Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Open Thread: Palin's Warning and Obama's Memorial Address UPDATEDx2

First off, I hope you all know I’m an admirer of America (why else would I blog here) and particularly of its Constitution which, along with the Declaration of Independence, is one of the jewels of political thought and practice anywhere in the world.

However, the terrible murders in Tucson, the attempted assassination of Representative Giffords, and the connection between various acts of violence towards certain politicians with violent rhetoric seems to bring two key constitutional amendments into an unseemly clash.  

This is essentially an open thread to continue the debate in other diaries, but allow me to make a couple of points (which you can shoot knock down) at will.

The glory of the US constitution, at least as it seems to me, is that it is a work in progress. It is not some absolutist Old Testament text (e.g. The Ten Commandments), but has more in common with the New Testament ethos of rewriting laws to reflect deeper human principles (e.g. The Sermon on the Mount). Key moments such as the abolition of slavery, or incorporating the rights of women, show that this is an evolving document.

With that in mind, we’ve often debated the limits of free speech: though it may not be expressed in your constitution, language which is either a conspiracy to commit a crime, an incitement to violence, or is a slanderous attack on another person, IS limited by law.

Likewise, the ‘right to bear arms’ is modified in different States in myriad ways. There is no unqualified right here. As always, your rights to do something are limited by the rights of others you may infringe. In most democracies, everyone has the right to free movement, but not to drive while under the influence, or ignore all rules and  social norms (driving on the wrong side of the road for example).

The Libertarian and Tea Party Right, seem to have captured the language of rights at the moment. All their rhetoric is about Government infringing the rights of individuals (taxation etc.) and not equally potent and prevalent forms of tyranny: from other individuals or groups who can oppress you.

Gun law is just one case in point. The right to bear arms, at least in this instance, seems to clash with the right of individuals to go about their business without getting shot.

On the free speech issue: yes, political groups are free to make whatever inflammatory statements they like about their opponents, but also suffer the consequences, in terms of opprobrium and public chastisement, when their words seem connected, however loosely, with acts of violence. Free speech cuts both ways, or not at all.

It took decades for certain amendments to be made, and while I do not think gun laws will change anytime soon, we can’t be passively pessimistic about this – and I wonder what the Moose thinks could be sensible legislation to both preserve the second amendment, yet limit its damaging political consequences.

And just so we’re in no doubt what those damaging political consequences are: within my lifetime we’ve seen the assassination of a President, his brother, and one of the most important political leaders of the century. We’ve seen a near miss assassination of another President and other politicians crippled for life by gun violence. I can think of no country in the world I know which has this record.  

Is the ‘frontier spirit’, that rugged individualism that Fogiv talks about, that proposes its you and your gun against the world, appropriate now both the internal frontier has been conquered, and the external frontiers are rapidly diminishing?

it’s terrible incidents like these that lead thoughtful people like us to take a look at ourselves, at our beliefs.  it brings us to discussions like these, where we have to ask ourselves can’t we do better than this?  the american cultural identity is lost without rugged and self-sufficient individualism, and nothing symbolizes that more than a ‘musket’.  it’s an outdated frontier mentality, to be sure, but not one we’re likely to shed.

I’m always impressed by how even Left Wing Kossacks revert to a survivalist mode when the shit hits the proverbial, and talk about retreating to the woods with supplies and lots of guns. But 80 percent of Americans live in cities or suburbia. Isn’t it time this myth has its day?

Is America in danger of being locked in its constitution, and clinging blindly to absolutist texts, when the country’s whole history has been of amendment and innovation?

Just some thoughts to continue this vital story.

UPDATE: Given Palin’s Inflammatory Self Defense Speech today, and Obama’s pending Memorial Service Speech, please do make this an Open Thread about that.

Some rather good quotations from the Kos diary on Palin’s (scripted) outburst:

Rabbi: By ‘blood libel’ claim Palin admits ‘words can be deadly’

I’m going to continue to threaten you (24+ / 0-)

if you keep on insisting that my speech is threatening?

“yeah I’m bullying you… (2+ / 0-)

and if you tell on me it will get worse.”


UPDATE 2: But enough of that. Here’s the uplifting, aspiration and moving address that only Obama – of all politicians I’ve known in my lifetime – could make


  1. …could well be “Well maybe things should be amended changed, but that’s not likely to happen.

    I’m with Blasky on this. Optimism of the will is important, or else we all become passive defeatists. I’m sure that for a hundred years or so after independence folks were saying – “well slavery is wrong but it ain’t going to change any time soon.” Likewise with womens rights and civil rights the subsequent 100 years. In my own lifetime, I remember being told by relatives from Northern Ireland “It’s a terrible situation, but it’s been going on for centuries, and it won’t change for centuries”. But it did.  

