The president’s speech in Arizona

Something else I hadn’t been keeping up with the last few days… I was still out of the country when the Arizona shootings happened, and the couple of days I was stuck at home because of the snow, my newspapers either didn’t come or came after I had quit looking for them.

But I know that others among you were paying rapt attention. I know Samuel Tenenbaum was. I saw him at breakfast this morning, and asked him how he did. Well, he said, he had been in mourning Saturday night, but after the president’s speech last night, he felt a lot better. (When I wondered why the shootings — once I realized that was what he was talking about — affected him so deeply, he explained that he knew “Gabby” Giffords. He said he met her at one of the Laders’ Renaissance Weekends, and that she and Inez had been on a panel together.)

Since that encounter, a couple of other folks have mentioned how awesome the president’s speech was last night. So now, as I type this, I’m listening to it. I’m going to pause now and listen to the rest of it… In the meantime, y’all can start leaving comments…

… the part I’m listening to right now, when he’s just finished his well-researched eulogy for the dead and is applauding the heroes of the day, demonstrates a superb job of connecting emotionally with his audience, with the nation. That’s impressive, and appropriate. But here’s the bit I’m waiting for:

The president directly confronted the political debate that erupted after the rampage, urging people of all beliefs not to use the tragedy to turn on one another. He did not cast blame on Republicans or Democrats, but asked people to “sharpen our instincts for empathy.”

It was one of the more powerful addresses that Mr. Obama has delivered as president, harnessing the emotion generated by the shock and loss from Saturday’s shootings to urge Americans “to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully” and to “remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

“At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do,” he said, “it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”…

That, of course, is a topic near and deal to me, and few speak more eloquently about the need for civility than Barack Obama. (It’s one of the reasons we enthusiastically endorsed him in the primary in 2008.)

I’m listening to that part now… as I hear it, I’m a bit lost because I missed the back-and-forth of the last few days that prompted the president to feel like he had to urge us not to claw at each other over this. But I’ve caught snatches of it, and I can extrapolate the rest. I know how the 24/7 spin cycle, and the parties, and Twitter, and all of that work. So without fully knowing the background, I fully appreciate the message…

I particularly like his urging the nation “to rise above ugly political debates and see civic life ‘through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol” of adults,” and his exhortation that any debate engendered by this horror be worthy of the victims. Of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, he said:

“I want us to live up to her expectations… I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it.”

He urged us to make sure “that our nation lives up to our children’s expectations.” Amen to that, Mr. President. Amen to that.

56 thoughts on “The president’s speech in Arizona

  1. Norm Ivey

    It’s the type of speech I’ve been waiting to hear for a while now.

    President Obama has an amazing gift of oratory. He should have been using it for the last 2 years to heal some rifts in this nation. He could have done a better job of selling some of his initiatives. When you consider the issues facing the country today, it’s clear we need not just a smart guy trying to do the right thing, but an inspirational leader. Obama could so easily be both.

  2. bud

    Oddly I only watched the speech by happenstance and was not expecting anything really exceptional. My wife and I were watching some re-run of a sitcom and it was interupted by the memorial. I was mildly annoyed at first but it seemed appropriated just to go with it and see how the president handled the situation. The atmosphere of the event seemed more like a political rally than a memorial yet I didn’t find it disrespectful. (I have heard others suggest that in some way it was disrespectful but I didn’t feel that way). The events were both poignant and uplifting. I was in tears by the end but in some way was a better person for hearing the president’s remarks. We should honor the dead by trying to work together rather than beating up on each other in a partisan manner. For now I’ll leave aside my own political take on the events of the last week.

  3. Libb

    He nailed it. I’d rate this one his second best (#1 is still the campaign speech on race). Good job, Mr. President.

    I am also impressed w/ the poignant letter(it’s on Huff Post) the First Lady has written to parents about this tragedy.

  4. Doug Ross

    Let’s make sure we’re clear on one thing. The psychopath who committed this act had no relationship to any political party.

