Following the mass shooting on Monday in Highland Park, Illinois, U.S. President Joe Biden issued a statement expressing his and wife Jill’s “shock” at the “senseless gun violence” that took the lives of seven innocent people and left more than two-dozen wounded.
In fairness to America’s commander-in-chief, who was gearing up to deliver a speech on the occasion of the country’s Independence Day, the statement was a hurried response to an ongoing incident. The number of casualties was still unclear, and the killer was still on the loose.
It wasn’t until a few hours later that law enforcement revealed the identity of the man who had committed his evil deed from the rooftop of a building adjacent to the Fourth of July parade. In a press conference, the Highland Park police chief announced that the suspect, who turned out to be Robert “Bobby” E. Crimo III, had fled the scene in a 2010 silver Honda Fit. Sometime after that, Crimo was apprehended and taken into custody.
Biden, therefore, may be excused for not naming the murderer. He should be criticized, however, for resorting to the “gun violence” cliché, that always involves what behavior analysts call a “vanishing perpetrator.”
But if he had refrained from this knee-jerk reaction, he wouldn’t have been able to devote the last paragraph of his statement to the point that he really wanted to get across: that he “recently signed the first major bipartisan gun reform legislation in almost 30 years into law, which includes actions that will save lives.” Nor would he have been able to add that “there is much more work to do, and I’m not going to give up fighting the epidemic of gun violence.”
It subsequently emerged that this topic was already firmly embedded in his Fourth of July address at a White House barbecue for military families. Because it was written before the carnage in Highland Park, there was only a vague reference to “what happened today.”
For this, too, he can be forgiven, since he isn’t capable of going off-script without becoming incomprehensible. Indeed, the need for such a last-minute addition couldn’t have been anticipated by his speech writers or the techies responsible for making sure it displayed properly on the teleprompter.
This isn’t to say that his speech was worthy of applause. On the contrary, it was more like a tribute to the far-left members of his party than to Uncle Sam. In fact, he began by saying that America “is always a work in progress. That’s the key word, ‘progress,’ the key idea, the key note in the life of our nation. Progress.”
It’s the American “story,” he said, insisting that it’s “not a simple one and never has been.” This was the way he began his mission to make patriotism palatable to the anti-American elements of his electorate.
“It’s often been the case that after we’ve taken giant steps forward, we’ve taken a few steps backwards. And after doing the hard work of laying the foundation for a better future, the worst of our past has reached out and pulled us back on occasion,” he insisted. “But … we’ve always come out better than we went in … because we have never walked away from the core beliefs and promises that define this nation. Chief among those promises is the proposition that we are all created equal.”
And here was the clincher: “To realize these promises requires a principled patriotism—a patriotism that recognizes that no person, no party, no interest can take precedence over the American project; a project that has come up short in many ways, but which continues even in this hour; a project that says we’re all in this together, and the ambitions of a few cannot be allowed to prevail over the aspirations of the many.”
Liberty, he asserted, “is under assault, both here and abroad.”
This was the perfect segue to attack the Supreme Court’s June 24 overturning of Roe v. Wade, a decision based on the protection of states’ rights granted by the U.S. Constitution—you know, the document preserving the very values that he’d just mentioned and thought nothing of contradicting.
“In recent days, there’s been reason to think that this country’s moving backward,” he said. “That freedom is being reduced, that rights we assumed were protected are no longer—a reminder that we remain in an ongoing battle for the soul of America.”
He went on to boast about another front in this soul-saving struggle. After pointing to his trip to Europe, where he met with NATO allies to enlist them in the defense of global freedom—not victory, heaven forbid—he jumped right into his war on firearms.
“Before I left for Europe, I signed a law—the first real gun-safety law in 30 years. Things will get better still, but not without more hard work together.”
At this moment, he gave a nod to the Highland Park shootings.
“You all heard what happened today,” he said. “And each day, we’re reminded that there’s nothing guaranteed about our democracy; nothing guaranteed about our way of life. We have to fight for it. Defend it.”
Since he didn’t explain how democracy was affected by mass murders committed by individuals who should rot in jail or psychiatric institutions, and he certainly couldn’t convey how it would be possible to fight for and defend ‘our way of life’ without weapons, he offered the following: “We have to earn it, by voting.”
Ah, yes. The midterm congressional elections are fast approaching, with all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 Senate seats up for grabs on Nov. 8.
Naturally, he needed to take the opportunity of America’s 246th birthday to sell the Democrats’ wares before they lose their jobs. It’s a tough challenge these days, with an economy in tatters, psychotics roaming the streets and a woke culture gone berserk.
It’s particularly difficult to appeal to all sides of the spectrum under such conditions, as pandering to one group necessarily means alienating another.
“I know many Americans look around today and see a divided country,” Biden said, winding down his speech. “But I believe we’re more united than we are divided.”
The way things are looking now, he’s got that right—just not in the direction of the “progress,” “core beliefs” and “promises” he has in mind.
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”