How Will Washington Respond To Tragedy? (The Note)

By AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter ), Elizabeth Hartfield ( @lizhartfield ) and Chris Good ( @c_good )

  • OBAMA'S CALLS FOR ACTION IN NEWTOWN. In Newtown, Connecticut on Sunday Obama offered consolation and a call for action, ABC's George Stephanopoulos reported on Good Morning America. Obama, stricken and stern, promised to make America safer for our children. "Are we really prepared to say that we are powerless in the face of such carnage?" he asked. ABC's Jake Tapper notes, the president was not specific about what he thought would be necessary and did not even use the word "gun" in his remarks, but his speech was widely perceived as prelude to a call for more regulations and restrictions on the availability of firearms.
  • GUN CONTROL DEBATE TAKES FRONT AND CENTER ON SUNDAY SHOWS. The cries for stricter gun control began to emerge on Friday, and on Sunday they were heard across the Sunday shows. On ABC's "This Week" Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal told George Stephanopoulos that something must be done about high-capacity assault weapons. "We need to do something, at the very least, perhaps, about the high-capacity magazines that were used in this crime," Blumenthal said. Sen. Joe Lieberman on "Fox News Sunday," who retires at the end of this year, called for Democrats, Republicans and Independents to come together on the issue. "It's time for Democrats, Republicans and independents to say … the strongest conceivable gun control laws won't stop all acts of violence. But, also, to acknowledge that the stronger our gun control laws are, the fewer acts of violence including mass violence that will happen in our society." On "Meet the Press" California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she intends to introduce an assault weapons ban on the first day of the next Congress. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also appearing on Meet the Press, challenged the political power of the NRA, which, ABC's Josh Haskell's notes, has been notably silent since Friday's tragedy and has taken down its facebook page. "The NRA's number one objective this time was to defeat Barack Obama for a second term. Last time I checked the election results, he won and he won comfortably," Bloomberg said. "This myth that the NRA can destroy political careers is just not true."
  • NOTED: "THE SEARCH FOR SOLUTIONS." From gun control and assault rifles to mental illness and school safety, ABC News will explore the questions on people's minds and search for solutions in the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut with a dedicated week of special programming. Beginning Monday and airing each day this week, the resources of ABC News will provide viewers with important and powerful in-depth reporting and town halls covering all aspects of the tragedy. Additionally, "Nightline" will feature specials editions each night this week.
  • NIKKI HALEY TO ANNOUNCE DEMINT SUCCESSOR TODAY. The AP's Seanna Adcox reports, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is announcing a replacement for U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint. Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey says Haley will make the announcement at noon Monday at the Statehouse.
  • BOEHNER GIVES ON SOME HIGHER RATES IN EXCHANGE FOR ENTITLEMENT CUTS IN CLIFF TALKS. ABC's Jake Tapper reports, sources familiar with negotiations say that in a phone call on Friday afternoon House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, offered President Obama a deal including letting tax rates expire for those who make over $1 million a year, contingent upon significant entitlement cuts and spending reforms…Essentially Boehner offered $1 trillion in revenue over ten years, and somewhere between $1 trillion and $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. The sources report that President Obama didn't reject the offer per se though he expressed serious concerns about some aspects of the proposal.


The events in Newtown, which have shattered the hearts of a nation and cast a pall over what is normally "the most wonderful time of the year," have upended the political calendar as well.

Suddenly, the "drama" of falling off the fiscal cliff looks less scary. The wrangling over tax rates and cuts seems petty. The stakes seem so small compared to the bigger questions surrounding this tragedy and the others that have come before it: why does this keep happening and why can't we as a country seem to do anything to stop it?

Perhaps, however, these awful events will help spur the two sides to take action on avoiding the cliff.

After a week where the two sides looked as intractable as ever, weekend discussions suggest compromise and action. (

It remains to be seen, however, if the spirit of compromise will find its way into the more difficult discussions ahead on hot button issues like gun control, mental health services and the pervasiveness of violent games and media.