  2. jsfox

    and wild west attitude.

    It seems that the leaders of Tucson/Tombstone, home to the OK Corral, were far smarter about guns than the leaders of AZ and America today.

    For all the talk of the “Wild West,” the policymakers of 1880 Tombstone-and many other Western towns-were ardent supporters of gun control. When people now compare things to the “shootout at the OK Corral,” they mean vigilante violence by gunfire. But this is exactly what the Tombstone town council had been trying to avoid.

    In late 1880, as regional violence ratcheted up, Tombstone strengthened its existing ban on concealed weapons to outlaw the carrying of any deadly weapons within the town limits. The Earps (who were Republicans) and Doc Holliday maintained that they were acting as law officers-not citizen vigilantes-when they shot their opponents. That is to say, they were sworn officers whose jobs included enforcement of Tombstone’s gun laws.


    Even the Tombstone town council of 1880 realized that some people with guns have intent to kill-and that reasonable laws could help stop them.

    Read more:

  3. Rashaverak

    The Second Amendment is an anachronism.  The commonly stated basis for the Second Amendment, among the Teabaggers and others, is that the Second Amendment is an equalizer of power and an impediment to government tyranny.  That may well have been true in the late 18th Century when the most advanced weapons were muskets and cannon.

    However, the concept has much less relevance in an age of Abrams tanks, suitcase-size nuclear weapons, Warthogs, nerve gas, weaponized anthrax, etc.  The armaments available to the government are such that no insurrection by citizens with handguns and rifles can hope to succeed if the government is determined to crush it.

    Given the current make-up of the Supreme Court, and its fairly recent decision on the District of Columbia handgun law, the Second Amendment is going to be around for quite a while and will be an impediment to restrictions on gun ownership.  Some nibbling around the edges may be possible, e.g., banning large-capacity ammunition clips and cop-killer bullets.

    The ultimate answer is to repeal the Second Amendment.  Given how onerous the amendment process is, it will be quite some time before that could occur.

    Article V of the Constitution spells out the processes by which amendments can be proposed and ratified.

    Either two-thirds of both houses of Congress must vote to propose an amendment, or two-thirds of the State legislatures must ask Congress to call a national convention to propose amendments.

    Once an amendment has been proposed, then either three-fourths of the state legislatures must approve it, or ratifying conventions in three-fourths of the States must approve it.

    Per the Supreme Court, ratification must occur within some reasonable time after the proposal. For the 18th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd amendments, the specified period was seven years, but that is not carved in stone.

    Considering our failure to adopt the Equal Rights Amendment, the Second Amendment is likely to be with us for the foreseeable future.

  4. some with easy answers and some not so easy.

    Is gun violence in America a problem?

    Yes, without a doubt.

    Can anything be done about it without changing the Constitution?

    Certainly. We already have limits, as shown in the cartoon that accompanies this diary. We had an assault weapons ban and I believe we will have another one in the future.

    “Isn’t it time this myth has its day?”

    It already has for most people. As you mention, 80% of us live in urban areas. The times, they are a’changin’.

    “Is America in danger of being locked in its constitution, and clinging blindly to absolutist texts, when the country’s whole history has been of amendment and innovation?”

    Not in the least. The Constitution is often rather broadly interpreted. Look how the Commerce clause is used to justify so many Federal initiatives. Or look at the interpretation of the  Necessary and Proper clause. If the Constitution was strictly interpreted then people would be able to possess any arms they could carry (bear). In addition, the 14th Amendment significantly changed the way the Constitution affects the states.

    It is true that under this court, the strict constitutionalists hold more sway, but that will change as the composition of the court changes over time.

    I do have one quibble with your diary.

    And just so we’re in no doubt what those damaging political consequences are: within my lifetime we’ve seen the assassination of a President, his brother, and one of the most important political leaders of the century. We’ve seen a near miss assassination of another President and other politicians crippled for life by gun violence. I can think of no country in the world I know which has this record.

    You have a qualifier in there that eliminates most of the political assassinations in other countries.

    I seem to remember a day of remembrance in your country about political violence. Something about people wearing masks? I also remember something about a few people being killed by the IRA in England a few years ago. Mountbatten for one. In fact, we haven’t even caught up with you yet. We’re still using handguns and rifles. We have yet to have someone try to assassinate a politician with a mortar.

    The Israelis had (have?) a policy of political assassination against their enemies. And, of course, there was the death of Yitzhak Rabin.

    Politicians have been hacked to death in African countries. Two Ghandis were killed in India and there have been other assassinations in Bangladesh and Pakistan. It was only a week ago that the Governor of Punjab was killed by a submachine gun.

