Obama Prepares to Speak Again in Wake of Violence

NYT FDMichael D. Shear 6/25/2015

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Good Thursday morning from Washington, where President Obama has a long-sought trade deal waiting to be signed and to where Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has officially declared that he wants to move. But Mr. Obama’s focus now is on a landmark church in Charleston, S.C., and on the eulogy he has to give on Friday for a friend who was shot and killed there along with eight others.

On Friday, Mr. Obama will once again serve as consoler-in-chief after an unthinkable act — this time the killing of nine African-Americans during a Bible study at a South Carolina church.

Mr. Obama has repeatedly been called upon to channel anger and sadness after tragedy. He did it in Arizona, when a gunman shot a member of Congress and many others at a shopping center. He did it in Connecticut after 20 elementary school students and seven adults were killed in Newtown. And he did it after three people were killed in the Boston Marathon bombings.

But even as the president and his speechwriter were in “the early stages” of writing the eulogy for the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, aides said it was unclear whether he would also use the opportunity to again address new calls for gun control and the debate about the Confederate battle flag.

“The focal point of the president’s remarks will be to pay tribute to Reverend Pinckney and the eight others whose lives were lost in that terrible attack,” said Josh Earnest, the president’s press secretary.

That leaves open the possibility that Mr. Obama will once again lament the lack of stronger gun measures, though he has made it clear he believes that Congress is unlikely to agree unless public pressure shifts drastically.

And while the Confederate flag is in the political spotlight, Mr. Obama may view the funeral as an inappropriate moment to weigh in on a divisive social issue.

Still, Mr. Obama has surprised in the past. His remarks at the memorial service for the children in Newtown were billed by aides as springing merely from an emotional moment. Instead, he issued a demand for Congress to enact sweeping gun laws.