Every once in awhile, someone I admire says or writes something so outrageous that I am compelled to come to the defense of a person of whom I am not fond, or a position which I do not share.
David Rothkopf runs Foreign Policy — far and away the best foreign affairs website on the internet, as well as a very solid magazine. On Tuesday, however, Rothkopf opted to demonize Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as more dangerous than Kim Jong Un, who — despite looking like a sketch-comedy dictator — is a ruthless leader who presides over a starving, terrified population.
Rothkopf's argument (you can read the whole thing here) is simple enough: Kim Jong Un may be a lunatic, but he is a lunatic highly unlikely to inflict damage on the United States. So Rothkopf suggests that we turn our attention to a supposed villain who he thinks is more worthy of our immediate attention: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his colleagues threatening to filibuster gun control.
Because Kim, even with his nuclear weapons, is hardly likely to launch an attack on Americans anywhere given that the response would produce the instant and certain obliteration of his regime. What that means is that for all his bluster, the chubby little autocrat is very unlikely to cost one American his life. But in vowing to block any vote on even the most modest legislation to rein in America's out-of-control gun culture, the Senate minority leader all but guarantees that the toll in America's street-corner war will continue to rise. [Foreign Policy]
This is uncharacteristically Rush Limbaugh-esque, and brings to mind the ridiculous comparisons circulated by certain members of the Tea Party who once likened Barack Obama's oratory skills to those of Adolf Hitler — as if one can invoke only part of Hitler's legacy as a point of comparison without the other parts of his murderous life entering into people's consciousness.
I actually agree with Rothkopf that blocking legislation is an irresponsible thing to do. However, as many on the left throughout this debate have been so eager to do, Rothkopf also builds in another layer of criticism which is, frankly, far more accusatory and far less constructive — let's call it the "blood on your hands" argument. In essence, Rothkopf suggests that those who oppose modest gun regulations will be responsible for future firearms-related deaths.
This unfairly and counter-productively distracts from Rothkopf's real and important argument, which is that even though a set of regulations will not in and of itself solve our nation's gun violence problem, lawmakers should still support modest changes that could yield some public safety benefits without meaningfully compromising law-abiding citizens' freedom to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes. That's a sound argument. That is an argument I agree with.
As I have repeatedly expressed on this website, I support modest gun control, including background checks and magazine capacity limits. I think that filibustering is morally questionable and politically idiotic, especially in light of the fact that meaningful regulation has a zero percent chance of passing the GOP-controlled House. But nevertheless, it takes an indefensible amount of hubris to presume absolutely — as Rothkopf and so many others in this debate seem to — that the arguments of gun owners are not worth taking seriously or are so crazy as to be worthy of association with a tyrant.
Make your argument, but do not disrespect the other side. They love and come from the same country you do.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- 6 tiny scientific mistakes that created huge disasters
- It's official: The religious right is calling it quits
- 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The dangerously childish morality of liberal ObamaCare supporters
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1: 10 major differences between the book and the movie
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- What could happen if the Supreme Court rules against ObamaCare
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
Subscribe to the Week