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Hyperbole is absolutely the worst thing ever. No doubt at all. Ask anyone. But hypocrisy should be on that list too.
We may not have more hypocrisy today than in previous eras, though it surely seems so. We do, however, have the ubiquitous means to preserve it.
For better or worse, depending on your vantage point, technology has bestowed upon our country and its politics the capability of almost every citizen to capture virtually everything anyone says in public about anything. Then, share it instantly with everyone else in the world on the Internet which, as many have regrettably discovered, is forever.
To be fair, which can seem unusual in this age of hyper-partisan politics, both political parties employ hypocrisy as a rhetorical tool to cover up doing nothing or to dodge contradictory past statements, whichever is the most convenient at that moment.
These past few days, we had two more stunning examples of convenient political hypocrisy offered up by the dark-comedy team of Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
The occasion was the tenth anniversary of that awful school shooting on Dec. 14, 2012, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Twenty innocent children and six adults senselessly died that day along with the shooter’s mother.
That was, according to a sad statistic the media have taken to citing, the nation’s fourth-deadliest mass shooting and the worst at an elementary school.
Mental health problems, either inadequately treated or unrecognized by people who could do something, were the root cause as is often the case.
At such times, the natural instinct — and not just among parents — is to ask, What can we do to stop this? Never mind the awkward social and legal questions around defining mental health problems and involuntary confinement for treatment.
The first instinct at such tragic times inevitably is to call for new laws, though the array of existing laws doesn’t seem to stop these tragedies. And urging stricter enforcement of existing laws does not carry enough zing for the evening news. Friday in Chicago, which has one of the country’s strictest municipal gun laws, two more people were shot and killed outside a high school.
New laws, that’s what Obama called for in 2012, part of a flood of unfulfilled vows that provides a classic case study in how willfully ineffective — or maybe simply cynical — these two men have been at addressing gun violence over the years, then calling for even more.
And how willingly sympathetic Washington media go along with delivering these politicians’ promissory notes, but then fail to follow up to see if anything actually came of those vows.
Spoiler Alert: It didn’t. It doesn’t. Ever.
There are no consequences in D.C. for chronic ineffectiveness. Obama and Biden were re-elected in 2012. Biden was elected to the White House in 2020.
Earlier this year, he uttered the same empty bunk over the Uvalde school shooting. And he’s expected to announce a 2024 reelection bid early next year. Count on gun measures being vowed then too.
In 2012, Obama said:
In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have?
We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage?
Five days after Sandy Hook, Obama announced he was placing Biden in charge of developing new gun controls to drive through Congress to prevent future Sandy Hooks. Obama frequently handed off to Biden like that when he wanted to sound like he was doing something decisively executive but knew nothing would ever happen. So, he could blame someone else.
“This is not some Washington commission,” Obama defensively declared, knowing it was:
This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside. This is a team that has a very specific task, to pull together real reforms right now.
Two years before, Obama had put Biden in charge of implementing the new economic stimulus legislation of more than $850 million, which seemed like a lot in those Democrat spending days.
At every opportunity then, Biden promised thousands of “shovel-ready jobs” next month. Or surely the one after. They never came until Donald Trump’s administration. And “shovel-ready jobs” became a laugh line that even Obama used.
Biden met with all kinds of groups in those days, pretending to listen to their desires. Wearing his aviator sunglasses indoors for effect, Biden even returned to Capitol Hill, where he’d served six ineffective Senate terms, allegedly to corral legislative support.
Calling for things to happen is a time-honored, empty political ploy signaling virtue but deftly involving no obligation whatsoever to do anything yourself, leaving it to others to follow through, which they rarely do.
Delighted to have a story showing they worked that day, media simply don’t call out the callers for this hollow PR gimmick.
Despite Biden’s alleged sway on Capitol Hill, nothing ever came of thebig gun legislation push to increase identity checks, reduce magazine sizes, and ban semi-automatic weapons. Nothing except copious positive news coverage at the time and no follow-up inquiring about their failure.
Biden still boasts about what his plans would have done had he been successful convincing his former congressional colleagues to listen to him, which he wasn’t and they didn’t:
We walked to 229 different groups. We submitted a sweeping plan to change our gun laws and make our children and communities safer.
We announced 23 executive actions to strengthen the gun background check system, restart public health research on gun violence, help schools establish emergency management plans, and more.
We also put forward legislation that would require background checks for all gun sales.
In 2012, Connecticut law already forbid the 20-year-old Sandy Hook shooter from carrying a handgun. He had two with him anyway during the murder spree, plus his mother’s long gun. He fired that four times into her head while she slept and then shot out the school’s locked doors.
In his White House campaign, Biden promised:
I’ll repeal the federal law that protects gun manufacturers from civil liability claims…. I’ll ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, require background checks for all gun sales, incentivize states to enact red flag laws to get guns out of dangerous hands, and more.
A web link to his detailed gun safety program actually goes to a campaign fundraising page.
Last May a shooter in Uvalde, Texas killed 19 schoolchildren and two adults. Predictably, in his remarks, Biden made no reference to his past unsuccessful calls for new gun laws:
We as a nation have to ask when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby. When in God’s name do we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?
When in God’s name are these folks actually going to do what they say?
Last week was the tenth anniversary of Sandy Hook. Both Biden and Obama made statements. In his, Obama made no reference to Biden, his failed legislative efforts, Benghazi, or any other of the 2,922 days of his two terms. He said he considered Sandy Hook “the single darkest day of my presidency.”
But Obama added, if the Sandy Hook victims “were here today, I know the children and educators we lost a decade ago would be proud, too.”
Of what exactly?
In his statement, Biden praised this year’s Safer Communities Act which tightens some gun tracking rules and increases funding for violence prevention programs. Americans, he added not including himself “should have societal guilt for taking too long to deal with this problem.”
And, of course, he called for more laws to “prevent these things from happening again.”