    His classmates who knew him said he didn’t care about the news or politics. He was a mentally disturbed kid who went off the deep end without any other influence. His specific beef with Giffords was related to one incident he had with her where he asked her a very bizarre question about language and words and didn’t get the response he wanted.

    So everyone can call for more civil political discourse, but to use this tragedy as some sort of result of all that nonsense is completely wrong. The killings had nothing to do with the political talk.

  5. Doug Ross

    From the Arizona Republic:

    “A picture of Loughner gleaned from interviews with more than two dozen friends, classmates, teachers and neighbors, as well as from his own writing in online forums, shows no evidence that politics or government were among his defining or enduring obsessions. Rather, his deepest, most disturbing questions were about the very nature of reality: He appeared to have lost any clear sense of the line between real life and dreams or fantasy.”

    Read more:

    But that won’t stop politicians and pundits on either side of the issue to use this tragedy as a fundraising and campaigning device.

    If Giffords hadn’t been a Congresswoman, none of the post tragedy rhetoric would exist.

    “What Montanaro calls Loughner’s “mental downfall” seemed to start after his breakup with the girlfriend, who did not respond to a request for an interview. Until that relationship blossomed, Loughner “actually had many friends,” Montanaro said.

    “Jared really became an outcast,” he said. “We allowed him around us for a while, but he started acting nutty. His friends changed from people like us to more drug-oriented people.”

    Maybe Obama should call for more civil discourse between teenage boys and girls. That might have prevented this tragedy.

  6. Doug Ross

    CBS said its nationwide telephone poll found that, “57 percent of respondents said the harsh political tone had nothing to do with the shooting, compared to 32 percent who felt it did.”

    And the 32% who felt it did have no clue about the facts related to the shooter.

  7. Brad

    Actually, Doug, I thought the president was reacting more to the rhetoric AFTER the shooting, rather than saying the lack of civil discourse led to the shooting.

    But then, I was typing while listening, and maybe I missed something…

  8. bud

    I don’t believe any particular political philosophy or party bears any responsibility for the Tucson shootings. However, I do believe that our national culture of violence played a secondary roll. These crazies like Loughner seem to thrive in the atmosphere of violence that perpetuates our country. All this talk of second amendment solutions, war against non-threatening nations, the widespread use and publicity of the death penalty all serve as a sort of inspiration for these people. No single individual or party can or should be held accountable yet the GOP and especially the Tea Party wing of the GOP along, the NRA and even Hollywood continue to help foster this environment of violence. Tragically as long as we continue to waller in this culture of violence we will continue to have more stories like Tucson, Oklahoma City and Virginia Tech. Other developed nations have far fewer incidents like this. It’s pretty clear the reason.

  9. Abba

    I thought the President’s speech was spot on, in words and tone. The cheering in the crowd jarred me, but the event was held in a basketball arena on a college campus, after all, not a church, and was coordinated by the University. The crowd cheered the Republican governor as much as they did the President, so I didn’t think it was partisan so much as perhaps a release of tension in Tucson. Certainly, to criticize the President for the cheering, as some have done, is off base.

    @Doug – “If Giffords hadn’t been a Congresswoman, none of the post tragedy rhetoric would exist.” Actually, if Giffords hadn’t been a Congresswoman, she probably would not have been targeted and shot by this person. Doesn’t that suggest something? There may be no connection between the heated political rhetoric recently and the shooting, but there might be. Let me be clear – I’m not saying there was a connection. But before we make any judgments on that, shouldn’t we wait until we know more – at least until we actually hear from the shooter – rather than rely on a few reports of folks who say they knew him at some point in the past?

    Instead of being so defensive when the topic of heated rhetoric is mentioned, why don’t those who feel they are being accused of something (presumably because they have engaged in heated rhetoric?) simply try to adjust their tone? I’m not suggesting that we should infringe on anyone’s right of free speech, but what has happened to simple courtesy in the public square? Why can’t folks express themselves without the stridency and plain rudeness we’ve heard so much of recently? It’s a puzzlement to me.