    Need I go on?


    think we should abide by the original constitution (at least their interpretation of it) as if it were handed down from God are the same people who believe in a pretty literal interpretation of the Bible.

    I’m wondering if there is a 10-15% segment of our population who can’t handle risk, uncertainty or change.  Nate Silver had a table in 2008 that showed factors he considered in deciding how a particular district/state would vote.  Places with a mobile population tend to be more liberal, places where the population tends to stay put are more conservative.

    I picture people who like things nice and tidy as in:

    This is my home town; I live here; I’ve always lived here.

    This book tells me how the world and universe started and how it works.  So that’s settled.

    These are the rules set down by the founding fathers who had all the answers so there’s no need to tinker with them.

    The man in my family goes to work and the woman stays home.  That’s how it has always been.

  6. creamer

    I think you have to accept that gun laws will not change in any drastic way. Kids are killing kids in Chicago almost every day. As horrific as the Tuscon shooting is, and its tenuous political link, we have children dying from bullets almost everyday and we collectivley shrug.

  7. fogiv

    i’m the shit.

    (real comment on substance later, i’m buried writing a report for work, but i think i’ll have lots to say on this subject)

  8. fogiv

    “His little speech is a perfect gem; deep in feeling, compact in thought and expression, and tasteful and elegant in every word and comma. Then it has the merit of unexpectedness in its verbal perfection and beauty… Turn back and read it over, it will repay study as a model speech. Strong feelings and a large brain are its parents.”

    “The cheeks of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dishwatery utterances.”

    “…Could the most elaborate and splendid oration be more beautiful, more touching, more inspiring than those thrilling words of the President? They have in our humble judgment the charm and power of the very highest eloquence.”

    “The President succeeded on this occasion because he acted without sense and without constraint in a panorama that was gotten up more for the benefit of his party than for the glory of the nation and honor of the dead…We pass over the silly remarks of the President; for the credit of the Nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall no more be repeated or thought of.”


  9. fogiv

    By mid-afternoon, the university said 17,000 people were in line for the event, exceeding the arena’s intended capacity. Overflow seating was set up at the school’s football stadium, with a video of the proceedings to be played on the scoreboard screen.

  10. DTOzone

    Names omitted to protect the douchebags.

    YY:Last time I checked people don’t yell & Cheer at memorial Services…Obama Get The Hell Off The Screen

    24 minutes ago via BlackBerry · Like · Comment

    XX:Seriously! This guy thinks he’s a celebrity

    21 minutes ago · Like

    YY: He looks like Dumbo

    12 minutes ago · Like

  11. DTOzone

    from my friends on the left;


    ughhh come on obama!! modern family is on at 9!!!

    15 minutes ago via Mobile Web · Like · Comment

    4 people like this.

    B Seriously!

    14 minutes ago · Like

    A lmao

    13 minutes ago · Like

    J You know?! Not to be insensitive but we get it.. we’re hopeful, we’re greatful, we’re thankful.. now move it along.

    12 minutes ago via Facebook Mobile · Like

    A lol

    12 minutes ago · Like

    yeah, I give up.  

  12. DTOzone


    ya gotta be kidding me? they can break into programming to get obama some face time in the midst of a crisis……but they DONT do it when the news broke? i hate this president

    44 minutes ago · Like · Comment · See Friendship

    S: such a media whore/wannabe celebrity i’m sick of it… know this is his doing

    43 minutes ago · Like

    A:e why do you hate obama so much? Especially when the man is setting up health care for people like you and me.

    40 minutes ago · Like

    S: i’m just not sold on the guy….i dont really like any politicians to be honest with you…i dont trust any of them really. but something with this guy just irks me, he just seems like such a craver of face time. and until the health care things pans out, i cant say he has done anything yet.

    i shouldnt say hate…thats too strong…but i just dont like the guy or anything he says he stands for

    37 minutes ago · Like

    and my response

    well, you know, can’t interrupt a football game, which they didn’t preempt when the President spoke on Saturday (yet they did when Bush spoke after Katrina, go figure), but I think the fact that you see this as Obama wanting face time in the middle of a crisis rather something every President has done in this situation shows a lot about you, and the state of this nation, if you can still call it that. And as far as having not done anything, you need gay friends in the military or construction workers who have jobs repairing infrastructure because of government contracts from the stimulus, or poor children who have healthcare now (every single one does), because they’ll disagree this

    oh and I’m saying, HIS doing?!?!?!

    There’s no hope with these people, sorry. They don’t want unity, they want civil war.  

  13. DTOzone

    I’m sorry I didn’t know this memorial Service was going to turn rally for his Re-Election….NOT GONNA HAPPEN BUDDY!

