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“The Biggest Threat To Carson’s Campaign”: Low-Information Candidate Worried About Low-Information Voters

On Wednesday afternoon, Ben Carson told Wolf Blitzer that his biggest threat in the presidential election isn’t Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, the two candidates who happen to be beating him right now.

No, Carson, whose poll numbers have dropped so far that he could grab a toboggan and slide down them into irrelevance, thinks the biggest barrier to his victory is “the fact that people sometimes are not well educated.”

Back in October, when Carson was in second place, he was doing much better among voters without a college degree than he is doing today with any voters.

“They don’t have a clue what you’re talking about,” Carson, who was once described by his former campaign manager as “just living in an alternative universe,” said, “and yet these are people who vote … I implore people to really inform yourself about who the candidates are, inform yourself of what their positions are.”

Ben Carson — a very good neurosurgeon who reportedly doesn’t understand foreign policy even though people keep trying to explain it to him over and over — for example, believes that free college will destroy our nation; that pyramids were used to store grain instead of dead bodies; that the minimum wage is good or bad; that Muslims shouldn’t be president; that it is okay to take a break from your presidential campaign to sell copies of your book; that gun control helped the Nazis; that people in mass-shooting situations should yell, “Hey, guys, everybody attack him!“; that prison turns people gay (“So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”); that spending a lot of money to raise money is a great idea; that Hamas is pronounced “hummus”; that New Hampshire is actually pretty far away from Vermont; and that “Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.”

Hopefully this list will inform voters of who Ben Carson really is — and inform Ben Carson that the biggest threat to his campaign is actually the fact that he just isn’t a very good candidate.

 

By: Jamie Fuller, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 27, 2016

January 28, 2016 Posted by | Ben Carson, GOP Presidential Candidates, Voters | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“This Moment Was Arresting”: President Obama’s Tear A Starkly Human Thing

He didn’t bawl.

His voice only roughened for a moment and he dabbed at a couple tears that straggled down his cheek. As displays of emotion go, it wasn’t all that much. But it was, of course, more than enough.

Inevitably, President Obama’s tears became the takeaway from last week’s White House speech on gun violence. They came as he recalled the 2012 massacre of six educators and 20 young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“Every time I think about those kids,” said the president, tears shining on his cheek, “it gets me mad.”

One grows used to thinking of politics as a craft practiced mostly by people who are only technically human. One grows used to their cynical manipulations and insincere triangulations, to their poll-tested smiles, and focus-grouped quips. Which is why this moment was arresting. The president wept and it was a starkly human thing.

Or at least, that’s surely how most of us saw it. It is a sign of how angry and hateful our politics have become that some conservatives refused to accept the moment at face value.

“I would check that podium for a raw onion,” sneered Andrea Tantaros of Fox “News.”

“He’s putting something in his eyes to create the fascist tears,” wrote John Nolte of Breitbart.

“(hashtag)Crocodile Tears” tweeted actor James Woods.

One hardly knows how to respond. There isn’t even anger. There is only embarrassment for them, only amazement that some people are so bad at being, well … people.

But the sense of disconnectedness, of the action being wholly at odds with some people’s interpretation thereof, went far beyond the president’s tears. To compare what Obama actually said as he seeks to rein in the nation’s runaway gun violence with the way it was afterward construed by his political opposites is to feel as if one has fallen down the rabbit hole into an alternate reality where people drink trees and smell music and the idea that words have fixed meaning is about as real as the Tooth Fairy.

“I believe in the Second Amendment … that guarantees the right to bear arms,” said the president.

Which House Speaker Paul Ryan interpreted as: “From day one, the president has never respected the right to safe and legal gun ownership that our nation has valued since its founding.”

Obama took a handful of modest actions, including: an executive order clarifying that anyone who makes a living selling guns is required to conduct background checks on buyers; hiring more personnel to process background checks; pushing for improved gun safety technology and tracking of stolen firearms.

Which Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump processed as: “Pretty soon, you won’t be able to get guns.”

One nation, two realities, one of them populated by the NRA and its GOP henchmen, by extremists who don’t just own guns or like guns, but who sanctify and worship guns and so regard even the most humble effort to check their destructive power as blasphemy against their god.

