Let’s use the U.S. Department of State’s travel warning with a little editing (just as an exercise and for example) —
Travel Warnings are issued when long-term, protracted conditions that make a countrystate dangerous or unstable lead the State Department [or Department of Justice] to recommend that Americans avoid or consider the risk of travel to that countrystate. A Travel Warning is also issued when the U.S. Government’s ability to assist American citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate states rights claims or because of a drawdown of its staff sanity. The countriesstates listed below meet those criteria.
Should travel agents and state tourism boards provide Stand Your Ground information in travel brochures, and review Stand Your Ground laws with convention organizers and meeting packagers? What about colleges in these states? Should Stand Your Ground information be included in student handbooks? Should there be an “Understanding Our Stand Your Ground Law” pamphlet in all hotels, motels, and highway rest stops in Stand Your Ground states?
Second terms are prime time for executive orders. The Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, CT was that final straw for people to get serious about gun violence. Today Vice President Biden and President Obama introduced proposals and the President put his signature to 23 executive actions, taking steps to reduce gun violence. I wonder if the gun-totin’ gun rights activists are disappointed that these executive actions weren’t stronger, giving them more cause to rise up higher in arms. But anything will do. The proposals will be the battleground.
I wonder if many of these executive actions are reenforcing what’s already on the books. Or in other words “We’ll make it easier for you to simply Do Your Job.”
Government can work if only it would.
My impressions of the executive orders are noted.
[Original PDF document] THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary
EMBARGOED UNTIL THE START OF THE PRESIDENT’S REMARKS
January 16, 2013
Gun Violence Reduction Executive Actions
Today, the President is announcing that he and the Administration will:
1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system. Read: Drop that, do this.
2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system. Read: Cut the excuses to Do your job!
3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system. State Read: How much?
4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks. Read: Do your job!
5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun. “Propose” is not the same thing as setting rules or implementing them. I thought they were already doing this or am I watching too many TV crime shows.
6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers. Let’s hope they’ll Do their job?
7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign. Some creative or campaign worker is going to be glad to get this gig.
8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety
Commission). Since guns have been compared to cars, how about tests for anyone approved to carry a firearm. Put a check mark next ones who perform amazingly well on the firing range.
9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations. This sounds like “Do your job!” I really thought they were already doing this.
10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement. Will this report be updated and read?
11. Nominate an ATF director. I’ve seen “hire” in some recaps of this memo unless it’s changed. But it echoes what people already know – Congress isn’t doing their job.
12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations. No matter how much you practice, you’re never prepared for the element of surprise. I suppose the best outcome is to minimize losses.
13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime. Don’t know what those efforts are/were. What will be the minimum sentencing for gun possession vs. use?
14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence. There are many reports like this circulating. What will the CDC do differently?
15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies. Can we give them an incentive?
16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes. What will they do with the information?
17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities. In what real life scenario does this happen?
18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers. More cops in schools. Nothing new for inner city schools.
￼￼19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education. Drills like in the cold war? Believe it or not, I scope out escape routes in these places.
20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover. That would be helpful instead of burying it in the small type.
21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges. …and work on removing the stigma of getting mental health care. It’s always a positive sign.
22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations. Read: Do your job!
23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health. 23’s going to be a tough nut to crack. Don’t let big pharm take control of this one.
I spent a nice little chunk of the last day of 2012 in the auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building waiting for President Barack Obama to enter the room and make a statement about the budget negotiations. Being in the 11th hour of the fiscal budget battle, this public engagement event had all the feel of a press conference but without the usual suspects of White House correspondents.
Instead, a friendly group of citizens were invited based on stories submitted when the White House new media team asked “what would you do with $2,000” — the $2,000 we will pay in taxes if there is no budget agreement by midnight December 31, 2012. According to Macon Phillips, director of the White House Office for Digital Strategies, our stories were read, scored, and the high scores were sent up the ranks, et voila! there was an invitation email in my inbox. I was honored to be invited and I said as much in my RSVP. I’m old school. When you receive an invitation from the White House, you go. Cancel all appointments.
What did I say to merit this invitation? The truth. $2,000 could purchase upgrades for my business. My home could use some attention. No doubt my healthcare payments will go up in 2013. Utilities. Food prices continue to go up. Everybody’s gotta eat. I could probably use $2,000 extra.
And What did the President say? I don’t think the President would’ve made any statement about the fiscal negotiations unless he had a break through in his pocket which he did, and something to report. I did take notice it was a “gloves off” moment. You can read for yourself here. See it here.
But the 2 hours leading up to President Obama’s statement, before the cameras entered the room, may have been just as important as the official word. It was great to hear about the process and priorities of the Digital Strategy Office and the Office of Public Engagement headed by Jon Carson. The Digital Strategy Office handles the White House email, social media, as well as the website pages on whitehouse.gov that include the “We the People: Your Voice in Government” petition page. Apparently for Macon he saw an opportunity for a connection with the President’s fiercest critics through this site that included a secession petition created after the President’s victory in November — over 150,000, exceeding the required 25,000 for an official response.
It seems one of the goals and lessons of domestic issues communications is the first go-to for the President is the public just as it was in the campaign.
Macon and Jon took time for a Q&A with we the invited people.
