December 19, 2012

The president, at a previous event. (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg)

The Washington-based White House press corps today demonstrated the pitfalls of being based in Washington. During a press conference just a few news cycles after the most horrific and unspeakable massacre in memory, President Obama discussed intentions to frame “concrete proposals” to address the root causes of Newtown. “We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care as easy as access to a gun. We’re going to need to look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence,” he said

Reporters responded by pressing Obama on Beltway negotiations over the budget and the national debt and the like. People couldn’t fathom what appeared to be the press corps’ provincial, short-term memory. Funerals in Connecticut, after all, are still ongoing.

ABC News’s Jake Tapper was fidgeting. Finally he got his chance, asking: “It seems to a lot of observers that you made the political calculation in 2008, your first term and in 2012 not to talk about gun violence. You had your position on renewing the ban on semiautomatic rifles that then-Sen. Biden put in place. But you didn’t do much about it. This is not the first incident of gun violence of your four years. Where have you been?”

Obama said, among other things, that he hasn’t “been on vacation.”

Asked what prompted the sharp inquiry, Tapper responded via e-mail:

With vivid memories of having covered Columbine, I thought it was worth pressing him on the point. It felt like a question that parents of victims of all the gun violence from Inauguration Day 2009 until the day before Sandy Hook, and all the terrified parents out there, would want to better understand.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.