On the basketball court over Easter, Obama shot 2 for 22. Must be the sequester.
While a few state governments enacted new gun-control measures in the wake of the Newtown tragedy — not all of which will survive the courts — federal legislators have not even come close to drafting a bill that could pass both houses of Congress. An assault-weapons ban seems to be off the table entirely, as it reportedly has fewer than 40 votes in the Senate. And background-check legislation is “going nowhere,” in the words of Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.): Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on even the most basic provisions, such as whether and how records are to be kept. Connecticut Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal, when pressed by CNN’s Candy Crowley, could not say that anything in the Senate’s gun-control bill would have prevented the Newtown massacre. Nor would it be likely to have an effect on crime generally. Banning some rifles cannot reduce gun crime, seeing as very few crimes are committed with rifles of any kind, and a background-check system is almost guaranteed to be unworkable on a practical level. But then practical steps to improve public safety have never been the point of this exercise.
When Charles Francis Adams and his son Henry visited Zachary Taylor at the White House, they found the president’s horse, Old Whitey, in a paddock out front, while inside the president “was receiving callers as simply as if he were in the paddock too.” No president will ever live that way again — D. or R., limousine liberal or Tea Party. But according to President Obama, this is a time of government austerity, brought on by sequestration, so severe that he was obliged to cancel tours of the White House. And yet his daughters spent their spring break in Paradise Island, the Bahamas, and in Sun Valley, Idaho. Presidents and their families need relaxation, and the families, especially the children, deserve privacy. But if government services that benefit ordinary citizens must be cut, could the Obama girls be restricted to one country per vacay?
On March 18, seven Marines were killed and eight injured by the explosion of a mortar round during a live-fire training exercise in Nevada. The next day, Senate majority leader Harry Reid took to the floor of the Senate and exploited their deaths in a denunciation of sequestration. He mourned their loss, and then said, “One of the things in sequester is we cut back in training and maintenance. That’s the way sequester was written. . . . Our Marines were training there in Hawthorne. And with this sequester, it’s going to cut back.” Of course, the military’s sequestration cuts have barely begun to be implemented, and there was absolutely no evidence that leaner budgets had anything to do with the accident; Reid insisted on juxtaposing them anyway. Semper lie.
Dr. Ben Carson, pediatric neurosurgeon and recently a conservative celebrity, was invited to speak at the commencement of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. But when he told Fox News that “no group — be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality . . . get to change the definition” of marriage, a student petition was launched to disinvite him. Carson subsequently backed off his comparisons, but insisted that marriage remain a commitment between a man and a woman. So far the School of Medicine stands by its invitation, citing Carson’s “extraordinary accomplishments” and describing his “personal views” as “just that, his own.” The man is entitled to his own opinion, for now.
The New York Times gave the front of its Sunday opinion section to David Stockman, President Reagan’s first budget director, to attack Reagan’s tax cuts, federal debt, Paul Ryan’s cuts in anti-poverty spending, loose money, Milton Friedman, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, corporate bailouts, and the last eight decades’ worth of attempts to smooth out the business cycle. Stockman neither focuses his critique nor supports his assertions, but he does tell an easily grasped story of elite malfeasance leading to near-certain doom. His closing advice is to “get out of the markets and hide out in cash.” Conservatives must sift what is true and useful from Stockman’s screed, which does not include his implicit counsel to retreat from public life while the country burns.