By KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL –
You’d think by now that most politicians would have absorbed this one rule of modern politics: There is no such thing as a successful pander to gun owners. President Obama is nonetheless the latest national pol to have missed that memo.
Politicians who are comfortable with gun culture rarely seek to prove their bona fides, letting their votes and hobbies speak for themselves (see recent vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan). The politicians who get in trouble are those who aren’t familiar with gun culture, yet want America’s many gun owners to think they are. Recent political history is littered with the resulting embarrassing gaffes, from John Kerry bragging that he loves to go deer hunting with his “trusty 12-gauge double-barrel” to Mitt Romney acknowledging that his “lifelong” interest in hunting was in fact limited to blasting “small varmints.”
Now comes Mr. Obama, who in a recent interview with the New Republic was asked if he’d ever fired a gun. The president, who is taking heat for his new gun-control proposals, decided to use the moment to reassure America’s hunters and sport shooters that he really is a gun guy. “Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time,” answered Mr. Obama, adding that “I have a profound respect for the traditions of hunting that trace back in this country for generations.”
The president’s comments set off a flurry of reporting and commentary, all questioning the truth of the president’s supposed love affair with skeet shooting. In all his time as president, Mr. Obama had never professed any interest in skeet shooting, and in fact was once caught on tape moaning that too many Americans “cling” to their “guns and religion.”
As it happens, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney almost instantly had to dial back the president’s comments. “He does go to Camp David with some regularity, but I’m not sure how often he’s done that,” admitted Mr. Carney. He further admitted that he’d never seen any photos of Mr. Obama shooting, and suggested none would be forthcoming: “When he goes to Camp David, he goes to spend time with his family and friends to relax, not to produce photographs.”
Conservative Web sites have had a field day, with Breitbart posting a photo of Mr. Obama standing outside a pool with a water gun. Asked to comment on the issue on CNN, Tennessee GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn asked: “If he is a skeet shooter, why have we not heard of this? Why have we not seen photos? Why hasn’t he referenced this at any point in time?” She further challenged Mr. Obama to a skeet-shooting competition, quipping that she was pretty sure she’d “beat him.”
Whatever the truth of Mr. Obama’s skeet shooting interest, don’t expect the audience his comments were actually aimed at—gun owners—to be remotely reassured. Mr. Obama has openly expressed his desire to limit Second Amendment rights. Anything else he says will rightly be viewed by gun owners as pure (and potentially embarrassing) fluff.