Thursday, June 23, 2016


I'm pleased to see Democrats going on offense on the subject of guns. Yes, I'm weighing the argument that the no-fly list is an error-ridden violation of civil liberties, and therefore it shouldn't be used as the basis for restrictions on gun ownership. In the Bush years, I wrote many posts about people (including Senator Ted Kennedy) who were erroneously placed on one list or another, though I saw the problem at the time as Bush administration incompetence. In fact, the incompetence seems to have decreased in the Obama years:
In one of the most recent internal reviews of the watch list system, the Justice Department inspector general found in a 2014 report that improvements in the F.B.I.’s watch list system had made it “more complete, accurate and current” after problems in getting people on and off the list.

Earlier reviews found that as many as 15 percent of suspects in active terrorism investigations were not on the F.B.I. watch list, and that other people were improperly kept on it even after investigations into their suspected terrorism ties were closed. Both these problems appeared to have been significantly reduced or eliminated by the time of the 2014 review.
But I get the due process argument. And yet it's good to see Democrats fighting back against the gun lobby and a gun culture that believes gun proliferation always make America better.

But it's sad that the principal demand of this sit-in is a vote on a bill linking gun violence to terrorism screening. A vote on a universal background check bill is a secondary consideration. A ban on assault weapons isn't being discussed.

The sit-in came the same day that Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush, announced that he was endorsing Hillary Clinton. This endorsement was rolled out to coincide with a Donld Trump speech that harshly criticized Clinton's record on foreign policy.

Clinton wants swing voters to think, Oh, she must be a good choice -- Republican foreign policy gray eminences like her. Democrats in Congress want swing voters to think, Oh, the Democrats are right on guns -- they take terrorism seriously.

For Democrats, it's still 2002, the year of the Iraq War vote, or maybe 1980, the year Reagan was elected, or 1972, the year McGovern lost: The way you're supposed to show you can be trusted with political power, if you're a Democrat, is still by demonstrating that you think like a Republican, or at least that you think about issues traditionally linked to Republicans.

I know that Donald Trump has attacked Clinton from the left on a couple of foreign policy issues, particularly by dishonestly arguing that he was against the Iraq War from the beginning. But he gets away with that because hhe's said he wants to "bomb the shit out of" ISIS and because he wants to re-legalize torture.

And I know that Brent Scowcroft really did oppose the Iraq War before it started. But, still -- he's a Republican. That's why Clinton wanted his endorsement.

Democrats have been on defense on foreign policy for nearly 45 years. I don't think I'll live long enough to see that change.


petrilli said...

All great points. It just so happens there is a whole wing of the Democratic party that agrees and has been working real hard to yank Clinton and the rest of the old guard over to that way of thinking. Too bad so many Democrats who claim the same outlook are wishing them into the cornfield at the moment.

mlbxxxxxx said...

I get the due process argument, too, but what I don't get is why it seems to be no biggie that we restrict peoples' freedom of movement based on this unconstitutional system. The due process problem with the terrorist watch list, etc., is cited by right, left and center as reason not to use it to stop gun sales. And then we go right back to using it to restrict freedom of movement without much discussion at all. Fix the fucking system so that it passes constitutional muster or don't use it at all.

Frank Wilhoit said...

America does not and cannot have a foreign policy, because our political discourse has been infatilized to the point where overseas actors can only be undertstood as allegories for domestic factions.

Doubtless Brent Scowcroft, from within the exceedingly confortable bubble in which he lives with his chosen colleagues, would disagree.

But even if one granted, as an abstract premise, that America had a foreign policy, the only way the Democratic Party could "come off defense" about it would be to explicitly reject the entire American Project as it has been understood since Woodrow Wilson.

That would be a piece of refreshing and salutary honesty, but it would also be as a stone down a well.

Tom Hilton said...

But I get the due process argument.

I would get the due process argument too, if gun ownership were a "right" in any non-trivial sense of the word, rather than the reckless and dangerous indulgence it really is.

Tom Hilton said...

(The due process argument as it relates to flying is a legitimate concern, obviously.)

Victor said...

Fix the "no-fly" list, and make it legitimate.

First, tell people on the list that they're on it, so that they can defend themselves against the charge(s).

Second, make the defense of themselves cheap and easy, because who can afford a ton of attorney's? And this is where the ACLU can come in - since Public Defenders are overworked and under-staffed!

