C’mon, Joe

by Charles C. W. Cooke

Via Politico’s Playbook, Michael Scherer of Time reports that Joe Biden said this yesterday:

“Yesterday we finished up in this room with … 17 members of the faith community … [I]n all the years I have been doing this, the first time there has been an overwhelming consensus, from the evangelical groups nationwide, and particularly those in rural areas, to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops to the National Conference of Churches, the Muslim community, because this does have a significant moral dimension—how we make the American community safer and how we go about it.…”

The prospect of this administration using religious figures to bolster its case is always an emetic one. A vice president using religious figures to justify his desired curbs on the Constitution is doubly so. When the issue of abortion was raised during his vice-presidential debate with Paul Ryan, Biden took a deep sigh, paused for dramatic effect, and then said that he “just refused to impose” on others what his religious teachers believed to be true. Their position, he said, was not relevant to the government. Who knows? Perhaps this rule doesn’t apply to firearms. Perhaps in this area we must seek out the “moral” teachings of our “faith leaders,” and pass them through our Congress.

If, as some will presumably claim, the religious leaders’ religiosity is not why Biden is citing their alleged support (stand down Markos, the Taliban is at bay!), then one wonders why the vice president thinks we should care what those faith leaders think. After all, Father Smith stripped of the extra moral authority his title conveys is just Mr. Smith. Is he an expert on guns? Does he legislate? If not, why ask? Biden should make explicit whether he’s citing religious leaders in the gun debate because they have a privileged role to play in the Constitutional, political, and legal affairs of the republic, or whether he’s citing them as just another few people he’s found who will express concern for the children. If they are not privileged in some way, why should we care what they think and why is he talking about “moral dimensions”? If they are, well, in a secular republic, why should we care what they think?

The vice president has amused me all week with his transparent pretense that each and every person he meets is displaying a record level of support for gun-control measures. Hunters, faith groups, schoolteachers, taxidermists, orthodontists, chefs, stonemasons, miners, airline pilots; they are all apparently wandering around aimlessly chewing their fingernails and crying out the primal scream of the Prohibitionist. We shall overcome! So convenient has been the reaction that Biden will be able to deliver his recommendations within a couple of weeks of starting his investigation.

The spectacle has become so absurd that I’m half-expecting to see the vice president coming out of a Wendy’s today saying, “Wow! Gosh! Folks, in my many years of public service I have never seen such a level of support in fast-food restaurants for the gun-control measures that I’m pretending I haven’t decided upon already. This issue does have a significant culinary dimension, and I can assure y’all that the people of this establishment grasp the enormity of my task and know that I am doing this in the name of America’s fallen angels . . .”