In the other reality live the rest of us, heartsick and frustrated that our country has come to this: Mass shootings are commonplace and we cannot muster the political will to do anything about it. So nothing happens; nothing changes. Bullets fly, the gun lobby prattles on, and in an endless loop, we mourn mothers, fathers, sisters and sons in San Bernardino, Aurora, Ft. Hood, Tucson, Charleston and, yes, Newtown, where 20 first-graders — little children — were gunned down, slaughtered.

And people are disbelieving that the president cried? It is not amazing that someone might ponder this carnage and want to weep. No, what’s amazing is that some of us ponder it and do not.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, January 10, 2016

January 12, 2016 Posted by | Gun Deaths, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association, Sandy Hook, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The End Of The Democratic Party’s Silent Era On Guns”: Has President Obama Broken The Political Stalemate On Guns?

On Thursday night, for the first time since he rolled out his plan to expand background checks for guns, President Barack Obama publicly faced his critics—some of them, that is. His audience of several dozen at a CNN-hosted town hall included a mother and rape survivor, a shooting-range owner, and an Arizona sheriff, all of whom questioned Obama’s approach to the gun-violence epidemic. The only voice missing was the one that has long overshadowed these debates—the National Rifle Association. NRA officials declined their CNN invitation, preferring the comfort of Fox News to what they labeled a “public relations spectacle.”

Obama was ready to pounce on the NRA’s absence; he looked most at ease during the hour-plus event whenever he was attacking and counterpointing the group. Early on, host Anderson Cooper asked the president about the NRA’s absence. “Since this is a main reason they exist, you’d think that they’d be prepared to have a debate with the president,” he said, pointing out (pointedly) that their headquarters was just “right down the street.”

Only a few minutes in, Obama had already shed the last of his overly cautious image on guns. And he’d begun to give Democratic candidates in 2016 an object lesson in how to talk about gun control—and its fiercest foes.

For most of his time in office, Obama has mostly treaded carefully on the issue, calling on Congress to take action after each round of national mourning for a mass shooting rather than tapping into his own (albeit limited) presidential powers to take action. As a candidate, he was similarly cautious. Finally, at the Virginia town hall, Obama proved he has outgrown any fear of the gun lobby.

Democratic candidates, presidential and otherwise, have long been silent and defensive on gun control, fearing that gun owners’ distrust, stoked by NRA spending, would cost them elections. That thinking dates back at least to 1994, when Democrats lost Congress and the defeat was partly chalked up to backlash from the recently passed assault-weapons ban. The conventional wisdom only solidified when Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee in 2000, costing Democrats the White House—another loss blamed, with scant evidence, on the Democratic candidate’s support for the assault-weapons ban and other forms of gun control.

It took roughly 20 years, but Obama has finally marked the end of the Democratic Party’s silent era on guns. His executive actions and last night’s forum mark the start—a strong one—to 2016, a year in which Democrats may finally learn to talk straight about the NRA and make combatting gun violence an issue they use to win votes, rather than shrink from.

Obama may not have convinced any of his NRA opponents that all he wants are modest measures, but he doesn’t need to. The NRA’s base won’t move, no matter what Democrats do or don’t do. But the vast majority of Americans already agree with the president on sensible background checks. Some 90 percent support background checks for guns, and in a poll before the town hall, CNN found that 67 percent of Americans support Obama’s recent executive actions.

Yet when asked about the likely effectiveness of his actions, the polls flip, showing nearly one in six think they won’t reduce gun deaths. It’s those sympathetic-but-skeptical Americans who Obama addressed most effectively on Thursday, giving us a preview of how the next Democratic presidential nominee will likely frame the party’s message on guns. “The goal here is just to make progress,” he said—incremental, but life-saving, progress.

Obama has given Democrats a template for how to navigate the gun-control issue in 2016. In his final year of office, he’s come out in front on gun violence, experimenting with the right message and providing his fellow Democrats with some political cover by taking the flak for it. He offered a roadmap on Thursday to the two Democratic presidential frontrunners—and candidates down-ballot as well—on how to campaign for gun reform.

