Other Obama campaign events, including a fundraising dinner at a private residence with 60 people and a reception at the Fox Theater in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, will go on as planned.
State Rep. Rhonda Fields (D), who represents the district that includes Aurora, said she would have liked Obama to attend the vigil, though she agreed that visiting with the victims and families is the most important act for the president.
“I would be so appreciative of the president of the United States taking time out to meet” a grieving family, said Fields, whose son was shot and killed, along with his fiancee, in Aurora in 2005 as he was preparing to testify at a murder trial. “This was a senseless act of violence. As a family, it would touch my soul.”
The task of expressing grief and sympathy is not difficult, said Jeff Shesol, a speechwriter for Clinton who accompanied him on his visit to victims of the Columbine High School shootings. In the case of the Aurora shootings, suspect James Holmes, 24, has not been tied to organized terrorist groups or political causes. So Obama does not have to touch on such delicate topics, Shesol said.
But, he added, the more complicated question is the political ones that follow — in this case, whether mass shootings are all-to-regular occurrences that cannot be prevented. “Is this just the way it is in this country?” Shesol said. “Is it just the way it’s going to be, with a shooting like this every year or two years?”
Such questions have inserted themselves already, along with the dicey topic of gun control. White House press secretary Jay Carney, asked whether Obama would make a renewed push for an assault weapons ban, acknowledged that opposition in Congress made such a move unlikely.
Asked if a debate over Second Amendment rights should be highlighted in the campaign, Psaki said the shooting “is so fresh and new for so many people” that it is “really too early to say how this will play” on the trail. “We’re just taking it day by day,” she said.