Of course, we should not assume that Obama’s efforts on gun control are doomed; he may be able to broker some limited compromise with Congressional Republicans on a few points of agreement. But reporters should beware of reinforcing Green Lantern-style myths, particularly if the president retreats in the face of Congressional gridlock. Such a failure would likely be attributed by many critics to a lack of will or effort, but journalists should help citizens understand that policy change requires a lot more than presidential leadership.

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Brendan Nyhan is an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College. He blogs at brendan-nyhan.com and tweets @BrendanNyhan.