First, he was (mostly) up-front about his own experience with guns. In the past, Obama has sometimes done his version of the compulsory “Democratic candidate goes hunting” photo-op, referencing his passion for hunting and skeet shooting (to be fair, he did mention it in passing on Thursday). But gun owners (along with everyone else) have long known enough to dismiss that as pandering. Obama’s far more effective moments at the forum came when he spoke about his other experience with guns, including Chicago’s gun violence, which has taken victims just blocks from his home.

Second, he knew who he was trying to convince: people who are already concerned about gun violence, but aren’t convinced that new regulations are really going to help. He turned to gun owners in the audience more than once, explaining that people “less responsible” than them shouldn’t be able to get a gun without a background check. And he came back again and again to his broader argument: “There’s nothing else in our lives that we purchase where we don’t try to make it a little safer if we can,” he said, comparing the gun industry to cars, toys, and medicine that have become safer with regulation.

Finally, Obama knew his enemy, and called the NRA out for its spin. At one point, Cooper asked him if it’s fair to call the idea he wants to take everybody’s guns a conspiracy, since “a lot of people really believe this deeply.” Obama—so visibly frustrated he mixed up Anderson Cooper’s name—cut in: “I’m sorry, Cooper. Yes, it is fair to call it a conspiracy. What are you saying? Are you suggesting that the notion that we are creating a plot to take everybody’s guns away so that we can impose martial law is a conspiracy? Yes, that is a conspiracy!”

It’s too soon, of course, to know if Obama’s approach will prove politically popular or just manage to embolden the NRA’s base—probably both. But Democrats appear more and more inclined to stop tiptoeing around the issue and the NRA. Hillary Clinton proposed an almost-identical plan to Obama’s executive actions last fall, a promising sign she’d continue Obama’s march if she becomes the nominee. Bernie Sanders also recently embraced Obama’s actions. If this year’s Democratic nominee pushes further ideas for using executive powers to make incremental progress on gun control—and calls out the NRA and its arguments with anything near the force that Obama showed on Thursday—then we’ll know the stalemate on guns in electoral politics has finally broken.

 

By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, January 8, 2015

January 9, 2016 Posted by | Background Checks, Gun Control, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Guns We Don’t Talk About”: The One On The Nightstand Whose Most Likely Victim Is Yourself Or Someone You Love

It was a good day to die.

In early September 2003, I spent the morning shuffling my children off to school, used our last 10 dollars to put gas in the tank, folded a basket of laundry, and tidied up the tiny motel room we lived in. And then, I went to my car and pulled the small, .22 caliber revolver from the locked glove compartment.

I sat in the dimly lit room—for minutes or hours, I do not know—surrounded by the remains of my life, haunted by a broken marriage that was nearly 10 years gone, a failed business, a pile of overdue utility bills, and a string of eviction notices. We were living, if you could call it that, on $150 a week in child support and a few hundred dollars each month in food stamps. What was left of our furniture was in storage, paid for by our church benevolent fund. There had been two flat tires, but no job interviews that week. The weekly motel rent was due again and there wasn’t a dime left on my credit card to cover it.

I placed my gun on the bed and kneeled down on the carpet to pray. I listed my complaints and my failings. “Father, help me.”

I remember feeling tired when I turned on my old desktop computer, logged in to AOL, and started to type out what I intended to be a final message to family and a few close friends. “I want to thank you,” I started.

I sat there a while longer, realizing there was nothing I really wanted to say, until an instant message popped up on the screen.

“Hi, Mom! How are you?”

“Hey, Katie Lady…”

“I’m in the computer lab and guess what?”

“What is it sweetie?”

“I won the election!”

“That’s great, honey.”

“I’ll see you after school!”

“See you then…”

Tonight, as the country continues a national conversation on gun control, I am thinking about my old gun. I purchased it and two others over the years. They were handguns, bought legally, as a means of personal protection.

Each year, there are some 30,000 victims of gun violence in the U.S. Nearly half of those deaths come at the hands of another. Whether it is the Bushmaster that cuts down a classroom of schoolchildren, an assault-style weapon used to carry out a massacre in a church basement or a movie theater, or one of the thousands of cheap, illegal handguns that flood our streets, gun violence continues to capture national headlines. When we talk about gun control, invariably we are talking about those guns.

We don’t talk about the gun in the nightstand. We don’t talk about the one in the lockbox in the top of a bedroom closet. We don’t talk about the one, like mine, secured in the glove compartment of a car.

