Obama goes from scolder in Washington to comforter in Boston
In Washington, President Obama is locked in a battle with many voices in Congress over gun control, but at a moment of national tragedy, such as the Boston Marathon bombings, the president stands alone.
A day after he stood in the White House Rose Garden as a frustrated scolder-in-chief, President Obama was in Boston Thursday assuming the role of comforter-in-chief at a prayer service for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Learning from the Boston Marathon bombings
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In both cases, Mr. Obama was acting to address, though in very different ways, horrendous acts of violence that stunned the country.
On Wednesday afternoon, with Gabrielle Giffords and Sandy Hook families at his side, the president cast “shame” on the US Senate for rejecting a bipartisan plan for tighter background checks on gun purchases. Not 24 hours later, he was providing balm to the victims of an “act of terror” and to a city struck in its heart.
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In just a day, the president changed out of the political cloak of irate reaction to Congress to the higher m antle of national leadership in times of grief. As Obama hugged families and visited the bedsides of the recovering, it only underscored how a presidential presence that meant so little one day in Washington could mean everything in Boston the next.
It was a change in roles reminiscent of one made by President Clinton in 1996, when the Oklahoma City bombing – at that time, the largest act of terror to strike the US – allowed a president caught up in daily political harangues with Congress to step out from Washington and comfort a nation with what would become his trademark empathy.
In the Rose Garden, Obama was introduced by Mark Barden, who lost his son, Daniel, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14. With the president’s hand on his shoulder, Mr. Barden said the Sandy Hook families were “disappointed” by the Senate votes but “not defeated,” promising continued effort for gun safety legislation.
“All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” Obama said.
In Boston, the president was accompanied by Michelle Obama, and the tone was much more one of comfort and of faith in the resilience of Boston and all Americans in the face of tragedy.
Comparing the nation to the Boston Marathon runner seen on videotape by millions as he was knocked off his feet by the first of two blasts, Obama said, “We may be momentarily knocked off our feet. But we’ll pick ourselves up. We will keep going. We will finish the race.”