  10. Doug Ross


    The news reports have already shown that she was a target because Loughner asked her a bizarre question some time ago and didn’t like her answer.

    There isn’t a single piece of evidence that political rhetoric had anything to do with his actions. None. If there was even a hint of a connection, the anti-Republican and anti-Tea Party folks would be beating it to death. There is none. He was a lunatic who should have been in an institution.

    Everyone has their own definition of “heated rhetoric” anyway. Personally, I found Vincent Sheheen’s campaign against Haley to be one of the most negative I’ve experienced. Brad wrote tens of thousands of words over a six month period to let us know just how awful Haley was. What did that add to the discourse?

    Words are words. Violence is violence. Sane adults can separate the two.

  11. Steve Gordy

    Doug, it isn’t the sane adults I’m worried about. What I AM worried about is our inability to find any consistent, workable approach to keeping police-grade firepower out of the hands of loonies, of whom Loughner was most assuredly one,.

  12. Scout


    It’s been one week. What we in the public know second hand and filtered through the media is most likely hardly conclusive. It will probably be years before the full picture of what happened here is understood, if ever. Whether or not political rhetoric played any role, subtle or overt, can hardly be ascertained at this point. That doesn’t mean that I personally can’t conclude that less political rhetoric would be better. If the ad with the crosshairs over political figures had never aired, and this had happened, then there could be no suspicion that it played any role. But it did air, and we don’t know. If people are willing to engage in that kind of rhetoric, then they need to be able to deal with the consequences that suspicion will fall on them when something like this happens no matter what the cause. They could have taken the high road and avoided the problem.

  13. Brad

    Folks, aren’t we getting off on a tangent? I thought what the president did was urge us not to use this as another excuse for political trash talk. This speculating that the shooting was a RESULT of such talk (and I’ve seen no such indication) seems to be a complete change of subject. That’s not what we were talking about here. At least, it’s not what I was talking about…

  14. Doug Ross


    Just like with 9/11, there will be a brief Kumbaya period with all the politicians wearing flag pins on their lapels. Then as the elections approach, it will be back to the same old business.

    There is too much money and power at stake to change them.

    There are only two ways to reduce the nastiness:

    1) Remove as much money from the government as possible so the greed factor is reduced

    2) Implement term limits that prevent politicians from having power for decades and using that power for their own purpose.

    Nothing else will make a bit of difference. The only reason today’s rhetoric seems worse compared to previous times is because of all the channels available now to distribute it.
    The number of people who actually pay attention to the propaganda flowing from either side is probably no different than it was 50 years ago.

    More people watch American Idol than watch Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, Maddow, Matthews, and Olbermann and listen to Rush Limbaugh COMBINED.

    Don’t like the rhetoric, turn off the TV.

  15. Scout

    I apologize for being taken in by the tangent. I am historically
    extremely susceptible to tangents.

    I did very much appreciate the tone and points made by the president in his speech. I usually do appreciate his points and am often shocked by the negative reactions of others in the past to other things he’s said… but this time seems like more people from all sides heard his intended message. I hope so.

  16. Brad

    “Don’t like the rhetoric, turn off the TV.”

    I suppose that’s fine for the apathetic folks who don’t care about the country — or about their state, or their community. But people who DO care, who are engaged citizens, can’t possibly avoid being spewed upon by all the bile.

    Of course, I don’t watch TV anyway — certainly not the kind of TV you mention (either American Idol or Beck, Hannity, et al.). But I certainly can’t avoid the incivility. TV is far from being the only source of it. All I can do, as one who does care about the country, is speak out against the trash talk, which I do. And I appreciate it when the president joins in.

  17. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    –but Doug–I don’t watch the Faux News haters–I don’t watch anything–not Bill Maher, MSNBC–none of it, unless it gets brought to my attention through some print/online source (as in particularly apt Colbert or Stewart commentaries–and they are not haters by any reasonable stretch of the imagination). It’s that I have to share a country with plenty of people who do watch as much of that as they can, and who are swayed by it…and some of them are armed and a lot of them vote.