And even when we do discuss mental health as a factor, we rarely—if ever—mention the nearly 15,000 Americans who commit suicide each year. When we talk about expanding access to mental health care, we mean for the mass shooter who wipes out an entire kindergarten class. We mean for the loner who walks into a movie theater and shoots indiscriminately into the darkness. We mean for the man who targets a Planned Parenthood clinic.

We don’t mean the uninsured, unemployed, single mother battling depression, who begs the heavens for a reprieve.

The president has proposed a myriad of solutions, including expanded background checks. Taken together, his planned executive actions may work to dampen the tide of guns. Closing the so-called gun show loophole may hamper a straw-purchaser’s ability to buy firearms in a state like Indiana and later sell them on the streets of Chicago.

I lost my father and two brothers to gun violence and all were killed with illegal handguns that were used in other crimes. Growing up, it was all too easy to get a gun in our neighborhood in East St. Louis. Placing reasonable restrictions on the most dangerous consumer product on the market isn’t a violation of the Second Amendment. It’s common sense.

However, in this country, suicides outnumber homicides almost two to one. We should not forget that when an individual owns a gun they are more likely to kill themselves and/or someone they love. Survival rates among those who attempt suicide by other means, such as a pill overdose or hanging, are higher than for those who use a gun. It is no accident that states where guns are most prevalent also report higher suicide rates. According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, people who live in homes with firearms are two to three times more likely to be murder victims or commit suicide.

We can debate the notion that more “good guys with guns” is the answer to violent crime or if the cast of solutions proposed by the president will make a difference in practice. There are no easy answers. But we should try everything within the confines of the Constitution if it will make it harder for criminals to stockpile guns. We should impose more meaningful barriers to high-capacity magazines and rapid-fire weaponry, if it means curtailing a mass shooter’s ability to slaughter and maim. If it means more children will be safe walking to school in America, that people can enjoy a prayer service at church or join their family for a night at the movies, we should do it. Maybe, as Chicago’s Father Pfleger suggested during tonight’s town hall on CNN, we should “title” guns like we title cars.

Tonight’s broadcast focused almost solely on the potential for homicide, with little or no conversation about the thousands of people who take their own lives each year. But, make no mistake: A self-inflicted gunshot wound is an act of violence.

My oldest daughter Katie was in the eighth grade the day I decided to die and I know that her message saved my life. That year, she would go on to be valedictorian of her graduating class and give an incredible speech at the ceremony. Today, she is an Ivy League alum, an extraordinary schoolteacher, and expecting her first child this fall.

When we talk about gun violence we almost always focus on the criminal aspects, and forget the public health questions. We forget that there are thousands of gunshot victims who die by their own hand. The president briefly broached the topic, saying that while the majority of young homicide victims are black or Latino, the overwhelming majority of suicides by young people are white. If we are to truly host a national conversation about gun violence and commit ourselves to real solutions, we cannot forget the people who die alone in the dark. They rarely make the news and, like tonight, too little attention is paid to their pain.

I am grateful for this life, thankful for my children who are now taking the world on their own terms. I cannot wait to hold my second grandchild. Too many Americans will miss moments like these.

We can do something about that.

 

By: Goldie Taylor, The Daily Beast, January 8, 2016

January 9, 2016 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns, Suicide | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Obama’s Gun Speech Was One For The Ages”: It Will Be Remembered For A Long Time To Come

For a president who sometimes is criticized as too cerebral and lacking emotion, the memories he carries from comforting grieving families in Tucson, Fort Hood, Binghamton, Aurora, Oak Creek, Newtown, the Navy Yard, Santa Barbara, Charleston, and San Bernardino came together in what history will likely record as one of President Obama’s landmark speeches on Tuesday.

It was an effort to bring urgency to the gun issue in the same way he rescued his candidacy with a speech about race when he first ran for the White House. And for the gun-safety advocates and gun-violence survivors packed into the East Room of the White House on Tuesday morning, it was a huge moment in a fight that for too long has seemed stalemated.

“The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage now, but they can’t hold America hostage,” Obama declared as he outlined the executive actions he is taking to circumvent Congress and expand background checks to cover the growing commerce of guns over the Internet.