Will the impetus to tackle these fade as we move through the calendar? Or will this event be the tragedy that finally dictates serious action?

One thing is sure. If the murder of 20 children does not spur the country to action - nothing will.


GOV. MALLOY: U.S. NEEDS A NEW APPROACH TO MENTAL HEALTH. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy appeared on "This Week," telling ABC's George Stephanopoulos that the U.S. needs a "very different approach" to mental health: "We also do put a great deal of credence and importance, I should say, on mental health. I think our country needs to step it up quite a bit in that regard. We need to reach out to families that are in crisis. And it appears that there was a crisis in this family. They need to know that there are resources there. But having said all of that, this family had the - had the resources personally to - to handle the situation, by all appearances. But, you know, these are - these are difficult issues. I think our nation needs to take a very different approach to mental health, and we need to speak about it more honestly, just as we need to do other things." WATCH:

CHAFFETZ: GUN DEBATE SHOULD FOCUS ON MENTAL HEALTH. Appearing on ABC's "This Week" roundtable, Utah GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz called for a focus on mental health in gun control. "there are prohibitions on lots of - gun rules are - are very stringent. … I want to look at anything that we think will solve all the problems, but we have to, I think, look at the mental health aspect," Chaffetz said. "I'm a conceal carry permit-holder. I own a Glock 23. I've got a shotgun. I'm not the person you need to worry about. And there are millions of Americans who deal with this properly. It's our Second Amendment right to do so. But we have to look at the mental health access that these people have." WATCH:


ABC'S RICK KLEIN: "We must change," President Obama declared last night. It's clear from his tone, mien, and emotion that the president already has. His larger task will be bringing the nation - starting with its Congress, perhaps - along with him. The fact that an address that did not include the word "gun" was taken by so many as an assault on the Second Amendment tells you much of what you need to know about the gun-control stalemate in this country: The two sides don't speak the same language. Actually, there haven't even been two effective "sides" for two decades, since the last time any major gun law could emerge out of Washington. That may be the political impact of Sandy Hook, long before we talk about signing ceremonies and the like: It will be possible, maybe imperative, to have a national debate about guns again.


ADAM LANZA AND HIS MOTHER VISITED GUN RANGE. ABC's Jack Date and Pierre Thomas report: ABC News has learned that both the shooter and his mother spent time at an area gun range. An ATF spokesperson tells ABC News investigators have determined Adam Lanza did visit a gun range, but they have not determined whether he shot there. Investigators have also learned the mother visited a gun range on multiple occasions, but they have not determined if the son was with her during those visits, the spokesperson said.

POLITICAL PUNCH: THE OBAMA-NETANYAHU RELATIONSHIP. In the latest installment of "Political Punch," ABC's Jake Tapper gets the inside story of President Obama's relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren. "I'll tell you that the relationship is friendly, is frank, sometimes it's funny," says Oren. "That doesn't mean we've agreed on everything."

NRA SILENT AFTER NEWTOWN SHOOTING. ABC's Josh Haskell reports: Groups and lawmakers in favor of stricter gun laws haven't wasted any time speaking out following the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., but the pro-gun National Rifle Association has been silent. The NRA, which frequently communicates through social media, hasn't tweeted since before the shooting and its Facebook page has been taken down, a day after the group boasted of reaching 1.7 million "likes." On Thursday, a tweet went out from the NRA's official account saying: "@NRA "Did you hear? Our #facebook page reached 1.7 million "likes" today! Thanks for being a friend!"

PHOTO: OBAMA HOLDS GRANDDAUGHTER OF SANDY HOOK PRINCIPAL. ABC's Jake Tapper reports that the photo has surfaced on Twitter, apparently from President Obama's private meetings with Sandy Hook families. From the Twitter feed of Cristina Hassinger, daughter of Principal Dawn Hochsprung:

HILLARY CLINTON FAINTS, SUFFERS CONCUSSION. ABC's Dana Hughes reported Saturday: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suffered a concussion earlier this week after she hit her head when she fainted because of dehydration from a stomach virus, a Clinton aide said today in a statement. "She has been recovering at home and will continue to be monitored regularly by her doctors," Deputy Assistant Secretary Philippe Reines said. "At their recommendation, she will continue to work from home next week, staying in regular contact with Department and other officials. She is looking forward to being back in the office soon." No ambulance was called and she was not hospitalized, according to a state department official. Clinton was supposed to travel to North Africa last week and then to the United Arab Emirates at the beginning of the week, but cancelled her trip due to illness.

