Chris Stirewalt at Fox News
One of the reasons that business is so good for false prophets in politics these days is that it works so well – at least when it comes to raising money and winning elections.
And when your prophecies don’t come to pass, the way out is simple. You just point at the unicorn barn. That’s where the other guys – the bad guys who are too scared, too stupid or too corrupt – keep the solutions locked away.
Republicans won’t agree to an unconditional increase to the debt limit? Mint a $1 trillion coin, Mr. President. Supreme Court rules against conservatives on same-sex marriage? Simple: Just ignore the court.
Any criticism of the plans can be brushed away by calling for another unicorn release (FYI: they eat mostly Frankenberry and pepperoni pizza Combos): “winning the messaging war” or similar claptrap that imagines an unpopular point of view will garner more support in the midst of a vicious public struggle. Or that shame somehow still exists in American civic life.
None of this is to say that politicians don’t sometimes fail because they are scared (often), stupid (sigh) or corrupt (occasionally). Stipulated. But the unicorn wranglers are the ones who exploit the failing system by making impossible promises.
Last week, President Obama rustled up a whole herd of unicorns on the issue of gun control. To listen to the president, one would have assumed that there was a piece of legislation or a serious proposal under consideration that would have prevented the most recent campus killings.
In this version, Republicans are too scared, stupid and corrupt to allow this “common sense” legislation to advance. But that’s not the case. In recent years, Democrats have focused mostly on closing loopholes in federal background checks – especially on private sales.
But in none of the recent mass shootings that spur these occasional surges in media interest in gun control has the so-called “gun-show loophole” been a factor. There were lapses in the application of existing laws and failures to report obvious mental illnesses, certainly, but not one used a private sale to circumvent the law.
We had a similarly disjointed conversation after the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn. Then, the focus was on banning certain weapons, and reinstating the lapsed “assault weapons” ban. But that turned out to be false prophecy, too. So themovement moved back to the background check argument.
The president knows about these disconnections. But, he argued Thursday, it is appropriate to politicize the moments that refocus public attention on the issue of gun laws. Well, maybe.
It’s certainly fine to use a searing incident to advance legislation to prevent its recurrence. But it’s neither wise nor appropriate to exploit a tragedy for achieving a substantially unrelated goal.
There’s no way to know how many or how few of the more than 11,000 homicides committed with firearms in 2013 (the most recent data available) were facilitated by a private sale. If you want to close the loophole, then find the victims of it and make martyrs of them. But don’t placate your political base and stoke contributors on the grounds that you have a solution. And certainly don’t do so with the deaths of citizens as props.
But who wants to tell voters a sad story about complicated public safety in a world where pistols outnumber functional families, of unraveled communities and the pharmacological palliatives pasted on top of them? Calling to regulate the firearms industry more sure sounds better.
There is one plan that might arguably prevent mass shootings. The president made passing reference to something in the vein when he mentioned that Australia had changed its laws in response to a mass shooting there. What he was referring to was a 1996 law that enacted a sweeping ban on many firearms, including existing ones, and set rigid requirements for gun licenses.
A ban and mass confiscations might work (or it might not) but at least it is on topic. But is the president really ready to lead the fight for a constitutional amendment to allow such a thing? Or wreck the remainder of his presidency in a legal fight over the Second Amendment he would surely lose?
Most likely, Obama will blame the bad guys in the other side and then fill the feedbags with Frankenberry. On to the next fundraiser, guys.
And now we know what Hillary Clinton is going to do, too. Giddyup.