Monday, 5 September 2011

A Great Way To Lose Elections

Three stories making the rounds on liberal blogs lately have set my teeth on edge. First, we had the Glock raffle/Giffords story:
The Pima County Republican Party is raffling off a Glock 23 handgun to raise money for get-out-the-vote efforts in the district where a Glock was used last winter to kill six people and wound Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.). Arizona has a strong gun culture — Giffords herself owns a Glock and told The New York Times last year that she was a "pretty good shot."
First off, yes, that is tacky and pretty silly of the Pima County GOP - however, reports by liberal blog The Raw Story fail to mention the fact that Giffords herself owns and shoots a Glock, as I do, and as many firearms enthusiasts do. There's also no mention of the fact that AZ's GOP spokesperson said that while gun raffles themselves are fine, the timing of this one was inappropriate. Glock makes great guns. This kind of lefty entrail-reading is like trying to draw conclusions from someone's decision to buy Nike brand shoes - only someone with an intentionally or unintentionally shallow understanding of gun culture would make such a mistake. It reminds me of attempts to tie Palin's sportsclown analogies to actual violence; it smacks of desperation and opportunism. The second story regards Rick Perry's controversial stance on gun control. Excuse me - it regards Rick Perry's "controversial" "stance" on gun control:
“Honestly, the next question is so easy that I don’t even want to ask it,” event host Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC) told Perry. “Are you for gun control?” “I am actually for gun control,” Perry deadpanned. “Use both hands.” The Texas governor followed his joke by flashing a toothy grin and giving the audience a thumbs up.
I like how Raw Story reports this exchange without any further elucidation, as though simply making a joke about "gun control" (and about as spicy a joke as the old "working hard/hardly working" chestnut) somehow speaks for itself so eloquently that no further explanation of how Perry is supposed to have hung himself here is needed. This might be the case for statements such as Mitt Romney's recent "my mansion is a job creation program" howler or something unusually nutty from Perry or Michele Bachmann's evangelical tent meetings, but when it comes to an issue as unsettled - unsettled by science, statistics, *or* policy proposals - as gun control, forgive me if I require a little bit of dot-connecting. The third and final story, and the one I find most revealing, regards Operation Fast and Furious. This was the ATF's recent disastrous contribution to Project Gunrunner, an ongoing attempt to attempt to identify and disrupt the lines of supply that currently carry guns from the U.S. south into the hands of Mexican cartels and beyond. As the LA Times reports:
Three White House national security officials were given some details about the operation, dubbed Fast and Furious. The operation allowed firearms to be illegally purchased, with the goal of tracking them to Mexican drug cartels. But the effort went out of control after agents lost track of many of the weapons...The supervisor of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation in Phoenix specifically mentioned Fast and Furious in at least one email to a White House national security official, and two other White House colleagues were briefed on reports from the supervisor, according to White House emails and a senior administration official. But the senior administration official said the emails, obtained Thursday by The Times, did not prove that anyone in the White House was aware of the covert "investigative tactics" of the operation. "The emails validate what has been said previously, which is no one at the White House knew about the investigative tactics being used in the operation, let alone any decision to let guns walk," said the official, who was not authorized to speak about it publicly. "To the extent that some [national security staff members] were briefed on the top lines of ongoing federal efforts, so were members of Congress."...The emails were sent between July 2010 and February of this year before it was disclosed that agents had lost track of hundreds of guns*. Many are thought to have fallen into criminal hands, and some have turned up at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States, including at the fatal shooting of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
("Hundreds" of guns turns out to be 1,800, FYI) So far, the AZ U.S. Attorney and Acting Director of the ATF have resigned over OF&F. What do these three stories tell us when we consider them together? First, that "gun control" is a losing issue for the controllers. I don't think it's any coincidence that the GOP is pulling back from losing "culture war" issues at the same time that the Democrats have pulled back from gun control as a "culture war" issue. That represents a fantastic development in my opinion - especially since the prevailing wisdom on both the left and the right seems to be that Obama is a crazy, wild-eyed liberal on economic issues (actually, Obama's record on entitlements is far to the right of Clinton's, and most of the money that went into the bonfire during the bailouts represented a long, slow soul kiss to Wall Street more than "aggressive government expansion"). If we are willing to shift the terms of the debate to economic issues, we could benefit from a healthy, full-bodied debate about the role and scope of government. Second: as with Waco, OF&F has proved that the ATF is every bit as ham-fisted and awful as the CIA or other historic agencies. The catastrophic results of OF&F are perhaps unique in that the fallout has hit home in a much more direct and relevant fashion than usual - the ATF's guns wound up (untraced) at at least two crime scenes in Arizona so far. Even the "we're trying to make you safer" argument falls to pieces when confronted with the reality of law enforcement and the tricky nature of our southern border.

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