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      •  A National Tragedy (Part, What, 1 Million?)

A National Tragedy (Part, What, 1 Million?)

Undoubtedly you have heard by now that there was yet another mass shooting at yet another school yesterday. This one was at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX, which means that the 19 students killed were all under the age of 12. In addition, two teachers were killed, as was the gunman. An additional 11 students were injured.

That such a thing has happened is not even a tiny bit surprising. This incident is getting front-page attention because of the ghastly human toll, but it is the 248th mass shooting in the U.S. this year, the 49th this month, and the 13th in the past week. And, incidentally, 27 of those have taken place at schools. The 21 students and faculty who perished are victims 269 through 290 for the year 2022. Yesterday was the 144th day of the year, which means that the U.S. is on pace for 629 mass shootings this year with 735 deaths.

This incident was so foreseeable that we even predicted it... yesterday (as several readers noted in e-mails to us). In our less-than-flattering piece on Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX), we wrote:

Running these political-theater inspections also cost the Lone Star State a fair bit of money. How much, you might ask? Over $4 billion. In contrast to liberal California, which is currently running a massive budget surplus, Texas doesn't have that kind of money just laying around. So, how did the governor plug the hole in the budget? Well, he redirected about $1 billion in federal funds that were allocated to Texas... to fight COVID-19. He also shifted about $500 million from Texas' Health and Human Services Commission and its Department of Public Safety. Next time there's an outbreak of disease in Texas—say, of COVID—or there's a mass shooting, think about what might have been done with a properly funded safety net.

When we wrote that, we had no doubt we'd be proven right; we just wondered how long it would take. We weren't necessarily thinking "within 12 hours," but we did think that "within a month" was possible, since these things are so frequent, and since they tend to get more common and more violent as the summer heat takes hold.

It is days like today when there is absolutely no pleasure in writing a blog like this—just sadness and disgust. The story cannot be ignored, and taking the day off is the coward's way out. So write on, we will. However, we're going to take the gloves off and get real. If you prefer your commentary to be more evenhanded and less acid-tongued, today is probably a bad day to read this site. At best, maybe we'll manage to avoid the use of four-letter words. We shall cross that bridge when we come to it...

The Democrats

Prominent Democrats, across the land, responded as they always do after these things, with sadness and outrage and excellent questions about why the country never manages to do anything to make these incidents rarer. We don't want to drown you in repetitive stuff, so let's just stick to four people. First up is Joe Biden. He was briefed on the incident while traveling back to the U.S. from Asia, and he delivered a brief address on national TV shortly after touching down:

The President, who was visibly shaken, wondered: "How many scores of little children who witnessed what happened—seen their friends die as if they're in a battlefield, for god's sake? To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away. There's a hollowness in your chest." After quoting scripture, he continued: "When in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? Why are we willing to live with this carnage?"

Biden's sentiments were seconded by his former running mate. On Twitter, Barack Obama offered this:

That was the first tweet in a thread that also included this:

So again, the last two Democratic presidents are on entirely the same page here. And to them, let's add a Democratic Senator, the one who just so happens to represent the state that was site to the Sandy Hook shooting. Chris Murphy (CT) was in the Senate chamber when the news broke yesterday and he delivered an impromptu and impassioned 5-minute speech:

"What are we doing?," he thundered. "Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate, why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job, of putting yourself in a position of authority, if your answer is that as this slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing?" Murphy's words were eloquent and forceful enough that he's become the face of the Democratic response, and is on front pages across the country right now.

Of course, the odds that anything actually gets done are close to zero. There was nothing after Sandy Hook, or Parkland, or the Las Vegas shooting, or any of the others, so why should this be any different? And Biden, Obama and Murphy are absolutely right to point the finger at Republican politicians, who are most certainly in the thrall of both the gun lobby and of gun-fetishizing voters. But let's not forget the Democrats who are also more than happy to climb on board that particular train. And that list begins with everyone's favorite obstructionist, Sen. Joe Manchin ("D"-WV).

Since nothing is going to happen without Manchin's say-so, reporters immediately went to him to inquire about his views, given what happened yesterday. He urged caution, suggested that Congress do "something on mental health," and said "It's just absolutely horrific. You all know where I stand; I'll do anything I can."

When it comes to the first portion of that, we find we have nothing to add to Murphy's response: "Spare me the bullshit about mental illness. We don't have any more mental illness than any other country in the world. You cannot explain this through a prism of mental illness, because we don't—we're not an outlier on mental illness. We're an outlier when it comes to access to firearms and the ability of criminals and very sick people to get their hands on firearms. That's what makes America different." (So much for avoiding four-letter words today.)