    I do not advocate censorship, but c’mon, people: use some discretion!

  18. bud

    1) Remove as much money from the government as possible so the greed factor is reduced

    If money is a problem with government why wouldn’t it also be a problem with capitalism? I find the huge salaries of CEOs in the healthcare industry, financial sector and other “too big to fail” industries a gigantic source of problems in this country. We need to raise the taxes on the super wealthy to help bring down the deficit. That would solver 2 problems. By reducing the greed factor in business everyone would benefit, even the super wealthy in the long run by creating a more vibrant economy. If it’s good for the goose it’s good for the gander.

  19. Scout

    Doug says, “The only reason today’s rhetoric seems worse compared to previous times is because of all the channels available now to distribute it.
    The number of people who actually pay attention to the propaganda flowing from either side is probably no different than it was 50 years ago.

    More people watch American Idol than watch Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, Maddow, Matthews, and Olbermann and listen to Rush Limbaugh COMBINED.

    Don’t like the rhetoric, turn off the TV.”

    Where exactly do you get your numbers? In the brief googling I did Limbaugh and Hannity combined come close to the American Idol figures, without even considering the others.

    Don’t you see that all those channels that distribute the rhetoric amplify the effect, which is why I doubt that it is the same as 50 years ago. Especially when the people receiving the widely distributed one-sided rhetoric don’t have the discipline to find out the full story themselves and the news channels don’t give them all the information.

    If these ill-informed people are voters and are not turning off their TVs, how does it help the big picture if I turn off my TV. I might decrease my own level of personal annoyance if I disengage and put my head in the sand, but that doesn’t change the effect the rhetoric has on the voters who do listen, and who do affect my world, whether or not I want to acknowledge it.

    I think the answer is to stay engaged, to be open minded, to stay informed in a balanced way, and to discuss it in a civil manner.

    My personal problem is in real life I’m a wuss and involuntarily avoid confrontation which tends to mean I don’t end up discussing politics with people I think disagree with me.

    But I’m working on it.

  20. Doug Ross


    The overlap of talk radio listeners who listen to both Limbaugh and Hannity and watch the Fox shows is very high. You can’t just add the numbers. The demographic is basically white males over 50.

    It is very simple for the majority of Americans to ignore the rhetoric and most of them do.

    As for the historical levels of rhetoric, maybe you should google things like Watergate, the civil war, Kent State, the New Deal and see if there was any general feeling of national discord at that time.

  21. Brad

    It is simply not true that “it is very simple… to ignore the rhetoric.” Unless, as I said, you get fed up and decide to become apathetic, which as I’ve said, is inexcusable. As MLK said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

    As for the historic levels… there is no question that for those of use who grew up in the postwar era, the political polarization that leads to demonization of those who disagree has markedly stepped up over the last few decades. Can you find rhetoric as polarized or even more so in other eras? Yep. The stuff that newspapers published during the election of 1800 was pretty rough.

    But by the mid-20th century, that stuff was in our distant past. And within my lifetime — actually, within my adult life — I’ve watched the incivility grow like a cancer.

  22. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    @ Doug Ross: The same age group–Baby Boomers–males, white– were behind much of the virulence of the Sixties and Seventies. Interesting, huh?

  23. Doug Ross


    Joe McCarthy. Incivil or not? That’s 60 years ago.

    Please identify for me the last decade where there was no significant political rhetoric driving the country in one direction or the other. The only difference we have now is the ability for people to broadcast it via multiple channels at a low cost.

    You should also consider your role in the rhetoric machine. I would hope you could look at the period between June and November of last year and recognize that you went way over the line in attempting to tear down Nikki Haley. After the election, you pretty much made it clear that you felt Sheheen could have won if there was only more time to drag Haley further down.

