The vice president was blathering.
Blather is good in Washington; blather is safe. Blather is almost always “on message.”
Bob Schieffer, host of “Face the Nation,” had asked Joe Biden about the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida.
“I think the governor of Florida was correct and the president was correct in saying we should look at all aspects to get to the bottom of this case, Trayvon’s case,” Biden blathered. “And in the process, I’m confident — at least, I’m of the view — I understand that the state is saying they’re going to look back and see all the aspects in this. What contributed to this? What happened? Who’s responsible?”
My eyes had rolled up into my head by this point, but I kept my ears open.
“And I’m confident that the people of Florida will debate and discuss whether or not this law, that ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, whether it’s being applied as it was intended to apply, and whether or not as intended it makes sense,” Biden said.
Fortunately, Schieffer has spent a good part of his lifetime trying to cut through blather, and so he asked Biden a pointed question.
“Do you, on balance, think these laws are good laws?” Schieffer asked.
“Stand Your Ground” laws in Florida and some 20 other states allow you to shoot and kill someone if you have a “reasonable belief” that person intends to do you harm. You have no duty to retreat, even if you could do so safely.
Biden continued to blather.
“On balance, I think that it’s important that people be put in a position where their Second Amendment rights are protected, but that they also don’t as a consequence of the laws unintendedly put themselves in harm’s way,” Biden said.
“Unintendedly put themselves in harm’s way?” What the heck does that mean? Was Biden saying George Zimmerman “unintendedly” put himself in harm’s way before shooting and killing Trayvon Martin?
But wait. The heavens then parted and the fog cleared, at least a little. Biden redeemed himself. He usually does if you give him enough time. (And even if you don’t give him enough time, he will take it anyway.)
“You know,” Biden said, “the bulk of the people who are shot with a weapon — other than these drug gangs taking on one another — end up being shot with their own weapon.”
I could see the communications people in the White House sit up and start biting their hangnails. “Don’t go there, Joe!” they would have yelled at the TV if their mouths had not been full of their hangnails.
Biden then added: “So, the idea that there’s this overwhelming additional security in the ownership and carrying concealed and deadly weapons, I think it’s the premise — not the constitutionality, but the premise that it makes people safer — is one that I’m not so sure of.”
Oh, no. He went there. Think that is a mild statement? Think that questioning the ownership of deadly weapons is a rather innocuous position for a progressive Democrat to take?
You are living in a dream, not America today.
The Democratic Party is scared to death of talking about guns. (African-American politicians from safe districts are not, but their constituents see the horrific damage that guns do to their communities and their loved ones.) Bill Clinton was a strong gun control advocate when he was president. But most Democrats have chickened out on gun control ever since 2000.
And that’s because Al Gore made gun control an issue in 2000. He wanted to ban assault weapons. He attacked George Bush for signing a Texas law barring the prosecution of people who brought loaded guns into to churches or synagogues unless those places posted a notice telling people loaded guns were not desirable in houses of God.
“Has it come to this?” Gore asked. “Are we not even safe in church anymore?”
We are not even safe in church anymore. In September 1999, Larry Gene Ashbrook, 47, entered the Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, with a cigarette in his lips and two loaded handguns under his black leather jacket. It was not illegal to carry a handgun into the church, but it was illegal to smoke in one. So the janitor asked him to put out the cigarette.
Ashbrook shot him in the head. Then he shot and killed six other people before fatally shooting himself. Among the dead were three 14-year-olds and a 17-year-old. Seven other people were shot but survived.
Remember it? I doubt it. Mass shootings have become too commonplace to remember them all.
Gore would lose the presidency. True, if he had won Florida, he would have become president. But if he had won West Virginia, Tennessee or Arkansas — any of which was possible — he wouldn’t have needed Florida.
And West Virginia, Tennessee and Arkansas were where the gun lobby ran big ad campaigns against Al Gore.
The Democratic Party ran for the hills. In 2003, Howard Dean, then chairman of the party, said Democrats should stick to issues like “jobs, health care and education” and not get trapped into talking about things like “guns, God, gays, abortion.”
Almost all the discussion about the shooting of Trayvon Martin has centered around race. There has been very little talk about guns.
But Joe Biden — let his name be praised — at least had the guts to say on national TV that having a gun might not make you safer.
At one minute past midnight on March 30, the following story moved on the AP: “MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee police are looking for a man they believe brought a gun into a home and showed it to children before a 4-year-old accidentally shot an 8-year-old.”
Don’t expect the politicians to talk about this much. It’s not on message.
To find out more about Roger Simon, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.