Well, it almost seems that President Obama read my recent comments on leadership.
CNN is headlining that the President has “taken on gun violence” in a speech in New Orleans.
Nice try with the rather misleading headline CNN, but kudos the White House.
The whole speech is a very careful parsing of words that focuses on the end result of having these things readily available. That is, gun violence.
But The Way Lemming notices that he does actually dip his toe:
“I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals,” Obama said. “That they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities.”
(I’m not sure a lot of gun owners would agree, but I’m sure the NRA will tell us what they all think soon enough. Drudge has already used this content as a headline.)
When I first read his comments, I wondered why he let the assault weapons ban expire without renewal in the first place? Perhaps an opportunity will arise to explain this soon.
I suspect two factors are at play here.
The first is that some internal polling indicated he had better say something, after days of hand wringing in the press about how he and Mitt Romney have been rather silent on the whole issue. This will play well in his core states and it might have hurt him if he seemed to be pandering to the NRA crowd by being too silent.
The second factor, and the one I think is rather smart, is that this entire segment of his speech was a giant trial balloon, put out there so some polling could be done to see if this might have legs as an election issue. Especially in swing states.
Think of it this way: you add a rogue paragraph to an otherwise tepid speech and then sit back and see how the press tells everyone to interpret it. You see how your opponents react (or hopefully overreact) and then you can frame the debate yourself. You can be seen as the one leading the conversation. This approach offers very little risk with a huge potential upside.
Let me be clear. Big idea, true-to-your-convictions leadership does not require polls or trial balloons, so this is what I like to call calculated leadership.
And while people are drawn far more strongly to the former, politics has devolved to the point where this is what we are left with in its place.
The problem for President Obama is that 4 years ago, voters thought they were getting option A. Republicans knew this and did everything they could to make his initiatives fail and his tenure seem ineffective. A parade of people came out and expressed “disappointment”. The hope of something different had been lost. Voters then become disillusioned. Then they stay home. Then Republicans win.
See how it works?
Big idea, true-to-your-convictions leadership always wins. This is one area where Republicans are weakest, and they know it. The question is, will Democrats figure it out before November?
As I said, it almost seems that The President read my recent comments.