Meanwhile, when Manchin says "I'll do anything I can," he is utilizing a different meaning of "anything" than the one in our dictionary, because he instantly clarified that "anything" did not include changes to the filibuster. "The filibuster is the only thing that prevents us from total insanity. Total insanity," he explained.

We have some thoughts for the West Virginia Senator. And we'll even address them directly to him in case a miracle happens and this somehow crosses his desk: "Joe, we get it, you represent a gun-loving red state and you're always eyeing the next election. But you know what? You're 74 years old. Your political career is in the final stretch, whether you like it or not. And what are you going to be remembered for at this point? You're the Blue Dog Democrat who managed to get elected a bunch in a red state, the coal baron who lined his pockets thanks to his votes, and the guy who stopped his party from getting its agenda legislated. Do you really want to go down as yet another pettifogging political huckster, like your uncle was? How about you grow a pair, put your big-boy pants on, and do something meaningful for once? Look to, say, a John McCain or a Barry Goldwater, who did just that in the twilights of their respective careers."

The Republicans

Prominent Republicans, across the land, also responded as they always do after these things. There are three standard responses in all cases; that expands to four if the shooter happens to be a member of a minority group. The only question is which Republican will go there first... or, in some cases, which Republican will be the loudest.

Response #1, of course, is the mother of all clichés: thoughts and prayers. Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) appears to be the first Republican to have offered up that empty platitude yesterday; he did so during the initial press conference in which he revealed initial details of the shooting. He also promised to do "everything that is necessary to make sure that crime scenes like this are not going to be repeated in the future." Yeah, sure. Texas has over 1 million registered guns, and lord knows how many unregistered ones, which is more than the next two gun-lovingest states in the country (Florida and Virginia) combined. The Governor has never met a gun-control measure he wouldn't veto, and there is zero chance that he's going to change his tune now, especially because he thinks he's going to be elected president as a Republican.

In usually doesn't take long after "thoughts and prayers" before we see Republican response #2, namely a warning to the Democrats that they better not use [that day's shooting] as an excuse to try something on gun control. We're not sure exactly which Republican got there first, because it's a close call between two of them. Less than an hour after the news went public, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) told CNN:
It's horrible. And you know what we need to avoid is the reflexive reaction we have to say this could all be solved by not having guns in anyone's hands. We can always talk about reasonable measures, but we also have to talk about better situational awareness. I'm almost certain that in the coming days or weeks, we're going to find out that there were signs that this person was at risk, and we need to have an equal or greater attention on prevention and that's a key part of it.
Tillis was pretty quick on the uptake, but we think he might have been beaten to the punch by—as you might have guessed—Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Cruz started by offering up his own empty version of "thoughts and prayers" via Twitter:

And then, Cruz had a chat with reporters and decreed: "Inevitably when there's a murderer of this kind, you see politicians try to politicize it, you see Democrats and a lot of folks in the media whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens." The Senator made clear that is not happening on his watch. Which makes sense, since he's not only from Texas, he takes more money from the gun lobby than any other member of Congress.

There isn't even any need for this warning, since Cruz is allegedly a genius, and so surely knows that gun-control legislation never, ever, ever gets through the Senate these days. He just felt the need to use the occasion of 19 dead children to do a little posturing, and to remind the gun lobby that they're getting their money's worth. Incidentally, Cruz will be delivering an address on Saturday, as will Donald Trump, at the NRA convention in Houston. That's the same Houston that's about 250 miles from where yesterday's shootings took place. Anytime you start to wonder why people hate Cruz so much, remember this day.

Cruz's shameless talking out of both sides of his mouth, and his willingness to use 19 dead children as, in effect, a political prop, led to some absolutely scathing responses on social media yesterday. That includes this from Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), who may one day soon be one of Cruz's colleagues:

Recall what then-senator Al Franken wrote: "Anyway, here's the thing you have to understand about Ted Cruz. I like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz. And I hate Ted Cruz." Clearly, if Gallego is elected to the Senate in 2024, he'll fit right in.

Standard Republican response #3 usually takes a bit longer than the first two, but it usually pops up by the end of Day One: Attack the Democrats for daring to politicize the tragedy. The fellow who took the lead here is also entirely predictable; it was Fox's resident cockroach Tucker Carlson. Undoubtedly he is delighted that this shooting will put Buffalo in the rear-view mirror, and will take some of the heat off of him and his constant "replacement theory" talk. But Carlson couldn't thank his lucky stars and leave it at that. Nope, he had to go on the offensive, tearing into Biden after the President's speech. If you really want to watch Carlson's bile, here it is, though make sure that if you're on blood pressure meds, you take them first:

Here's the key quote:
The President of the United States. Frail, confused, bitterly partisan, desecrating the memory of recently murdered children with tired talking points of the Democratic Party. Dividing the country in a moment of deep pain, rather than uniting. His voice rising, amplified only as he repeats the talking points he repeated for over 35 years in the Senate. Partisan politics being the only thing that animates him. Unfit to lead this country.
First of all, the President of the United States has no option but to do exactly what Biden did, and to give exactly the speech Biden gave. Carlson knows this, which means that, like his buddy Cruz, he's just using 19 dead children as a prop. In this case, the specific goal is to squeeze out another 0.1 ratings points. And that's before we talk about the galling hypocrisy of delivering a divisive and highly politicized editorial condemning Biden for being divisive and highly political. What a loathsome human being Carlson is. Actually, maybe "human being" is a little too generous.

