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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  The Uvalde Shooting: The Politics (Short-term)
      •  Five Comments: The Uvalde Shooting
      •  This Week's Trump News
      •  This Week in Schadenfreude

The Uvalde Shooting: The Politics (Short-term)

The mass shooting in Texas continues to absolutely dominate the news cycle. And, guess what, it's going to dominate our posting today, too.

All of the victims of the shooting have now been publicly identified. They are:

  • Eva Mireles
  • Irma Garcia
  • Uziyah Garcia
  • Xavier Lopez (10)
  • Amerie Jo Garza
  • Jose Flores Jr. (10)
  • Alithia Ramirez (10)
  • Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez (10)
  • Eliahana Cruz Torres (10)
  • Eliahna "Ellie" Garcia (9)
  • Rojelio Torres (10)
  • Jacklyn Cazares (10)
  • Jailah Nicole Silguero
  • Jayce Carmelo Luevanos
  • Alexandria "Lexi" Aniyah Rubio
  • Tess Mata (10)
  • Makenna Lee Elrod
  • Nevaeh Bravo (10)
  • Layla Salazar (11)
  • Maite Yuleana Rodríguez
  • Miranda Mathis

Mireles and Irma Garcia were teachers, the rest were students. The students' ages, where known, are in parentheses. All of them were, by all accounts, in the fourth grade, and so all were between 9 and 11 years old. There are portraits of the victims all over the Internet; you can see them here, if you wish. The most... affecting, we would say, is this one:

Her shirt reads 'Peace out to single digits--I'm 10'

That's Alithia Ramirez. She said good-bye to single digits about a week ago. Her family's home still had some of the balloons from her birthday party up.

The exact circumstances of the mass shooting continue to be... fuzzy. As we've pointed out this week, and as any politics-watcher presumably knows, the standard Republican "solution" to the problem of school shootings is to get more guns and more security guards into schools. Beyond the impact this would have on the tone and tenor of instruction, there are few teachers—if any—who regard this as a worthwhile proposal. There are too many ways it could go wrong, and few ways it could go right.

This week's shooting is really laying bare how useless this approach would be. There was an armed security guard on duty at the school, and an initial claim was made that the shooter was "engaged" before entering the building. It turns out that was a slight exaggeration. And, by "slight exaggeration," we mean "a lie." He wasn't engaged at all, because the security guard was not even on campus when the shooter arrived and entered the building. Reportedly, the guard was "driving nearby." It has not been made clear why he was "driving nearby," but inasmuch as the incident took place between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., the obvious guess is that he was getting himself some lunch. Anyhow, the questions of why the guard abandoned his post, and why there was a false claim about the perpetrator being "engaged" continue to linger, and they're going to need answers.

In addition to the security guard who was providing no security, the behavior of police officers on that day is under the microscope. They were summoned, and they arrived on site, fairly quickly. And then, they did... basically nothing for half an hour or more. Police officials from the various agencies involved insist that their officers took action immediately upon arrival. The inaccuracy (dishonesty?) of that claim is laid bare by the uncontroverted fact that there was time enough for parents to learn what was going on, to arrive on the scene, and to literally beg the police officers to take action. "I told one of the officers myself, if they didn't want to go in there, let me borrow his gun and a vest and I'll go in there myself to handle it, and they told me 'no,'" one parent told CNN. Another parent (or possibly several) screamed: "Go in there! Go in there!"

Again, the claims by parents are uncontroverted and, in the case of the "Go in there!", have been confirmed by multiple witnesses. This cannot be reconciled with "the police took action as soon as they arrived." That being the case, "the police took action as soon as they arrived" is clearly the falsehood. Were the police scared for their lives (as has been reported by many sources)? Maybe because they were outgunned? Were they overwhelmed by a situation that no civilian, regardless of much training they have had, can really be prepared for? Did they misread the situation? Could be any or all of these, or something else entirely. We don't know. What we do know is that this is another area where some uncomfortable questions await answers. And what we really know is that the Republicans' "let's turn schools into armed fortresses" proposals are total bulls**t. All the pieces of that sort of plan were in place in Uvalde, and they didn't stop the massacre from happening.

On Wednesday, we didn't want to talk about the politics of this situation going forward because that seemed a bit crass. And yesterday, we weren't able to address the subject because we ran out of time and space. But today, we're going to dig in. We have a fair bit to say, so we'll talk about the short-term political implications today, and then on Monday we'll talk about gun violence and the 2022 election cycle.

The President

Somehow, some way, Donald Trump made it through his presidency while facing relatively few crises. Well, relatively few crises that were not of his own making. Yes, there were a couple of hurricanes, particularly Hurricane Maria. And there was COVID. But beyond those incidents, and maybe a couple of others, it was pretty rare that people demanded action from the Trump White House now, now, NOW! Maybe #45 was just lucky. Maybe his administration was so incapable that there was no reason to expect them to respond to crises. Maybe the crises were drowned out by all the "Can you believe what he said on Twitter today?" stories. We dunno.

By contrast, the buck seems to stop at Joe Biden's desk on a weekly basis (or even more frequently). The story of his administration, thus far, is one of moving from crisis to crisis, disaster to disaster. He wasn't even back from his four-day trip to improve relations with Asia when this shooting took place, and he managed to put together a pretty compelling speech on just a few hours' notice. Certainly, other presidents have done much worse in circumstances where empathy was called for, including the one who came right before Biden.