“This is a great day for responsible gun owners,” said retired astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, whose wife, Gabby Giffords, got a standing ovation as she entered the East Room. Then-U.S. Rep. Giffords was shot in the head along with 18 others outside a supermarket in Tucson five years ago this week. “We’re grateful to the president for standing up to the gun lobby,” Kelly said after the White House event, describing himself to reporters as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.

Obama’s nearly 40-minute long speech was thankfully more sermon than college lecture as he sought to mobilize activists and voters alike for the long battle ahead. And one point, tears visibly streamed down his face. He didn’t use the word “movement” to describe the increasing array of gun-safety groups, some launched in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, but he reminded his audience that the women’s right to vote and the liberation of African Americans didn’t happen overnight, and LGBT rights took decades of work.

“Just because it’s hard, it’s no excuse not to try,” he said as he acknowledged the obvious, that gun violence and the scourge of mass shootings will extend beyond his presidency.

He expressed his puzzlement at how American society has reached a point where mass violence erupts with such frequency that it seems almost normal “and instead of talking about how to solve the problem, it’s become one of the most partisan and polarizing debates.” He put in a plug for a town meeting he is doing Thursday evening that will be televised on CNN. “I’m not on the ballot again. I’m not looking to score some points,” he said, adding that he wants to instill what Dr. King called, “the fierce urgency of now.”

“People are dying and the constant excuses for inaction no longer suffice,” Obama said. “We’re here not to debate the last mass shooting but to do something to prevent the next mass shooting,” a statement that got a big round of applause.

Obama’s rhetoric and his invocations of some of the lives lost brought people to tears, including Attorney General Loretta Lynch, top aide Valerie Jarrett, and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell. Every year more than 30,000 Americans die in gun suicides, domestic violence, gang shootouts, and accidents, and hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost family members or buried their children.

“Many have had to learn to live with a disability, or without the love of their life,” Obama said. “Here today in this room, right here, there are a lot of stories, a lot of heartache… and this is only a small sample.”

After the event, several people stood out in the White House driveway in the bitter cold telling their stories. Among them was Jennifer Pinckney, the widow of slain Charleston minister Clementa Pinckney. She held a framed photograph of her husband as she told reporters about how her young daughters are frightened by any sound that could be a gunshot.

After Sandy Hook, Obama signed 23 executive orders reinforcing federal law in an attempt to restrain gun violence, and it’s taken the last year to navigate the legal thickets where Obama felt confident enough to go forward with closing the so-called “gun show loophole.” New guidelines on who qualifies as a gun dealer went up on an administration website as the president spoke.

Noting that two in three gun deaths is a suicide, Obama wants Congress to do more to fund access to mental health treatment. To those in Congress who rush to blame mental illness as a way to avoid the gun issue, he said, “Here’s your chance to support these efforts.” He also pledged to put the federal government’s research arm, including the Defense Department, behind gun-safety technology. “If a child can’t open a bottle of aspirin, we need to make sure they can’t pull the trigger on a gun.”

The expansion of background checks so that people with criminal records, domestic-assault violations, and severe mental illness can’t buy guns is popular with all groups, including 64 percent of gun owners and 56 percent of those who describe themselves as “favorable toward the NRA,” according to pollster Anna Greenberg, who conducted the survey just before Thanksgiving for Americans for Responsible Gun Solutions, founded by Kelly and Giffords. Ninety percent of millennials support the kind of action Obama took, Greenberg said.

Elected officials have long memories, and Bill Clinton still blames the Democrats’ loss of Congress in 1994 on their support for the Brady Bill and an assault weapons ban. A lot of big names went down in that election, and gun regulation went down with them. What Obama did this week is “the most significant achievement since the Brady Bill” more than 20 years ago, said Kelly.

It’s a nice twist of fate that Hillary Clinton might be able to capitalize on the shift. “Thank you, @POTUS, for taking a crucial step forward on gun violence. Our next president has to build on that progress—not rip it away” she tweeted after Obama’s speech. Guns are on the agenda in 2016, and Democrats are no longer cowering, which signals a cultural shift that goes beyond Obama’s still rather limited executive actions.

 

By: Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast, January 6, 2016

January 7, 2016 Posted by | Background Checks, Gun Deaths, Gun Violence, President Obama | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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