And speaking of people whose humanity is dubious at best, that brings us to Republican response #4. As soon as we heard the news, and started planning this item out, we knew that "angry Democrats," "Republican thoughts and prayers," "Republicans warning Democrats," and "Republicans attacking Democrats" would be a part of the piece, and the only question was what the specific exemplars would be. And once we heard that the shooter was brown (specifically, Latino), we knew that response #4 was inevitable, though we weren't sure if the members of the GOP would be able to at least restrain themselves for a day or two. But, we need not have wondered in a world that has people like... Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ).

There's really no question, at this point, that Gosar is an out-and-out white supremacist. Other Republicans court that demographic, but Gosar's right at home within it. And that is apparently where he turns for "insight" whenever major news breaks, presumably because OAN, Newsmax and Breitbart aren't quite nutty enough. So it is that, after perusing white supremacist talk sites yesterday (like Stormfront, the Daily Stormer, etc.), he jumped on Twitter to share the "truth," announcing that the shooter had been identified as "a transsexual leftist illegal alien." We can't share the actual tweet because Gosar, or someone close to him, had the good sense to erase it. But on the Internet, tweets like that live forever, so you can click through that link if you want to see a screen capture. In any case, as you might imagine, none of the things that Gosar claimed are true.

The upshot is that, once again, there are no depths that leading Republicans won't plumb when it comes to a tragedy like this one. The one and only thing they won't do is commit to even the most moderate of reforms.

Readers Weigh In

We've had a chance to vent our displeasure with Manchin, Cruz, et al., so why don't we yield the floor to the readership for a bit. That dovetails pretty well with the fact that we've already been running reader comments every day this week. So:

P.B. in Lille, France, writes: In the USA, in 2022, some people are trying their best to force women to have children they don't want. The same people will not lift a finger to protect children already born from the plague of firearms. They will offer "thoughts and prayers," at best. At worst, they will say that this massacre never existed and is a plot of the left. There was a time, not so long ago, where I truly admired the USA. And then there was Sandy Hook, followed by Donald Trump and the assault on the Capitol. And now there are Buffalo and Uvalde. Who is next? I am not sure there is anything left to admire in the USA.

Meanwhile, I mourn the children and adults who died yesterday. My deepest condoleances to the victims and their families. There is no word. And damn the Second Amendment and the NRA.

P.B. in Chicago, IL, writes: I wasn't going to respond to M.E. in Roanoke, as I figured you received too many responses already. But then the school shooting in Texas occurred, and I could not stop myself.

I have relatives and in-laws who love their guns and some of them are single-issue voters based on that. OK, that is their issue and they can live knowing the consequences of their vote. But the MEs are also single issue voters. They, I assume based on their writings, have voted straight Republican for decades at all levels. They got what they wanted with Roe being overturned, and to hell with the consequences for their votes otherwise.

Well, those 19 children's deaths are on them. 100% on them! They didn't care what those Republicans would do otherwise. They didn't care that after Sandy Hook and Parkland and countless other schools shootings (and not to mention church shootings and grocery store shootings, and movie theater shootings, and need I go on) that those same Republican politicians were voting down gun control laws. They got their precious pro-birth stance validated. They, of course, can't call themselves pro-life, because they did not care about living humans, only unborn humans.

So, I say to Hell with them. They have helped foist this situation on all Americans. They deserve nothing but contempt and that is all I have for them.

J.K. in Las Vegas, NV, writes: A headline on the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas reads: "Uvalde is deadliest school shooting in Texas History." They forgot to add "so far" at the end. The year is still young. Like the children that were killed.

Clearly, we are not the only ones who are very, very unhappy.

We wish we could close with something hopeful, but it's pretty tough to do that today. All we've got is this: There were countless instances of antiblack violence in this country over the course of the 2000s and 2010s. And then, the murder of George Floyd happened, something snapped, and there was at least a little bit of real change. Maybe, just maybe, Uvalde—following so closely on the heels of Buffalo—will cause a similar snap, and some meaningful change will result. It's not likely, but one can hope.

In theory, we should be running down the election results from yesterday, but this is already long, it's already very late, and our heart's just not in it. We'll cover them tomorrow. Until then, be well. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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