Obama laments no "silver bullets" to fire

President Barack Obama delivers a keynote address at the Waterfront Hall ahead of the G8 Summit on June 17, 2013 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Paul Faith - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON There's never a "silver bullet" around when you need one. It's an increasingly frequent lament at the highest levels of government.

"Trade is critical but it is not alone a silver bullet," President Obama lamented this week at the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland.

Last month at the White House, he was discussing the problem of sexual assault in the military.

"There is no silver bullet to solving this problem," he said.

Even when it comes to preventing gun violence, Vice President Joe Biden told video game manufacturers that there's "no silver bullet."

In long ago stories of werewolves, we were told it took a "silver bullet" to do them in.

The Brothers Grimm wrote that it took a silver bullet to kill an otherwise bullet-proof witch.

The Lone Ranger used silver bullets to add luster to his fight for justice in the Old West.

Now, the absence of "silver bullets" is a frequently offered excuse for why a national problem cannot be solved quickly. It's now part of political and presidential parlance, referring to a quick and easy remedy to a problem that otherwise defies solution.

On the campaign trail last year, Mr. Obama spoke of his proposals to boost the economy while quickly admitting "it's not a silver bullet."

He used the same phrase to explain why he couldn't quickly bring down rising gasoline prices.

"There are no quick fixes or silver bullets. If somebody tells you there are, they're not telling you the truth," he told an audience in New Hampshire in March of 2012.

He would give that answer again and again.

At the G20 Summit in Mexico in 2012, leaders discussed methods of addressing global economic difficulties. And there too, Mr. Obama conceded "none of them are going to be a silver bullet that solves this thing entirely over the next week or two weeks or two months."

In 2011, he said even his own proposal to create jobs and bring down unemployment was not "a silver bullet that will solve all our problems," though he said it would put more people back to work.

"No single step is the silver bullet that will reverse the damage done by the bubble-and-bust cycles that cause our economy into this slide," said Mr. Obama in 2010.

"There's no silver bullet, there's no quick fix to these problems," he told a Labor Day rally in his second year in office.

Mr. Obama has lamented the lack of silver bullets in other areas of government concern.

"I don't think anybody has a silver bullet when it comes to health care,"he said in 2009 in announcing his intention to nominate Kathleen Sebelius to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.

At a news conference with Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mr. Obama said "there are no silver bullets to solve all of our energy problems."

The lack of silver bullets is nothing new. In the 1990s, then-President Clinton was telling Americans there were "no simple answers or silver bullets" to the economic problems of that decade.

"Is there a silver bullet that will solve it overnight? No," said Mr. Clinton in 1993 in talking about the nation's crime problem.

"We have to have the courage and the fortitude and the constancy to take on a whole lot of issues and not expect a silver bullet or an easy answer," said Mr. Clinton in a 1993 interview about economic growth and consumer confidence.

A search of Mr. Obama's speeches since he took office showed 43 references to "silver bullets."

So one place you can't say there are no silver bullets, is in his speeches.

  • Mark Knoller On Twitter»

    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.

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