Just seven weeks after a massacre at an American elementary school, the White House released a photo of the president firing a gun. Strangely, no one seems to think this is in atrocious taste. We imagine the reaction would be quite different if it were, say, George W. Bush.
But a lot of people, including this columnist, doubt that the photo depicts what it purports to show. The White House distributed the pic in response to widespread skepticism of President Obama’s assertion, in an interview with a liberal editor and a former campaign coordinator, that “up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time.” The man who infamously said that rural Pennsylvanians and Midwesterners “cling to guns” had never before publicly indicated any interest in shooting sports.
The photo, purportedly shot last Aug. 4 (which happens to be the president’s birthday), shows Obama holding a shotgun. The barrel is smoking, indicating that the gun has just been fired. What’s odd about it is that the president is aiming straight ahead, as if he were firing a rifle at a stationary target.
But in skeet shooting, the target, a disk known as a clay pigeon, is moving. It is launched from one of two “houses” and travels in a parabolic trajectory across the field. In order to hit it, one has to move the gun so as to follow the path of the clay. It’s not impossible that one would fire at shoulder level, as Obama is doing in the photo, but it’s unlikely. We therefore surmise that the picture is the product of a photo shoot, not a skeet shoot.