couldn’t he just mention that he once ordered a team of trained killers to fly into Pakistan and kill the world’s most feared terrorist? He might mention that, during his 220 weeks as commander-in-chief of a military force larger than the rest of the world combined can muster, he has ordered remote-control flying machines to drop bombs across a broad swath of Asia, Africa, the Persian Gulf and who knows where else at a rate nearly six times that of the Texan he succeeded.
In a recent report that showed up on my desk this week, anti-drone activists assert that Obama launched, in his first term, 292 drone strikes, mostly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, compared to a puny 52 strikes during the second George W. Bush term. The report is a joint venture of two international law clinics, one at Stanford and the other at New York University.
Maybe instead of the photograph, Obama could have just directed the media to livingunderdrones.org to assess his prowess with weaponry. That report takes as serious and nuanced a look at the drone issue as you’re likely to find anywhere. It’s the kind of thing we should be getting more from the media, but they’ve been busy tracking down the president’s record with a popgun.
The report makes clear that Barack Obama
has shown that he can get people shot, blown up or otherwise
incapacitated at a pretty good clip. He doesn’t need to be showing off
his prowess popping clay pigeons. Get the picture?
Read Ed Griffin-Nolan’s award-winning commentary every week in the Syracuse New Times. You can contact him at