KERRY TO BE NOMINATED AS SECRETARY OF STATE. ABC's Jake Tapper reported Saturday night: Sources tell ABC News that President Obama has decided that he will nominate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to be secretary of State. For a variety of reasons including the finalization of the process, other pending Cabinet decisions, and-more immediately-the national reaction to the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the news will not be announced in the next few days.

WASHINGTON QUIET ON GUN CONTROL. Politico's Jonathan Allen writes: "Friday's rampage in Newtown, Conn., doesn't appear to have moved many lawmakers any closer to writing new gun laws. Instead, only the fiercest gun-control advocates in the House and Senate are urging change-many looking to President Barack Obama to build public support for new laws so that it becomes more politically risky for Republicans and pro-gun Democrats to stand in their way. … there's little reason for congressional gun-control advocates to believe this tragedy will spark a rush to legislate. When Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House from January 2009 to January 2011, they didn't reauthorize the assault weapons ban or put any other gun laws on the books. Party leaders have been afraid of a potential political backlash against culturally conservative swing-state Democrats, some of whom want to keep the National Rifle Association in their camp - or at least on the sidelines."

DEMS DIVIDED OVER FISCAL CLIFF? The L.A. Times' Christi Parsons, Michael A. Memoli and Kathleen Hennessey report: "The Democratic fault lines were apparent last week. More than 80 Democrats signed a letter to Obama urging him not to agree to a deal that would raise the eligibility age for Medicare. Obama had moved in that direction last year in a failed attempt to craft a "grand bargain" with Boehner, considering an increase phased in over time. 'It will do great harm to our economy and millions of seniors to raise the Medicare eligibility age or enact other significant cost-shifting alternatives,' the lawmakers wrote. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) was blunt. 'Don't even think about raising the Medicare age,' she said at a news conference Thursday, a day after an opinion piece she wrote appeared in USA Today. Pelosi left little wiggle room for the president, writing that raising the eligibility age 'betrays the bedrock promise of Medicare.'"

MICHIGAN LAW SHOWS GOP SWAY IN STATES. The New York Times' Nicholas Confessore and Monica Davey report: "The lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder, who is also a Republican, rapidly approved the legislation and delivered a body blow to the labor movement. Yet much of the groundwork for the quick victory was laid months and years before by a loose network of donors, strategists and conservative political groups that has sought to win Republican control of legislatures around the country and limit unions' political power. Their bet: that money invested in local elections would yield concrete policy victories that could not be had in Washington. Where the big-spending conservative groups active in this year's presidential race had little to show for their millions of dollars, the state efforts were strikingly successful."


FLACKS FOR FLACKS. Tonight marks the second annual Flacks for Flacks Who Wear Flak Jackets- a fundraiser supporting military PAOs serving abroad. The event takes place tonight at Bullfeathers on Capitol Hill from 6-8 pm. A $25 donation gets you in the door, and helps send gifts and supplies overseas.


@Sen_JoeManchin: This awful massacre has changed where we go from here. Our conversation should move beyond dialogue.

@feliciasonmez: Same Joe Manchin who took aim (literally) at cap-and-trade bill in '10 Senate TV ad: ?

@postpolitics: ?#FactChecker: Do concealed-weapon laws result in less crime? ?

@ChadPergram: Both House & Senate back today. Out since Thursday. Senate begins debate on $ 60.4 billion emergency bill for Hurricans ?#Sandy

@thehill: Dukakis seen as possible Senate replacement if Kerry nominated for secretary of State ? by ?@alexanderbolton