    You also frequently posted emails that came from the SC Democratic and Republican leaderships with “isn’t this just terrible!” themed analysis. How about just not reposting them?

    I can picture you now saying, “Oh, no, I was just presenting the truth and informing my readers.” To which, I say, “Physician, heal thyself.” Start with the basic idea that anything coming from the parties is a lie. Don’t bother reading it. How much time do you spend reading pure bull that is spewed from both sides? To what end?

  24. Doug Ross

    Here’s a simple test: if you’re on Facebook, go through your list of friends and estimate how many of them you think are active consumers of Rush/Sean/Rachel/Keith/Glenn/etc.

    For me, a 49 year old white guy, I can only guess five of my “friends” would have any interest in either side. Most people my age with kids don’t have the time to worry about all that political entertainment – which is all it is: rhetoric to sell commercials.

  25. Brad

    I did nothing to tear down Nikki Haley. Every flaw she has is her own doing. I did my best to make sure people were aware of the problems with her. But not one of those problems was my doing.

    And I really, really don’t know what it is that you expected of Vincent Sheheen. His very mild efforts to point out the relative problems with Nikki compared to himself were honest and gentlemanly. It continues to puzzle me that you thought it was so awful.

    When the reasons why one candidate is better than another are clear, it is an honest person’s obligation, when engaged in sincere discussion, to point out what he observes.

    She’s the governor now, and there’s no decision before us for the next four years, so there’s really no point in going into it. If you insist on talking about it, then yes, the two or three percent of voters who made the difference — the ones who could well have gone for Vincent and changed the outcome — made the wrong decision. Between six and nine percent of Republicans (who voted for the other GOP statewide candidates) were able to see that Sheheen was the better choice. It’s a shame that a few more did not make that decision.

    But there’s no point in going on about it now, and I don’t know why you keep bringing it up.

    Do you really, truly not see the difference between the negative observations made here about Nikki Haley as a candidate for governor and the kind of hateful, poisonous garbage that the parties spew out? Really?

    But you’re not alone. A lot of people can’t tell the difference between honest, relevant criticism and illegitimate vilification. Back during endorsement interviews at The State, we would routinely ask candidates to compare themselves to their opponent. The smart ones who know what’s what were able to do that in a straightforward, legitimate manner. But there were always some who misunderstood the question, and self-righteously said, “I’m not going to sit here and say bad things about my opponent.” Laudable, in a facile way. I would get pretty frustrated with them. Here they were, offering themselves for office, and they couldn’t make a case for why them and not the other guy? Please. Not only can one make such a case without doing anything illegitimate; one is obligated to do so. Otherwise, don’t run.

    But maybe they were afraid Doug would accuse them of trying to “tear down” the other guy.

    By the way, Doug, the problem isn’t that anything coming from the parties is a lie. It’s that they never, ever give the other side a chance. I’ve given Nikki Haley lots of chances. I endorsed her twice. Had she been running for the House again, with opponents she had before, I might have done so again. But not the Tea Party candidate I saw running for governor this year…

  26. martin

    This is some research I did on Wikipedia last week and sent to some friends:

    1980 – Ronald Reagan elected President

    1985 – Australian Rupert Murdoch becomes a naturalized American citizen so that he can begin buying US TV stations, which can be owned only by Americans (I have NOT done any research on any subsequent campaign contributions from Murdoch to Reagan, but am sure it would blow the minds of every single one of us.)

    1987 – by executive order of Ronald Reagan, the Fairness Doctrine (“The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was, in the Commission’s view, honest, equitable and balanced.”) is abolished meaning broadcasters no longer have to insure that both sides have a “fair and balanced” hearing.

    1996 – Fox News “… channel was created by Australian-American media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who hired former NBC executive and Republican political consultant Roger Ailes as the founding CEO.[1] ”

    This is why it seems worse, it is, than the 60s + the internet – no Fairness Doctrine. The internet breeds nastiness because you cannot see the non-verbal cues that the person you are talking at/to is sending.

