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N2K Presidential Race: What Can a President Say in the Face of Tragedy?

President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the Aurora, Colo., shooting.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

July 22, 2012

As we have learned in recent days, President Obama has found executive power sufficient to provide temporary work permits to children of illegal aliens, carve-outs from welfare reform work permits, and ways to shield low-income patients from the insurance mandate in states that don’t expand Medicaid.

But what power does a president have to heal a woman who went to a movie, stared down the barrel of an assault rifle, hit the deck in panic, and felt the hot casings from bullets that killed fellow theatergoers rain down? What actions? What words? What presidential sentiment or action is or can be a countervailing force to such homicidal malevolence?

Presidents, at times like this, are summoned to coax America back to dreaming ahead. Even in the face of abject horror. Actually, especially in the face of abject horror. It has been so since radio waves shattered time and space and gave the presidency an instantly and nationally available reach and resonance … if the president was up to it.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was, and it aided him immeasurably. Harry Truman wasn’t, and it sometimes cost him. In the television era, only John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton could deliver. And in the aftermath of the 9/11 atrocities, George W. Bush rose to the occasion in ways that no other president ever had to face.

It’s an election year. The party conventions are less than two months away. Colorado is a swing state. Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney stop there like itinerant salesmen because, in certain respects, both are. But salesmanship won’t fly in Colorado now. Not for awhile. Possibly not until long after Election Day. Read more

--Major Garrett

NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRESIDENTIAL RACE REPORT

Romney’s International Listening Tour: England, Israel and Poland in Six Days

[National Journal, 7/21/12] Mitt Romney embarks Tuesday on a six-day trip to England, Israel, and Poland, offering Americans a glimpse of how he might perform on the world stage if he’s elected president.

 

Mideast Turmoil Complicates Romney Trip
[Wall Street Journal, 7/21/12] Although he's unlikely to roll out any new policy proposals during his trip abroad, escalating conflicts in the Middle East may give Romney an opportunity to show off his foreign policy chops as he tours parts of Europe and Israel.

Campaign Lull As Obama Visits Victims' Families
[Associated Press, 7/22/12] Obama will be in Colorado today, and he and Romney have pressed pause on the frantic campaigning that has characterized the presidential race in deference to the tragedy.

Romney Speaks of Massacre, Reveals a Private Self
[Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/22/12] In his remarks on the massacre in Colorado, Romney -- a candidate often criticized for his failure to show empathy on the campaign trail -- uncovered his softer side.

Romney Aides Split on Olympics Trip Overruled by Romney
[Bloomberg, 7/21/12] Romney will visit England, Poland and Israel during his overseas trip, and he'll be visiting the Olympics, a move that made some aides uncomfortable as it could draw attention to his wealth.

Do Presidential Polls Break Toward Challengers?
[New York Times, 7/22/12] Though some conventional wisdom states that polls are usually biased against the incumbent, Nate Silver takes a look at polling history and finds that this isn't necessarily true.

Obama's Former 'Car Czar' Says Romney 'Pushed the Envelope' on His Taxes
[National Journal, 7/22/12] A former Obama administration official and campaign surrogate hammered Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on his wealth and taxes on Sunday, accusing him of using sophisticated accounting practices to lessen his tax burden

Obama Puts $46.7M Into Ads, Outspends What he Raised in June
[USA Today, 7/22/12] In an effort to counteract Romney's campaign, the Obama campaign let loose a firehose of ad money and ended up spending more than it raised in June alone.

Corporate Shells Ramp Up Super PAC Giving
[Washington Times, 7/21/12] The Washington Times reports that 200 companies gave $8.6 million to super PACs this past month alone, in an effort that seems geared towards hiding contributors rather than allowing companies to engage in the political process.

Obama, Romney Will Return to Trail Monday With West Coast Trips
[The Hill, 7/21/12] The campaigns paused for a moment to honor those lost in the Colorado massacre, but they'll ramp back up to high gear on Monday, with both candidates headed to swing states Nevada and California.

On Campaign Trail, Chicago's a Popular Villain
[Chicago Tribune, 7/22/12] "Chicago-style politics" has become a common refrain from Republican politicians looking to deride Obama's campaign tactics, because of the loaded history of the term and the corruption and nastiness that characterizes Chicago's storied political history.

Romney Campaign: We Don't Buy Twitter Followers
[BuzzFeed, 7/21/12] Romney gained over 75,000 followers in one day, but it's not due to tricks, the campaign says.

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