Some media and political leaders in These United States (as the Reader’s Digest used to say) offered glimpses Tuesday into their personalities.
President Barack Obama wiped away tears during a news conference in which he announced a series of executive actions he is taking in response to what he called the nation’s “gun violence epidemic.”
He said the right of peaceful assembly has been robbed in movie theaters in Colorado and Louisiana — and the pursuit of happiness and liberty has also been taken away in attacks on schools.
“Those rights were stripped from college kids in Blacksburg, in Santa Barbara, and from high-schoolers in Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown,” Obama said.
“Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad,” the president said, wiping away tears. “And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.”
Some of the presidents critics were quick to mock Obama’s tears.
Before going further, I must confess to often getting emotional. I usually have to wipe away a tear at the end of a movie. When speaking about the children helped by the nonprofit where I work, I have often choked up. I have met with counselors during dark times and cried like a baby. It happens. It’s who I am. And I have learned to accept it even if others laugh about it.
But who laughs at someone else — even the president of the United States — for choking up over the needless shooting deaths of innocent first graders? I pity anyone who is really that heartless.
I don’t know what the answers are to the too-many shooting deaths that happen in this country. And I’m not going to wade into the debate. Doing so wouldn’t change any opinions anyway.
But among the debaters on the national stage Tuesday, I know who looked empathetic, humane and strong. It wasn’t those who laughed and made fun of the president for crying.
To those who found Obama’s emotion funny or infuriating, I say: Be careful.
Some of the critics who are laughing are the same people who have tried dozens and dozens of times to appeal the Affordable Care Act. And some were sure their side would derail Obama’s re-election bid in 2012. Since 2007, he has been one step ahead of them in virtually every round of their political game of trying to top each other.
I wouldn’t bet against him now on the legality of his executive actions to control guns.