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Washington Post’s “Balanced” Opinions Page Shows Why Reforms Unlikely in Wake of Giffords Shooting

Tuesday’s Opinions page in the Washington Post is dedicated almost entirely to the tragic shooting in Tucson on Saturday. A screenshot of a portion of the Opinions webpage shows us the lineup of writers and their topics. In addition, one of the three editorials by the Post’s editorial board also addresses the issue and has the title “Gun control: It’s not a political impossibility.”

To summarize, then, we have Eugene Robinson and the editorial board arguing for improved laws to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them, Dana Milbank hitting the violent rhetoric from Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck for their contributions to politically-based violence and threats of violence while George Will, Michael Gerson, Richard Cohen and Marc Thiessen all write columns that are telling America to stop blaming conservatives for the violent political landscape that they have created with their incendiary language and actions. Cohen does touch on the insanity of how easily disturbed people can get guns, but puts much of his energy into chastising anyone who blames the hateful environment created by the right wing.

Eugene Robinson’s column is a powerful argument for improving the background check process to make sure those who shouldn’t have guns don’t get them:

We may not be sure that the bloodbath in Tucson had anything to do with politics, but we know it had everything to do with our nation’s insane refusal to impose reasonable controls on guns.


According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, about 80 percent to 90 percent of disqualifying mental health records are not in the background-check database. Some states simply don’t bother to submit the information; others do so haphazardly. Arizona is neither the best nor the worst on this score.


We must recognize the obvious distinction between rifles, shotguns and target pistols used for sport on the one hand, and semiautomatic handguns designed for killing people on the other. We must decide that allowing anyone to carry a concealed weapon, no questions asked, is just crazy. And for heaven’s sake, we must demand that laws designed to keep guns out of the hands of lunatics be enforced.

The remarkably good editorial jumps in on the gun control topic:

THERE’S A WEARYING pattern associated with gun-related tragedies in this country. An assault, like the shooting Saturday of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) and 19 others, sparks discussion about America’s lax gun laws and the ease with which mentally unstable people can buy weapons of wholesale destruction. Then come rejoinders centering on the political impossibility of common-sense legislation. And then, a lapse back into an indefensible but seemingly inevitable status quo.


The type of magazine used by Mr. Loughner was once banned in the United States. But that brief era of sanity came to an end in 2004, when Congress refused to renew the assault-weapons ban passed in the summer of 1994. Democrats suffered huge defeats in the 1994 midterm elections, and many blamed their support for the gun-control measure, which the National Rifle Association adamantly opposed. Although that election turned on many controversies, including taxes, health-care reform and gays in the military, many Democrats took away a single message: Endorsement of even modest gun-control measures can spell political defeat.


The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a nonprofit organization that advocates for gun control, noted that in the recent midterm elections, 27 Democratic incumbents endorsed by the NRA lost reelection. By contrast, only two of the 101 Democratic representatives who co-sponsored a gun-control bill in the last Congress lost their seats. Support for sensible gun control need not spell the end of a career. If Mr. Obama would lead the way in making the argument, poll numbers on the issue also might begin to shift.

So, as the Post and Robinson point out, a strong case can be made for improving gun control laws and Democrats who could be seen as supporting these improvements fared very well in the most recent Congressional elections. However, an example of one of the biggest reasons gun control efforts in response to this tragedy are likely once again to lapse back into the indefensible status quo is the prominence given to the paid shills who make their livings trying to whitewash the craven ravings of our country’s right wing lunatics in order to present them as a “reasoned” political movement. With an onslaught right there on the same Opinions page of no less than four apologists for the right wing, all wringing their hands and just asking America to leave those who spew violence-laden, hate-filled rhetoric all over our political landscape” alooone”, it’s no wonder that no real progress can be made. [cont’d.]Since Will, Gerson, Cohen and Thiessen all wrote virtually the same column, I’ll only address the one by torture-apologist Marc Thiessen:

Over the weekend, the Tea Party detractors were at it again – this time blaming the movement for the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others. Within hours of the attack, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman had issued his own (admittedly) unfounded verdict: “We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was . . . she’s a Democrat who survived what was otherwise a GOP sweep in Arizona, precisely because the Republicans nominated a Tea Party activist.” So Tea Party activists are prepared to kill those they cannot defeat at the polls?

Yes, Mr. Thiessen, if you really look at the way the right wing fuels America’s gun fetish, there really do appear to be Tea Party-associated groups that only very thinly veil their threats of gun violence if they don’t get their way.

Thiessen then relies on the most disgusting practice in hackery, trying to build a false equivalence in his desperate attempt to shield Sarah Palin from responsibility for her violent rhetoric:

Left-wing bloggers and commentators blamed the attack on Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin because she had “targeted” Giffords for defeat during the 2010 elections. The New York Daily News published a column headlined “Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ blood is on Sarah Palin’s hands after putting cross hair over district.” And an hour after Giffords was shot, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas actually tweeted: “Mission accomplished, Sarah Palin.” He conveniently failed to mention that his Daily Kos had put a “bull’s eye” (their words) on Giffords in 2008 – including her on a list of centrist Democrats who should be “targeted” in Democratic primaries. Mission accomplished, Markos?

I will agree with Thiessen that Moulitsas should not have used targeting terminology. And I will also agree with Thiessen that Moulitsas’ actions were as irresponsible as those of Palin–just as soon as he shows me that Moulitsas also said something as provocative as “Don’t retreat–reload“, that he gets his jollies shooting defenseless animals from a helicopter and that he has provided a videotaped message of support for a lunatic fringe group that advocates violence and secession. The sickness in Washington that would try to paint equivalence between Moulitsas and Palin in terms of provocation to violence is a big reason why our political landscape has become completely devoid of consequences for action. As long as hacks like Thiesssen are out there painting false equivalences between people as diametrically opposite as Markos Moulitsas and Sarah Palin, Palin will be able to get away with fomenting violence and Thiessen’s former associates will never face prosecution for torture.

How on earth does Marc Thiessen sleep at night, given the evils he helps to unleash on the world?

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Jim White

Jim White

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