House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) delivers a speech at the Library of Congress, Dec. 3, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty

Reaching the point at which even tears are politicized

During remarks on gun violence this week, President Obama was briefly overcome with emotion, and attendees and viewers could see tears on his face as the president reflected on the children massacred at Sandy Hook elementary.
 
Almost immediately, Obama’s conservative media critics started complaining, with a variety of far-right figures arguing that the president had used some kind of trick and his emotional reaction to dead kids was insincere. Even by today’s standards, it was unnerving to see such a callous display from the right.
 
Fortunately, when House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) sat down with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric this week, he did not share any nonsensical conspiracy theories. But as TPM reported, when the Republican leader was asked about Obama being overcome, he came up with a curious response.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said although he was moved by President Obama’s tearful gun control announcement this week, the deaths of citizens around the world at the hands of Islamic State militants should have warranted the same emotional response.
 
“I was affected by it, but I thought we should’ve had the same kind of reaction when James Foley was beheaded, when San Bernardino and Paris occurred,” Ryan said in an interview with Katie Couric. “That’s the kind of reaction I had when those occurred.”
Wait, is this where the debate is headed? Crying over murdered children is fine, but only if it’s accompanied by comparable reactions to violence Republicans consider politically salient?
 
The GOP Speaker added, in reference to the president’s efforts to reduce gun deaths, “What I think he’s trying to do is distract from basically his failed policies.”
 
This really is bizarre. For one thing, Ryan’s been a little fuzzy on exactly which White House policies he believes have “failed.” But more importantly, does the Speaker of the House really believe Obama’s focus is some kind of elaborate ruse to distract the public from, what, robust job growth and a shrinking uninsured rate?
 
 

Barack Obama and Paul Ryan

Reaching the point at which even tears are politicized