  14. I’m sorry, that wasn’t polite. Let me rephrase that (aheam):


    I will no-doubt have to feel mildly bad about saying that later, but her self-promoting ham-handedly-framed Presidential Moment video have me a little cranky. I haven’t shouted at a screen in a long time. Felt good, actually.

    The giggles. The “precept” (even if she knew the meaning she has never used the word in a sentence in her life). The entire script with it’s AM-radio cadence (“let us pray”). “Random”. The poor delivery with all the obvious rehearsals behind it (public speaking hint: don’t ever [ever ever] try to fake a manner of speech in front of an audience, no matter how well rehearsed) and the manufactured mannerisms for once absolutely pale in annoyance-value compared to the sickeningly offensive content.

    What a coldly calculating and vapidly callous self-serving narcissistic piece of bad business this person is.

  15. fogiv

    just finally had the chance to pull up the speech and watch it front to back and i’ve gotta say, i’d follow this guy right through the very gates of hell.

  16. jsfox

    I don’t know, I don’t care. It brought a tear to my eye and made me feel far far better about our future, at least for a moment, than I have felt in a long long time.

    I plan to ignore, at least for today, those who either through being blinded by hate or because they stuck their fingers into their ears and went la la la I can’t hear you, failed at getting the message.

    Bravo Mr. President bravo!

  17. fogiv

    …(and you know who you are) you should totally scoot on down to the North End Studio right around 7:30 and see the amazing Sheesham and Lotus.  some of the best folk music you’ll ever see anywhere.  do it.  do it for me.  and if you have the opportunity, complain to them vociferously that there’s a guys in far flung california who desperately wants them expand their tour to the west coast.  🙂

  18. whom experience had taught that rudeness was by no means a guarantee of good faith, was even less inclined to regard a well-turned phrase as a proof of insincerity.”  

    James Hilton, Lost Horizon

    Well done, Mr. Obama.

  19. fogiv

    In one of the most cynical displays in recent memory, following the lead of Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft, several  conservative websites – including Fox Nation and MRC arm CNS News – suggested that President Obama lied last night when he said that Rep. Giffords had opened her eyes for the first time shortly after his Wednesday night visit to the hospital.

    In a recently-completed press conference, Giffords’ doctor Peter Rhee explained that what Obama said last night about Giffords opening her eyes was “true.”

    In response to a question from a reporter about previous statements that Giffords could open her eyes, Rhee and Dr. B Michael Lemole, Section Chief of Neurosurgery at University Medical Center in Tuscon, explained the important distinction. Namely, Giffords previously opened her eyes in response to “stimulus,” and yesterday she opened them spontaneously, which represented a “major milestone” in her recovery.

    Also, Limbaugh has cranked his shit-spewer up to eleven.

    Limbaugh Demands “Combat Pay” For Listening To Obama Discuss Rep. Giffords Opening Her Eyes

    Limbaugh Rejects Calls For Civility And Healing: “We Don’t Need To Heal”

    Limbaugh Attacks Obama For Calling On Americans To Live Up To The Dreams Of 9-Year-Old Shooting Victim

    Limbaugh: “The Muslim Brothers Might Be Scratching Their Heads” After Obama “Regime” Quoted Bible At Memorial

    That’s all from today.  Just today.

  20. HappyinVT

    on Palin’s disaster video:

    …One would have thought that Palin, like any responsible person in her shoes right now, could have mustered some sort of regret about the unfortunate coincidence of what she had done in the campaign and what happened afterwards. Wouldn’t you? If you had publicly defended a map with cross-hairs on a congresswoman’s district, and that congresswoman had subsequently been shot, would you not be able to express even some measure of regret at what has taken place, even while denying, rightly, any actual guilt? Could you not even acknowledge the possibility that your critics have and had a point, including the chief Palin-critic on this, who happens to be struggling for her life in hospital, Gabrielle Giffords.

    But no. That would require acknowledging misjudgment. Palin cannot acknowledge misjudgment, as she cannot admit error. It would require rising to an occasion, rather than sinking to it. And to moderate that tone, to acknowledge that one can make an error, to defend oneself from unfair accusations while acknowledging the need for a calmer discourse in future – this is beyond her.

    It is, of course, also her strategy. She can only win in a hugely polarized country. She has as little support outside the Republican base as she has a cult following within it. And she has decided that this occasion for introspection is actually an opportunity to double down.

    There is something menacing about that.

  21. spacemanspiff

    Coverage of the speech earned a 19.4 household rating/31 share. Compared to presidential speeches of 2010, that rating and viewership number tops Obama’s address on Iraq on Aug. 31 which drew an audience of 29 million, and is just shy of his Jun. 15 address on the Gulf Coast oil spill at 32 million (both speeches were carried on 11 networks)

Comments are closed.