As for me, I hate that list!

But, for a start at gun-control, it's not an unreasonable place to start. It makes its point with the general public, most of whom, to be frank, are either dumb as posts, or have no time to really look at issues and analyze them like some of the rest of us do.

Robert said...

The smart, pragmatic Democrats tell me that going on the offense without the votes is "hoping for a sparkly pony".
Where are the smart, pragmatic Democrats telling Congressman Lewis to sit down, be quiet, and get in line to support the milquetoast Democratic policies because asking for more is just being a "purity troll"?

petrilli said...

Victor, maybe we could use something similar to local draft boards to adjudicate no-fly list disputes. But even then, I don't see how any legislation will effectively force the DHS to provide transparency in such cases. The burden of proof would have to fall on the DHS to keep a person on the list once a case is filed. I've read that some Republican lawmakers are open to the idea of due process so people unjustly listed could be approved for gun purchase in a timely manner. It was unclear to me whether the due process being discussed would automatically take such people off the list as well. I can easily see a scenario where all congress GOP reps care about is getting the gun sale approved while innocent people still can't get off the list and travel. That way both sides in Congress could claim victory while nobody really wins anything.

@bjork55 said...

Perhaps, but as Charles Pierce rightly points out:

"But at the heart of these actions is more than a protest against inaction on the issue of guns. It's a protest against inaction, period, against the repulsive and cowardly vandalism-by-inaction that has been the hallmark of the Congress almost from the second the president's hand came off the Bible in 2009."

Steve M. said...

Where are the smart, pragmatic Democrats telling Congressman Lewis to sit down, be quiet, and get in line to support the milquetoast Democratic policies because asking for more is just being a "purity troll"?

You're straining. The policies the sit-in is intended to highlight are mainstream Democratic policies. And the sit-in, unlike the puritopian Busters, targets Republicans and the right, not Democrats who are insufficiently pure.

KenRight said...

Brent Scowcroft in a superannauted hack who fell in line after the war commenced or am I wrong? Did he ever accuse the OSP and the Cheney crowd of lying us into the war, or was his opposition transitory and tactical?
Trump did. In the middle of pro-military reactionary country.

Speaking of sit-ins and admirable revolts.!

sdhays said...

The way I see it, if we're going to have a No Fly list, it should also be a No Buy list. The principle is simple: if you're too dangerous to board a plane in the United States of America, you are too dangerous to buy lethal weapons in the United States of America.

If the list is bad (and I've never really understood why it's considered Constitutional), then we should do away with the list or fix the civil liberties issues with it. That has not been a priority until all of a sudden now it is. The ACLU is right to make this point because they've always been making this point, but the others are simply trying to distract from the real issue: guns should be, at minimum, much, much harder for violent individuals to obtain.

jsrtheta said...

Let us all give thanks for Scalia, the dickweed who blessed us with Heller. Until that monument to intellectual dishonesty, there was no "constitutional right" to own a firearm and, hence, no requirement of due process. This was always the danger of handing a constitutional trump card (no pun intended) to gun nuts. The simple fact is that owning a gun isn't, and never was, a "constitutional right."

That's why it's vital that a Democrat be elected and name a new Supreme Court justice to reverse the lunacy.

As for the "no-fly" list, there has never been any constitutional right to fly in an airplane. Period. End of.

Robert said...

Steve M.,
Are you saying highlighting bad policies might sway Republicans, but can't sway Democrats to pass good policies?
Or are you saying that pushing for good policies is the right thing to do, even if you don't have the votes?

Robert said...

"You're straining. The policies the sit-in is intended to highlight are mainstream Democratic policies."

I've thought about making believe I'm shocked to find out the center-right, corporations-first Democratic party didn't push for single-payer healthcare because single-payer was never a Democratic party policy. But that was pretty obvious way back in 2009 to those of us who put country before political party.
It's still sad that we had to listen to the "smart, pragmatic Democrats" bullshitting us for 7 years about how Dems really wanted single-payer, but it was smarter not to push for it because the votes weren't there.
Just goes to show you, if you give the center-right Democrats the better part of a decade, they'll eventually admit us "purity trolls" (AKA liberals) were correct all along.
I look forward to 2022, when blogs like this one admit that since the 1990s the Democratic Party's real constituents have been corporate rich donors.