Is it possible that Barack Obama might yet wring something big from Congress on gun control? Anyone who has spent any time beyond the liberal bounds of the east and west coasts knows how madly most Americans cling to their Glocks and their Berettas. But did you hear the president last night? Did you see that woman cry?
I can’t tell you who she was. Maybe she was a congresswoman or perhaps one of a many guests invited to the annual State of the Union address because she herself lost a loved one to gun violence in the last several months. I am guessing she was not alone wetting her cheeks, whether in the chamber itself or in the millions of American homes where normal programming was suspended for the one hour it took President Obama to say his piece.
It was 50 minutes before we got to Newtown and all those other atrocities of last year. There was a lot else he had to get off his chest. He didn’t preface it all by saying “I won last year”; he didn’t need to. So, my Democrat and Republican friends, how about indulging me a little: let’s raise the minimum wage, take climate change seriously, tax the rich more and stop getting austerity crazy. I need to defend the US against cyber-attacks too.
There was another woman who will have moved you. Gabrielle Giffords, the former Congresswoman whose brains were partially blown out by a mad person with a gun, applauded with all her might when Mr Obama finally spoke of gun violence. She can’t clap yet, so she clasped her hands together and shook them.
And then, sitting in the gallery, were the parents of Hadiya Pendleton. “She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette,” Mr Obama explained. “Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.”
Mr Obama used the night shamelessly. It was no contest, even if Ted Nugent, the rocker and board member of the National Rifle Association, had also come to listen and represent the opposing view. Congress has his proposals to crack down and should vote on them now, the president said. But he didn’t just say it, he proclaimed it as poetry.
“They deserve a vote,” he said, departing on a rising arc of oratory. “Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence - they deserve a simple vote.” He might just get it.