Part 3—It’s a low-quality film: On its face, it should have been easy to make an obvious point.
Jeb Bush had offered a weak, selective response in the wake of the Oregon shootings. He seemed to say there’s nothing the federal government could do in response to these repeated mass killings.
Lacking any other ideas, he ended up responding to the moderator’s suggestion that we should pray more often.
The candidate’s response was selective, soft, weak, “can’t do.” Beyond that, it had the look of a classic surrender to a big interest group.
We’d even be inclined to say that Bush’s overall statement was less than obsessively honest. This is why we say that:
As everyone knows, Congress could do certain things in an attempt to reduce the frequency of mass shootings. To cite the most obvious example, Congress could eliminate the ludicrous “gun show loophole” which allows a person to purchase a gun without any background check.
The public overwhelmingly favors this move, as Alan Berlow explains again today in the New York Times. For whatever reason, the hapless, hand-wringing Candidate Bush couldn’t even bring himself to mention it!
Congress could also loosen the three-day rule on background checks which allowed Dylann Roof to purchase the gun he used in his mass murder in Charleston—a gun he shouldn’t have been able to purchase under existing law. Ruth Marcus explained this point on Sunday’s Meet the Press:
MARCUS (10/4/15): There is no perfect solution but there are marginal improvements. Limit the size of magazines—that would have stopped Jared Loughner from killing as many people before he stopped to reload. Make the background checks so that it's not automatic that you get it if it's not completed in three days. That might have stopped Dylann Roof from having his guns.For a fuller account of the breakdown which let Roof purchase his gun, see this report by Media Matters.
As Marcus noted, there is no “solution” to this problem—but marginal improvements are possible, and the public overwhelmingly favors at least one. Last Friday, Candidate Bush completely skipped this obvious point in his flaccid discussion of our repeated mass shootings.
For whatever reason, he wasn’t willing to mention the fact that there are certain things we plainly can do. For our money, that was a lazy, uncaring response—a response which bordered on dishonest. It shouldn’t be hard for us the liberals to make that point, especially when Bush’s “can’t do” approach was widely echoed by other Republican candidates.
It ought to be easy to make this point about Bush’s jellyfish offering. Increasingly, though, we the liberals don’t even try to approach the public with winning arguments and presentations.
Instead, we do what we did last Friday, which basically wasn’t especially honest: We enroll ourselves, once again, in The Cult of the Offhand Comment!
What do we do when we enroll in dull-witted old cult? We pretend we’ve found a perfect quotation from someone like Candidate Bush—a quotation which shows us, and the rest of the world, how heinous The Other Tribe is. We rush off to show the world how immoral and callous The Others actually are.
Tribal warfare has always proceeded in such ways, dating back to life in the swamp. Because make no mistake: When we play the game this way, we’re working with our prehistoric, reptilian brains.
In this instance, we grabbed two words from the many words Candidate Bush spoke that day. We pretended that he callously said, “Stuff happens,” in an especially callous dismissal of the fact that innocent people had been killed.
When we played this tired old game, we were being less than honest—and around the country, others could see that we were being sub-honest! When we play the game this way, we sometimes gain a short-term advantage—but we often heighten the tribal divisions which make real progress impossible.
Increasingly, we the liberals like to play this way. We don’t seem to know how to convey the most blindingly obvious facts to the public—for example, the fact that the so-called special committee on Benghazi was a giant politicized con.
Unable to convey such obvious truths, we’re forced to wait for a giant gaffe, such as the giant gaffe committed last week by the hapless Kevin McCarthy. Or we’re forced to pretend that a gaffe has occurred, as we did the case of Bush’s alleged callous comment.
Sad to say, we liberals have produced this movie before! Obvious example:
In the last presidential campaign, Candidate Romney made an ironic remark about the way he “liked being able to fire people.”
To our instantly pleasured tribal brains, it sounded like an utterly callous remark! Here’s the problem—as was obvious to all, Romney wasn’t talking about firing regular employees. Quite plainly, he was speaking about “firing” health insurance providers which were providing bad service.
On the day the comment occurred, a wide range of liberal pundits made this obvious observation. They noted that Romney’s remark was being taken out of context by some observers.
A string of pundits quickly noted that Romney’s remark was being misinterpreted. But so what? Everyone knew what Romney meant, but we liberals decided to play our game. Those initial words of caution were quickly forgotten. Throughout the campaign, we kept pleasuring ourselves by repeating this comment, pretending that Romney had something other than what he had plainly said.
Let’s ignore the marginal honesty we display at such times. Today, we’ll ask a different question: Why are we so incompetent that we’re forced to play this game? Why can’t we liberals approach the public in an honest manner and win?
Jeb Bush offered a half-assed assessment in the wake of the Oregon shootings. Rather than explain that obvious fact to the public, we shot a familiar old film:
We pretended we’d found a two-word quote which showed us how callous the candidate is. This pretending made us feel tribally good—but it made us look phony to others.
Why are we willing to play a game which is less than obsessively honest? For today, let’s ask a different question:
Why are we liberals forced to play this stupid old game at all? Why can’t we go to the pubic with real arguments—and win?
Why can’t we simply talk pork to the people? What is keeping us the liberals from daring to struggle and win?
Tomorrow: The road not often attempted