    In the 60s, we only saw the Black Panthers, Symbionese Liberation Army, SDS, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies screaming at the cameras, not the people purporting to be delivering “news” and the “analysis” thereof.

  27. bud

    For me, a 49 year old white guy, I can only guess five of my “friends” would have any interest in either side.

    This is an exercise that many very intelligent people engage in that proves absolutely nothing. Doug’s circle of friends harldy represents a random sample of the American people. I would suggest that the coarsness of the public debate took a dramatic turn for the worse during the Clinton years. And that was largely because of the demonic Rush Limbaugh and his desciples Hannity, Beck and O’Reilly.

  28. Doug Ross


    Do you think Nikki Haley would consider your coverage of her campaign over the six months between June and November to be a “sincere discussion”?

    I’ll ask again – what purpose does it serve for you to even spend a moment of your time reading and assessing the mass emails sent out by Carol Fowler or Karen Floyd, particularly during the campaign season? What is the percentage of wheat to chaff? By reading them, re-posting them on your blog, and engaging in discussion of the contents, nothing is gained. It’s really no different than all the nonsense that Clemson and USC fans engage in during the week of their football game – it has NO IMPACT on the results.

    What I see is that your career has been spent in the midst of political hacks and flacks so you assume that everyone else is paying the same attention. They’re not. You also have personal relationships with the same people who produce so much of the uncivil rhetoric. How often do you tell these people to “cut it out” personally?

  29. Doug Ross


    How many people do you personally know who listen to Rush everyday?

    What kind of people have jobs where they can listen to Rush between 12-3? It’s a niche.

  30. William Tucker

    Limbaugh, Hanity, Beck, and O’Reilly together equal the Democrat’s Ed “I’m going to torch this place” Schultz.

  31. Mark Stewart


    Personally, I find the political commentary insightful on Brad’s blog. Isn’t that why you are a regular participant?

    No, I don’t want to ever directly receive a press release from either party – but I found the discussion during the last election cycle of them on this blog to be enlightening and informative. I’ve learned a lot from everyone who has posted here – regardless of the topic and regardless of whether I agree with the articulated thought.

    There’s not much consensus in life, and that’s okay by me. However, the extreme viewpoints are usually nothing but bombast – and I can do without all that noise.

  32. bud

    How many people do you personally know who listen to Rush everyday?

    Zero. In fact except for perhaps 2 or 3 people I don’t know anyone who listens to him once a month. But doesn’t that prove my point? Because I don’t know any listeners of Rush then you could extrapolate that to the entire population and get exactly zero people in the USA who listen to Rush. Since we know the actual number is in the tens of million you have to conclude logically that one’s inner circle of friends has no bearing on what the entire population does, says or believes.

  33. Doug Ross

    According to the police press conference yesterday:

    “The 22-year-old gunman had been bent on targeting Giffords since meeting her at similar event in 2007, authorities said. She is in serious condition after the bullet traveled the length of her brain.”

    2007. Before Obama. Before Palin. Before the Tea Party. Before Glenn Beck.

    This tragic murder performed by a psychopath had nothing to do with political rhetoric.

  34. Doug Ross


    Even 10 million listeners isn’t significant in the overall picture. There are 200+ million Americans older than age 20 according to recent U.S. census data. All of the Fox/Limbaugh zealots amount to 5% of those adults.

    As I’ve said, the vast majority of people do not pay any attention to the rhetoric. We’re all too busy working, taking care of our kids, or focusing on more useful endeavors.

  35. bud

    Let’s at least do the easy stuff first and get back to the assault rifle law. That at least would have prevented a 30 round ammo clip from being purchased and prevented 20 rounds from going off.

    But everyone misses the point on this. It’s not Palin or Beck per-se that influenced the shooter it was the coarsness of the public debate which has become a whole lot coarser since Palin and Beck reared their ugly heads into the public realm. Pretty soon we’ll have metal detectors at every public event in this country. Too bad things have come to this.

