President Obama missed a golden opportunity when, in the wake of the July massacre in Colorado, he failed to press Congress to ban assault weapons and outlaw large magazines for repeating firearms, said former Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell.
Rendell, in a conversation with television’s Charlie Rose broadcast Thursday night, stopped short of saying Obama lacked the courage to stand up for his convictions.
Instead, he condemned politicians unwilling to stick their necks out for principles they ostensibly represent.
“If you run for political office, and you don’t believe some things that are important enough to risk your political career, then save us the trouble. Then don’t run. Don’t run.” Rendell said. “You have to have the guts to do it.”
Rendell, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, appeared on Rose’s show to promote his book, A Nation of Wusses: How America’s Leaders Lost the Guts to Make Us Great.
Rendell said that polls taken after the Tucson shootings showed that 70 percent of Americans, including 60 percent of Republicans, were for a ban on magazines over 10 rounds.
The fiery former mayor of Philadelphia noted that between 2000 and 2006 there were no mass killings in the United States.
“Since 2007, we’ve had 15 including five last year,” he said, adding that an effort to impose some gun control was now a “winning issue” because sentiment in America had changed enough for the president and congress to take action.
He extolled Obama’s speech at the Urban League following the mass killing. But said it was a mistake to defer action until after the election.
Rendell even provided the words he felt Obama should have spoken:
“If the president had said — two, three, four days after Aurora going back to Tucson and Gabby Giffords — If he’d said look, everybody who’s sane knows that we shouldn’t let allow people to possess assault rifles. Everyone who is sane knows we should let people hold magazines that have more than 10 clips in each magazine, 10 bullets in each magazine.
“I’m going to ask the congress to outlaw them and I want all Americans to say ‘enough is enough.’ No more Tucsons. No more Auroras. It’s time to do something America. This doesn’t impinge on the rights of any lawful gun owners. Let’s get it done.”
Later, Rendell awkwardly described Obama “maybe as smart a man as I ever met, man or woman.” Then he immediately called the president’s leadership qualities into question.
“He’s a quick study on stuff, but it’s all about leadership,” Rendell said. “He doesn’t grasp going out there and fighting and losing. You can fight and lose and still look like a strong leader because you’re still out there pressing for the issues you care about.“
Rendell touched on the forthcoming election, warning that though the president leads in the battleground states — enough to ensure the election — overwhelming opposition in the red states could lead to a majority popular vote for Mitt Romney and force the decision into the Electoral College.
The interview wasn’t all withering assessment and condemnation. He credited Obama with several major achievements.
“He was no wuss when he came to the auto bailout ... he was no wuss on the financial bailout ... he was no wuss on health care,” Rendell said.
Still, a good part of Obama’s leadership problem comes down to a failure to get his message across, Rendell said.
Nearly every taxpayer received an $400 tax credit under this president's tenure, Rendell said.
“But nobody told them about it. They did such a lousy job of communicating what was in the stimulus bill.”
In Rendell’s eyes, just another lost opportunity.
- Sam Wood