New Republic scores with gun question

close up of handgun

(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

*Constant rotation in conservative media;
*A followup question by CNN’s Jessica Yellin at a briefing with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney;
*A segment on the Daily Show.

That’s the sort of publicity that the New Republic has gotten from its interview with President Obama. All the attention stemmed from a 20-word exchange between New Republic Editor Frank Foer and the president:

FF: Have you ever fired a gun?

Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time.

Lots of folks simply don’t believe the assertion, especially the “all the time” component of it. Yellin asked for photos, and Fox News is screaming for some documentation. Last night on “Special Report,” host Bret Baier mouthed this item:

Few people are buying President Obama’s claim that he is a big fan of skeet shooting. The president was asked by the New Republic, quote, “Have you ever fired a gun? President Obama answered, quote, “Yes. In fact, up at camp David we do skeet shooting all the time.”

New York magazine called out the president’s phrasing, saying, quote, “that quote is how people usually talk about things with which they are not very familiar. Your grandma asks if you do Twitter.” The Washington Post looked at the president’s past statements and found no mention of skeet shooting. It labels “curious” that the White House is refusing to provide evidence that the president has ever used the shooting range.

The standoff between news organizations and the White House over skeet shooting furnishes a delicious prospect for the New Republic: An infinite string of news updates just like Baier’s, complete with attribution to the New Republic.
The lesson: Simple questions make news.
And long, convoluted, inside-the-Beltway questions do not. After Obama went in depth about the importance of public opinion in the New Republic interview, Foer asked this one: “Let’s talk about that in terms of guns. How do you speak to gun owners in a way that doesn’t make them feel as if you’re impinging upon their liberty?” To get a feel of how scintillating was Obama’s response, here’s just a snippet: “So everything we do combines both a legislative strategy with a broad-based communications and outreach strategy to get people engaged and involved…”

Via electronic mail, Foer explains the thinking behind the gun-optics inquiry: “His ability to get meaningful legislation depends on his ability to shift public opinion and allay anxieties. Meant it to be a question about the culture war and his long quest to bridge the divide. Not saying it was the best question ever, but that was the intent.”

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