  36. Doug Ross


    “But everyone misses the point on this. It’s not Palin or Beck per-se that influenced the shooter it was the coarsness of the public debate which has become a whole lot coarser since Palin and Beck reared their ugly heads into the public realm. ”

    That statement is 100% untrue. Even the police have stated that Loughner began his hatred for Giffords in 2007. He asked Giffords a bizarre question about language and words and didn’t like the answer he got. Can you point to even a single shred of evidence that would refute what the police investigation has found?

    There is no connection. I travel all over the country and don’t run into angry mobs of people driven by rage over one party or another.

    There are lunatics out there. There always have been and always will be. When the 2012 election rolls around, both sides will return to form… and a small bunch of suckers will buy into it.

  37. Doug Ross


    Yes, I bet it did. I assume you are talking about the political rhetoric of the late 1960’s, right?

  38. William Tucker

    @bud – Do you know how many 30 round ammo “magazines” are available? After the shooting I thought there would be a run on these, but I was wrong. At the gun show this last weekend at the Jamil Temple last weekend not only did I see plentiful amounts of 30 round magazines, but I found them for the exact same pistol used by the shooter. These things have been around for decades and there are millions of them in the hands of gun owners. Banning them now will do absolutely nothing to anyone who wants one. It’d be like the government banning pennies… how many years would it be before you missed them?

  39. William Tucker

    Also, government can ban the sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines whenever they’re ready. Most of us who wanted them bought them prior to Obama being sworn into office. I’ve got more guns, magazines and ammo than I’ll ever use.

  40. Scout


    It is clear this is a very much a story about mental illness and not so much about political rhetoric. Nevertheless, the picture is never so absolute as you would make it out. Yes, he has had a beef with Giffords since 2007, but we don’t know at what point since then he turned his thoughts to violence and what, if anything, in his environment might have triggered that response. The fact is once the rhetoric is out there, it can’t be taken back and it’s very hard to measure the effect, which may be subtle, once it’s out there.

    I’m not seriously suggesting that the rhetoric is what turned him violent, but I still think your arguing in absolutes is ridiculous. There is just no way to know.

    I think your contention that the rhetoric – in quality and quantity – has not increased in 50 years and that most people don’t pay attention to it anyway hard to fathom. My experience and impression is very different.

    Whether or not rhetoric had anything to do with the shooting, can we not agree that the political conversation would be better served with more civility and less rhetoric.

  41. bud

    This illustrates what is so frustrating for liberals. We offer a very simple, basic and undeniably effective gun control measure that would have absolutely zero, nada, zip effect on any legitimate gun owners constitutional rights. And yet the gun zealots offer up one red herring after another in defense of the indefensible. And we continue to slaughter 10,000 people every year with handguns. It’s really a sad commentary on how immature America is.

  42. bud

    Scout is 100% spot on. We can’t know the totality of what goes on in the heads of someone with mental illness. But what we can know is the raw statistics. In the U.S. we saturate our culture, politics and laws with violence on a constant basis. Some people even go so far as to suggest wars against non-threatening countries is a good thing! We are also rare among industrial nations in continuing with the use of the death penalty, even in light of many instances of false convictions.

    All of this contributes to a national environment of violence which manifests itself in predictable ways, massive shootings (Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson). The result is a murder rate far higher than in any other developed country. This cannot be a coincidence.

  43. Doug Ross


    I agree that the political conversation would be better served with more civility and less rhetoric. I just don’t think it will happen. As long as there is money to be made and power to be wielded in politics, there will be people willing to do whatever is necessary to attain it.

    We don’t need to change the rhetoric, we need to change the system that spurs on the rhetoric. That would start with term limits, campaign funding reform, lobbying limitations, more
    open government. Won’t happen.

    I’m a cynic… I readily admit that. But it’s based on 30+ years of observation. It’s been a downhill trajectory since Watergate. And from my view, the one clear contributing factor is the increased size of government.

