Alter Compares Obama’s Executive Actions on Gun Control to the Emancipation Proclamation

On the Monday night edition of MSNBC’s All In, longtime liberal columnist Jonathan Alter reacted to President Obama’s executive actions on gun control by comparing it to President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and remarking how heartbreaking it was for Obama to have met with the families of Sandy Hook victims and “see those six-year-olds stacked up like cord wood.”

Host Chris Hayes began the segment with a number of soundbites from the President and Republican presidential candidates opposed to the move before remarking: “While the substantive reason to be concerned about guns seems clear, in a country where in 2015, at least 265 kids under the age of 18 picked up a firearm and accidentally shot themselves or someone else with that firearm, the politics of it seem less clear.”

Once Alter was introduced, he told Hayes that what’s changed since the 1990's on the issue of gun control has been “inside the Democratic Party and there's much more intensity on this issue than there used to be.”

With President Obama at the forefront, Alter gushed that he’s taking his executive actions “out of principle” after “the greatest frustration in seven years” has been the lack of gun control. 

As for his worst day in office, Alter explained (as have others in the liberal media) that it was the day of the tragic school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut which led to “[h]im having to go there, meet those families, see those six-year-olds stacked up like cord wood.”

Alter cited that visit as life-changing for the President and following that, “he was going to do everything that he could” to push gun control through despite not being “very interested in it in his first term.”

He continued by making the strange comparison to then-President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on slavery during the height of the Civil War on January 1, 1863:

After that, he was going to do everything in his power and if people don't like it, his attitude is see you in court and that is — you know, that's one way for a President to act. The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order. Right? 

Citing the now-disgraced Woodrow Wilson (thanks to the far-left university activist crowd), Alter finished his point:

The President is as big a man as he can be, as Woodrow Wilson, not very popular now, used to say, so, you can expand the powers of the office if you feel strongly enough about it and that's what Obama's doing and he's bringing the Democratic Party with him. 

The relevant portions of the transcript from MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes on January 4 can be found below.

MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes
January 4, 2015
8:39 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS HAYES: While the substantive reason to be concerned about guns seems clear, in a country where in 2015, at least 265 kids under the age of 18 picked up a firearm and accidentally shot themselves or someone else with that firearm, the politics of it seem less clear. Joining me now, MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter. Jonathan, it seems to me that the argument that pertained for years, right, particularly after the assault weapons ban, the sort of gun fights in the '90s, was the asymmetry of the intensity here is too much to overcome. The folks that are single-issue gun voters will be alienated by attempts to do this and the folks on the side of gun safety legislation, it doesn't animate them enough. There's not enough of them to sort of make it in the political interest and I've got to say, even if it's substantively the right thing to do, which I think it is, I don't see the political landscape having changed that much. Maybe I'm wrong. What do you think? 

JONATHAN ALTER: So, what's changed is the political landscape inside the Democratic Party and there's much more intensity on this issue than there used to be. 

HAYES: That’s a good point. Right

ALTER: It's being led by the President. He's doing this out of principle. So when I asked people recently in the White House what has been the greatest frustration in seven years, they all say guns. What was the worst day of the Obama presidency? Sandy Hook. Him having to go there, meet those families, see those six-year-olds stacked up like cord wood. This is going to change a person and change Barack Obama and he decided that after that, he was going to do everything that he could. He hadn't been very interested in it in his first term, but after that, he was going to do everything in his power and if people don't like it, his attitude is see you in court and that is — you know, that's one way for a President to act. The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order. Right? The President is as big a man as he can be, as Woodrow Wilson, not very popular now, used to say, so, you can expand the powers of the office if you feel strongly enough about it and that's what Obama's doing and he's bringing the Democratic Party with him. 

HAYES: And my understanding of having sort of talked to some folks that know this in the legal terrain pretty well that this stuff is — it's fairly clearly within the kind of portfolio of what he can do. The other question to me, it's interesting you make that point, right? Because this is, in some ways, a political play. Like there isn't much political up side. This is really a play for from principle, right? 

ALTER: Right. From his perspective. I think for Sanders and Clinton, it's about competing for Democratic primary voters and remember, Hillary Clinton went to Sanders' left on guns and she started going after him for not — for voting against the right to sue gun manufacturers. He's responded by kind of backing and filling and saying no, he really is a strong supporter of gun safety legislation. All of that talk will end after the convention because the Democrats aren't going to want to do anything to jeopardize, say, Pennsylvania, which is a very pro-gun state, so you're going to hear a lot of talk about this in the Democratic Party right up until the primaries end and then it will be interesting to see if the next president, if it's a Democrat, feels as strongly about this as Barack Obama.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center