The last couple of days treated us to two of Barack Obama’s finest performances, one spontaneous and one more rehearsed. After the Roseburg shooting Obama gave a short speech that could become his Gettysburg Address. He was visibly angry and upset, and with trembling voice he bitterly observed that these shootings have become routine, as have our prayers for the victims and even his own reaction, while absolutely nothing is being done to take common sense measures towards gun control. In what might be his last ditch effort to solve the problem Obama not only stated that it should be politicized, but urged voters, Democrats and Republicans alike, only to vote for candidates with a gun control agenda. Since a large majority of Americans, and even a majority of NRA members, supports gun control, but fear of the NRA or just plain stupidity is keeping politicians from doing the right thing, following his appeal to temporarily become single item voters might be the only way to ever get guns out of the hands of schizophrenics, convicted wife beaters, known white supremacists and home grown terrorists.
The reactions by Republican candidates for the presidency were as predictable as they were appalling. None of them spoke out for gun control, and some of them stepped right in it. Jeb Bush, who combines his family’s talent for garbling words with an IQ that is lower than his brother Dubya’s, said that ‘stuff happens,’ and that it isn’t always necessary to react. When he was heavily criticized for that statement he tried to walk it back, saying that he had spoken about ‘stuff’ in general, not about the shooting. Marco Rubio, another supposedly bright bulb out of Florida’s chandelier, declared that ‘gun laws don’t work because criminals don’t respect the law,’ and attacked Obama for trying to take advantage of the grief that so many felt. His choice of words leaves no doubt about how deep he is settled in the pockets of the NRA. Donald Trump blew the old piece of bubble gum that the problem is not guns but mental illness, like so many functionally myopic politicians pretending to be unable to see that mental patients with access to guns are more dangerous than those without access. Carly Fiorina, finally, never hesitant to put her two cents in, decided to sit this one out.
The next day, during a press conference, Obama took both Vladimir Putin and his domestic foreign policy critics to task. Justifiably irritated by the likes of Rudy Giuliani, who not long ago publicly admired Putin’s willingness to act, and John McCain, who sees Putin’s aggressive behavior as the product of Obama’s indecisiveness, he made a fine point of explaining that Putin is not acting out of strength but out of weakness, because his empire’s fortunes are waning.
As a result of its actions in the Ukraine Russia’s economy has been hit by crippling sanctions, the effect of which is amplified by the plunging oil prices, causing it to shrink by at least four percent annually. In Syria, the regime of Russia’s proxy Bashir Assad is in deep trouble, which forced Putin to step in and prop him up, without real prospects for Assad’s staying in power.
Obama’s presser provides the narrative with the awkward pictures of his recent meeting with Putin at the UN, and undoubtedly he had rehearsed his remarks on Putin before he shared them with the White House press corps. It explains why Obama looked focused and Putin sheepish.