President Obama held a press conference today to announce the formation of a gun violence task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden. This seems like a good idea considering that in 1994, then-U.S. Sen. Biden was a key author of a 1994 crime bill that banned assault weapons. The ban expired in 2004, but there are renewed calls to reinstate it after the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Many questions asked by the press concerned the so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations, but the one that stood out most to me was the last one, asked by ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper. The question itself wasn’t a bad one per se, but the way he asked it seemed a bit rude and confrontational (especially if you hear it rather than just read it in a transcript):
“It seems to a lot of observers that you made the political calculation in 2008, in your first term and in 2012, not to talk about gun violence,” Tapper said. “You had your position on renewing the ban on semiautomatic rifles that then-Sen. Biden put into place, but you didn’t do much about it. This is not the first issue — the first incident of horrific gun violence of your four years. Where have you been?”
Obama responded with what I thought was an appropriate “smackdown” response:
Well, here’s where I’ve been, Jake. I’ve been president of the United States, dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an auto industry on the verge of collapse, two wars. I don’t think I’ve been on vacation.
And so, you know, I think all of us have to do some reflection on how we prioritize what we do here in Washington. And as I said on Sunday, you know, this should be a wake-up call for all of us to say that if we are not getting right the need to keep our children safe, then nothing else matters. And it’s my commitment to make sure that, that we do everything we can to keep our children safe. A lot of things go — are involved in that, Jake. So making sure they’ve got decent health care and making sure they’ve got a good education, making sure that their parents have jobs — those are all relevant as well. Those aren’t just sort of side issues. But there’s no doubt that this has to be a central issue. And that’s exactly why I’m confident that Joe is going to take this so seriously over the next couple months.
Again, it was not inappropriate for Tapper to question Obama why he hasn’t done something about gun violence sooner, but I believe he could’ve asked his question in a less-confrontational manner.
You can read a full transcript of the press conference here.