A man in a walker asked why “middle class” is the focus of all policy and there is no talk about the poor or what the administraiton is doing for poor people, many of whom were instrumental in his re-election, especially the victory in Florida he pointed out. John Carson took this one mentioning the unemployment benefits in the negotiations as part of the budget’s aid to the poor. Is that all? It’s too bad during moments like these when a citizen is at the cusp of making a valid point and is so moved to make a lengthier statement when perhaps questions could be more enlightening for everyone. “To everything, there is a season” the bible says. As the man continued to talk, I noticed a number of the citizens in the room groaning. This was not a “Power to the P” moment.
Jon Carson shared a statistic — 93% of Americans believe they are part of the middle class. This statistic was part of Carson’s point about the importance of words. And “middle class” resonates with a majority of American citizens. Words matter. I totally get that. But where did the 93% statistic originate? After doing a little online research, the source that comes to the top is House Speaker John Boehner in an interview on Fox Radio in August 2012:
“93% of Americans believe they’re a part of the middle class. That’s why you hear the President talk about the middle class every day, because he’s talking to 93% of the American people.”
Where did the speaker get his numbers? And if he has a reliable source, I’d have to say, the speaker is spot on. Is the riff between the House and the White House as wide as we’ve been made to believe? At the time of his comment, pundits focused more on Boehner’s remarks about the President/candidate never having a “real job.”
Another question came from a woman who said she was angry about the NRA recommendations for teachers to carry concealed weapons into classrooms a week after the Newtown, CT shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. This citizen wanted to start a movement of mothers to push policy prohibiting guns in classrooms and schools. She had a great acronymn — MAGIC (Mothers Against Guns In Classrooms). Something tells me she also came prepared to be heard. Though not on today’s agenda, her message vibed with the room. Jon suggested teaming up, as the public engagement office does, with similar organizations to build a larger coalition. Ths is how public engagement works. Groups get together with groups. Apparently, the White House’s public engagement office does this when policy needs a partner to message with like the Sierra Club (example mentioned).
There were no questions about foreign policy or global issues.
Lunch break was cut short when we were informed the President was on his way to the auditorium. Reminder, there is only “President’s Time” — a special clock. Before the President’s statement, a reporter from the conservative publication “Human Events” asked me and another citizen on the back row how we felt about tax increases. Again, I told the truth. I really don’t know how I truely feel about anything until something is fact and I have the complete information. Was I giving a Buddhist answer? The quote got into the article and a second comment, more general, about no one liking taxes when the economy’s not robust. I then started chatting with the reporter about his years in DC and our common connections. Gave him a postcard for the Makes-Me-Wanna SHOUT! Pie Baking Challenge. Why not.
But there was something about this citizen press conference that has raised the ire in the press class. The Human Events article is titled “Obama’s middle-class show.”
Obama’s handling of the fiscal cliff talks felt pitch perfect up until his Monday event with “middle class” citizens. The rally felt too much like a campaign rally — Obama was repeatedly cheered — and the president himself was in a joking mood that didn’t seem to fit the moment. Will it be overshadow the fact that he got a deal? No. But it was an off-key note from the country’s top communicator.
Gee, I never thought I’d see myself in “” in print. “middle class” Thanks Chris for reducing me and my fellow citizens to the “so called” 93%. After chatting with a few people and looking around the room, I learned that we were mostly from the DC, Maryland, Virginia area (convenient for New Year’s Eve), retirees, self-employed, young professionals, perhaps students, former campaign workers.
Is campaigning a new normal in governing and moving policy in a social media era? Years ago I was in the room with then Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner who shared an interesting observation — no decision by the Supreme Court was made without substantial public interest and movement on the issue.
The fact that the citizen press conference has gotten so much flack, says to me, this may have hit an important nerve — in the spirit of Macon’s petition example — connecting. Have we depended on our information handlers for too long? When we’re in a room together — all classes press included, can we be more than resource material? If this is the way the White House is rolling with press conferences on policy in play, I say “Do it again.” I’ll send something to the inbox.
The NRA’s Friday press conference will go down in history as a text book case of what not to do in a press conference. After days of silence following the Newtown, CT tragic mass shooting, it could only be assumed the NRA was crafting their most brilliant spin ever, making mental health treatment the center of a debate and not gun purchases, or ownership. But the “bad guy, good guy” soundbyte by vice president and chief lobbyist Wayne LaPierre, could only be, as someone brilliantly described, a case of the NRA “shooting themselves in the foot.” And the “magic bullet” solution to set up an armed police in schools only opened LaPierre and the NRA to further ridicule and outrage with examples of how well that set up worked at Columbine in 1999, a heavily armed Fort Hood, and Virginia Tech in 2007 which had/has armed campus police.
The time has come, where this side of the argument no longer has a place at the table. Perhaps there will be a serious conversation about U.S. gun culture and the mental health of the nation. Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine” was part of that conversation and is still relevant. NPR’s Diane Rehm did a great show (Jan. 20) on the struggles of parents with seriously mentally ill children, and this article by Adam Winkler, “The Secret Hstory of Guns,” published in the Atlantic is very interesting and merits more discussion.
It will take more than awareness to move this forward. The President is asking the public to stay engaged. Nearly 200,000 signed an online gun violence petition posted by a citizen on the “We the People” page of the White House’s website.
Sooner or later there’s that final straw that breaks the camel’s back as the old schoolers uesd to say.
As for the final grade on Friday’s press conference, Code Pink earns the “A.”