Inside Opinion

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Tag: Joe Biden

Jan.
17th

To prevent gun violence, pick battles carefully

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Vice President Joe Biden, noted for his bloopers, made a cogent and critical point Wednesday about upcoming congressional battle over gun restrictions.

“We’re going to need voices in those areas, in those congressional districts where the tradition of gun ownership is strong, to speak up and to say this is important. It can’t just be the usual suspects.”

“The usual suspects” presumably means the liberal, urban folks – often Easterners – who have dominated gun control advocacy over the years with a spectacular lack of success. Many are hostile to guns in general and can’t comprehend why anyone would own one.

Biden didn’t go quite this far, but we will: The success of gun legislation will largely depend on the support of people who lawfully own and enjoy firearms, but don’t share the absolutism of National Rifle Association leaders and other hard-liners.

Those gun owners will buy aggressive new measures to keep firearms out of the hands of the wrong people. But any attempt to criminalize their own weapons will trigger a ferocious political backlash.

This argues against attempts to categorically ban “assault weapons.” Such legislation is likely to fail – and could take more important measures down with it.

It is notoriously difficult to define what an assault weapon is. Even the AR-style rifle used in the Sandy Hook massacre was nothing special mechanically. Remove its black, collapsible stock, pistol grip and extended magazine, replace them with a brown wooden stock and smaller magazine, and it would look and act like an ordinary hunting rifle of modest power.

Millions of law-abiding people, many of them veterans, simply like the military-style accessories. So be it. Some quarrels are worth spending political capital on. This isn’t one of them.
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Aug.
21st

Biden, Akin, et al: Not all gaffes are created equal

The following editorial appeared in the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday, Aug. 21:

One of the most annoying features of modern American politics is the scripted politician. He or she memorizes a set of consultant-generated talking points, repeats them with monotonous efficiency and never lets the public glimpse a real human being with thoughts that have not been preapproved and focus-group-tested. So why do politicians behave that way? Simple: They want to avoid the dreaded “gaffe.”

Gaffes have become one of the dominant topics of this election season. But contrary to what you might assume, all gaffes are not created equal. Here, we offer voters a guide to which stumbles warrant a response and which deserve to be excused or ignored:

A common type is the quote ripped from context, framed to distort the candidate’s actual views and blown up 10 times its original size. Mitt Romney found his way into this phenomenon when he was quoted as saying, “I like being able to fire people.” His critics pretended he was showing disdain for the unemployed, when he was really extolling the value of letting consumers “fire” companies that treat them poorly.

Something similar occurred when Barack Obama said, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” The “that” in his statement, though not entirely clear, seemed to refer to the infrastructure that businesses need to operate in a modern economy. The valid criticism was not that Obama thought business people didn’t build their businesses, but that he discounted the importance of that entrepreneurial contribution. This pertinent point, however, was lost in the uproar.

Then there is the gaffe committed when someone dares to speak impromptu on a controversial topic. Among the politicians prone to this sort of spectacle are Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill.

Biden made news¬†the other day when he got carried away in front of an audience that included many African-Americans, warning that Republicans are “going to put y’all back in chains.” Walsh attracted attention recently when he asserted, in reference to the threat of Islamic terrorism, “It’s here. It’s in Elk Grove. It’s in Addison. It’s in Elgin.”

The vice president later insisted he didn’t mean to make any racial allusions, and Walsh acknowledged that he got “a little ahead of myself with my language.”

Maybe both were hoping to inject some unworthy elements into the electoral bloodstream while escaping responsibility. But we’re inclined to give the benefit of some doubt to any elected official or candidate who refuses to be enslaved by scripts and teleprompters. Walsh and Biden deserve some credit for not poll-testing every utterance before speaking.

But spontaneity is not an excuse for ignorance or egregious blindness. Both were on display when Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., a U.S. Senate candidate, was asked about his opposition to legalized abortion even in cases of rape. “First of all, from what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy from rape) is really rare,” he said. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
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June
30th

Afghanistan: Vague words or vague thinking?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

When fighting a war, ambiguity is often useful; ambivalence, never.

The disputes that led to the firing of Gen. Stanley McChrystal last week exposed a little too much ambivalence about Afghanistan in the Obama administration. Among the revelations in the Rolling Stone article that brought down McChrystal was his cavalier – even contemptuous – attitude toward Joe Biden, AKA “Who’s that?”

Biden apparently doesn’t think much of the official strategy in Afghanistan. He opposed the build-up of troops Barack Obama has approved and had instead argued for a much smaller anti-insurgent strategy with a short half-life.
Obama has linked an American withdrawal from Afghanistan to July of 2011. No one – maybe not the president himself – knows the precise nature of that link.

In a new book, “The Promise” journalist Jonathan Alter quoted Biden as saying, “In July of 2011, you’re going to see a whole lot of people moving out, bet on it.” But Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently called that date “a starting point,” and that any withdrawal would depend on what’s actually happening on the ground.

Obama may be on the same page. On Sunday, he said the United States won’t necessarily “suddenly turn off the lights and let the door close behind us” on that magic date.

But the president isn’t saying anything concrete about how fast and under what conditions the troops would be pulled out – all we really know is that he’s being far more vague and guarded than the loose-lipped Biden.
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