  44. Doug Ross


    Your suggestion is simple but it is also meaningless. Limiting the number of bullets in a magazine would have little impact on the number of people killed by handguns. In the Arizona case, the kid would have just brought two guns instead of one.

    I’m for stricter punishments for people who use a gun in a crime. For example, killing someone with a gun should result in the death penalty. Using a gun in a crime should result in a minimum 20 year sentence in solitary confinement.

    Guns aren’t a problem until someone uses them to hurt others.

  45. Brad

    Bud said it again: “Some people even go so far as to suggest wars against non-threatening countries is a good thing!”

    I missed the meeting where we talked about invading Switzerland. Or maybe I was Twittering during that part of the agenda. Of course, I probably would have voted for it. Have you seen those Swiss Army knives? Weapons of Mass Utility cannot be allowed to fall into the wrong hands…

  46. Doug Ross

    Would anyone claim the Tea Party is larger in numbers than the anti-Vietnam War contingent back in the 60’s? Is the Tea Party more or less violent than the Black Panthers were?

  47. Herb Brasher

    Brad, I think Bud is referring to Iraq, and I tend to agree with him. Sorry, but we do not need to assume that the spread of our version of government throughout the world is a good thing. And keeping Saddam contained would have been, over the long run, the better policy. Al-Quaeda’s intent has always been to stretch the US thin. We have been more elastic than they thought, but we have taken a lot of expensive military action for less than good reasons.

  48. Mark Stewart

    “Also, government can ban the sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines whenever they’re ready. Most of us who wanted them bought them prior to Obama being sworn into office. I’ve got more guns, magazines and ammo than I’ll ever use.” – William Tucker

    There’s no point in commenting; although I thought that seeing these words again might lead to some further consideration of such inclinations.

    This self-defensiveness has been a rampant strain in American history – beginning at least as early as the 1820’s. This isn’t an issue about the availability of firearms (and certainly not of their regulation), this is all about how fearfulness and uncertainty impact certain individuals and inform their worldview. It’s about armaments as a psychological crutch or shield, in my view.

    I’m not anti-gun by any means; although I am against irresponsible weapons handling and the mental distortion by gun owners that often precedes it. I guess I did comment after all…

  49. William Tucker

    @Burl – In theory, yes. Realistically, it would be impossible.

    Guns transferred through dealers are registered and tracked to the original owner. Guns sold privately are not registered or tracked. But what about the millions of guns that were produced and sold prior to any registration and currently in the hands of law abiding citizens, gang-bangers, organized crime, anti-government crowd, etc. What percentage of those would be voluntarily registered… my guess, less than 5%.

  50. Brad

    Burl, it SOUNDS reasonable, but cars don’t have their very own amendment in the Bill of Rights. Guns have one. It’s confusing, and very badly punctuated, but they’ve got one.

    I actually saw something very funny on Saturday Night Live the other night — something I haven’t been able to say since Tina Fey first did Sarah Palin. It was during the weekend update. Seth Myers imagine how the Framers would react if they could see what guns can do right now. He acted out how dangerous guns were then by comparison: “Hold on, you can’t say that about my wife! Hold on… I… am… gonna… show… you…” as he goes through the motions of picking up a flintlock musket, pouring in the powder, ramming it, priming it, and then looks up and says, “AWWW, he drove off!” You can watch it here.

    Anyway, the comparison to cars is instructive. One doesn’t have to hate cars to know they’re dangerous.

    Doug likes to make absolutist statements (as do I, from time to time). But it’s just plain silly to say, “Guns aren’t a problem until someone uses them to hurt others.” Guns are always dangerous. I am acutely aware of that whenever I’m handling one, and so should everyone be. That is, they’re dangerous when they’re loaded — and one of the first lessons of proper gun safety is that you always assume that a gun is loaded. Guns and cars are among that category of things that can very easily kill without violent intent on the part of the operator. One should ALWAYS be mindful of that.

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