Scalia vs. Waldman on Guns / Frum vs. Corn on War



After 219 years, "Justice" Scalia found a right to guns in Heller. Now Michael Waldman's new book explains why the Court was wrong and how public opinion & law can shift. Also: Frum & Corn debate the Obama scandal of 'refusing to start unnecessary wars.

On Waldman's book & Rodger's massacre. Host, David Corn & David Frum interview Michael Waldman (head of Brennan Center at NYU) about his new book, The Second Amendment: A Biography. He explains why the Roberts Court wrongly applied reasoning about a "well-regulated militia" from the 18th century to 21st century America without any - a view Chief Justice Warren Burger called "a fraud" as recently as 1991. But the problem now for gun safety advocates is as much cultural as constitutional since "a 1st gun is like a bar mitzvah for rural WASPs"(Waldman adds, "hope they enjoy it more than I did mine").

Then Frum & Waldman discuss the differences between handguns and long-guns historically and legally - and Corn & Waldman describe how intensity beats majority in our democracy since the NRA has stalled reforms supported by 90% of Americans.

Waldman & host conclude that people dismayed about 32,000 gun deaths a year (homicides & suicides & accidents) should not just throw up their hands. "The system couldn't move in a few short months after Newtown...and it took 12 years from Brady was shot to the Brady Law," says Waldman. He adds hopefully that, while there are more guns than ever, the number of people owning them is going down and so are gun-related crimes.

NRA opponents - now including Gabby Giffords, Michel Bloomberg, Newtown families, Richard Martinez ("Not One More!") - will have to change public and jurisprudential opinion over years before changing public laws, just as gun rights people did leading up to the 2008 5-4 Heller decision. Over time, change is both essential and feasible, like: ballistic stamping and smart guns; more federal funds for research into gun crime; background checks for gun shows (Manchin-Toomey); a return to a ban on broadly defined assault weapons; and - since Left and Right both deplore mentally ill people getting access to guns -- a mental health registry of troubled people named by parents or doctors who would then have to affirmatively justify why they are fit to own a lethal weapon. We can call it "The Lanza Law."

Host: As the debate grows with each new tragedy, Waldman's book could be to gun safety what Piketty's is to inequality - a catalyst altering views and laws.

New laws like those listed above won't be enacted soon given the NRA hammerlock over key members and a GOP House. But looking beyond 2014 mid-terms, a re-elected Democratic president in 2020 with governors redrawing congressional lines could well produce a Congress more sympathetic to Gabby Giffords than Wayne LaPierre. Even the 100 Years War ended.

On Obama's West Point Address & Cheney as a 'Lost Causist' The consensus on guns in America did not reappear on guns abroad, a.k.a. war. What did our two Davids think of Obama's attempt, in effect, to lay down an "Obama Doctrine" to explain his foreign policy past and future?

"Not very well," says Frum. "It was a defensive speech that tried to explain his failures. Red lines have been crossed and re-crossed like in a hockey game, China is surpassing the US in GDP, then there's the Ukraine...You knew he was in trouble when he used the trope that I could something crazy like X or like Y but instead I've done something else. FDR would simply say, 'We today landed at Normandy!...And he gave no explanation why we did what we intervened in Libya but not in Syria."

Corn strongly disagrees. "There may be no explicit 'Obama Doctrine' but that's not necessarily a bad thing. We're not in a bi-polar world but maybe a quadra-polar world" where there's no one formula that fits all situations. Also, decimating al Qaeda central, killing bin Laden and using drones are no one's one's definition of "weak," the conclusion de jour of the neos.

The Host chides both Davids: "Because there's no existential threat like the Soviets, there's no one credo like 'Containment & Deterrence.' So a quasi-Doctrine of keep-our-powder-dry, emphasize diplomacy/alliances and maintain situational flexibility is no bumper sticker but smart since each case is different. If anyone can do better than we'll use force to protect our "core interests" and in situations that "stain the conscience" (Rwanda, Kosovo), please come forward. It turned out to be a bad thing to announce beforehand our explicit line in Korea because it may have coaxed the Chinese to invade.

Basically, O is saying he's not W, which may be a negative definition but it's one that's understandable after we invaded the wrong country post-9/11. Why would anyone still give an audience to neo-cons like Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz/Kristol since they are as credible as 'lost causists' still arguing 150 years later they were right about the Civil War?

The panel then applies Obama's West Point specifically to Afghanistan and the Ukraine.

Frum rips him apart for announcing a departure date a successful surge so that now "all our effort there accomplished nothing." Corn minds listeners about Vietnam and Iraq and that if a president inherits a failing war, it's foolish to conclude in-for-a-penny, in-for-a-pound and keep going for 10-20 years to justify earlier sacrifices.

There's agreement, however, that Putin's withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukranian border and the election of billionaire Petro Poroshenko appear to have defused that crisis, though pro-Russian separatists are still attacking Ukrainian forces in several eastern cities. Frum talks about his two recent trips there and how impressed he was that the Ukrainian people basically didn't take Putin's bait and start a civil war. He's upset that Americans don't seem interested in what's happening there "since it profoundly affects the future of Europe and the future of Russia."

Corn lauds Obama's restraint in the Ukraine contrary to the war whoops of McCain & Graham. "The best way to avoid fighting a new cold war is to avoid starting one."

On VA Scandal & The Koch Brothers Neither David disagrees that a VA clogged with new veterans with new injuries and that doctors records not patients had to be shaken up. The problem took a decade to develop but Obama did the smart thing by getting General Shinseki to resign and cleaning house.

As for Your Week, Corn explains that he closeted himself last weekend to read his Mother Jones colleague Dan Shulman's important book The Sons of Wichita, a non-fiction account of the Koch brothers "which has the dynastic drama of a Dallas!"

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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