This weekend, the Bidens will travel to Texas to meet and grieve with the families who lost members. He'll also meet with religious leaders, some politicians, and a few other folks. Biden, like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton before him, is good at this sort of thing, so the trip is likely to go well.

For some Democratic voters, however, leading through example isn't enough. They want action and they want it now. To take one example: "He can't just be the 'eulogizer in chief.' He also needs to put the full force of his office into the legislative process. Otherwise it will seem like he's lost hope," declared Peter Ambler, executive director for the gun safety group Giffords. Given Ambler's job description, he's not exactly a neutral party here. Still, even if he weren't a professional gun control advocate, his response is understandable.

At the same time, Ambler's response is also unrealistic, as Biden's options here are extremely limited. We'll break this into the "hard power" and "soft power" tools at the President's disposal. "Hard power" options are those that involve the direct exercise of executive authority. And the first thing that leaps to mind in this category for most readers is probably the issuance of executive orders creating new gun rules. However, Biden has already done nearly everything he plausibly can via executive order (like the one trying to place limits on ghost guns). Further, as any politics-follower should know by now, "executive order" does not mean "long-term change." It means "change until the other party takes over the White House."

Biden's other option (which, technically, would also be exercised via executive order) would be to instruct the federal agencies to enforce existing gun laws more aggressively or more creatively. The former is certainly a possibility, but it's a "diminishing returns" kind of situation, since federal law enforcement is already tackling the "not too difficult" cases, leaving only the tough ones un-pursued. The latter runs the very serious risk of getting shut down by the courts. For example, if Biden instructs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to declare gun violence to be a public health emergency and to act accordingly, it's only a matter of time until that gets shut down by the Fifth Circuit and/or the Supreme Court.

"Soft power" options are those that involve putting pressure on other politicians and expending political capital. There's not a lot of room for maneuvering here for Biden, either. The first problem is that, with his approval in the doldrums, his political capital is pretty limited. The second is that if he gets publicly involved in arm-twisting, it will bring attention to compromise-minded Republicans, and will force them to retreat from discussions to avoid infuriating the base. So, the President might be able to work behind the scenes a bit, but he can't talk about that at all. The third problem is that even if Biden applies all his skills to behind-the-scenes negotiating, Congress is just not likely to do much.

The Congress

We'll start this portion of the discussion by reiterating, once again, that there is very little that is actually going to get done this term. The pro-gun-control folks in the Senate not only don't have 60 votes, they don't even have 50 votes. So even if Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) somehow convinces Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough that gun control is really a budget issue, that's not going to magically unlock a world of possibilities.

Just yesterday, the Senate reminded everyone that they are not interested in wrestling with these problems in a serious way. After the Buffalo shooting, the House passed a domestic terrorism bill. And the Senate shot it down Thursday afternoon, 47-47. It was really 48-46, but Schumer switched his vote at the end to reserve the right to bring the legislation up again. Other than that maneuvering, it was a party-line vote, with Republicans senators claiming the bill was "too partisan." If that is so, then how about some negotiation and compromise, or how about submitting an alternative bill? Because otherwise, to simply vote "no" and to offer nothing to the discussion tells us the Republicans either don't think this is a problem or that they don't want to deal with the blowback that would come from actually dealing with it.

With that said, Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle have made decisions that could produce some small amount of change in gun laws. There are other gun-control bills that have already cleared the House but that have no chance in the Senate. Schumer could bring those up for a vote, get the Republicans on the record, and then Democrats could use that as ammunition in the midterms. However, the Majority Leader chose not to follow that path. Instead, he's told the members of his caucus that if they can find a compromise deal on guns, he'll support it. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) dispatched Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), telling him to see if there's potential for some sort of compromise bill.

To this end, a bipartisan group of Senators had a meeting Thursday to see if there's a possibility of hammering something out. There in person were Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Pat Toomey (R-PA). Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) called in via phone. If that group can somehow achieve a meeting of the minds, then that will be a lot of the votes that are needed to overcome a filibuster. However, there are only four Republicans on the list. So, anything this group works out would need to get at least six more Republican votes, with Roy Blunt (MO), Cornyn, Rob Portman (OH), Mitt Romney (UT), Thom Tillis (NC) and Marco Rubio (FL) being the likeliest candidates. Some of those are because they've supported limited gun-control legislation in the past, but with most it is because they are retiring this year, and so are much less in the thrall of the NRA and of gun-loving voters.

There are only two areas where legislation is remotely plausible. The first, which is the less likely, is some sort of expanded background checks. At the moment, there are numerous circumstances in which someone can get a gun even if they have a criminal record, a history of mental illness, etc. For example, gun shows are notoriously the Wild West in this way (and in other ways, for that matter). The NRA and other pro-gun advocates don't like background checks because they necessarily mean fewer guns will be sold. But we've got two mass shootings in a row where background checks might have mattered, so the NRA might just lose this one.

The more likely possibility for compromise is a so-called "red flag" law. Such laws already exist in D.C. and in 19 states, including some gun-loving ones: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. What these laws do is allow select people—usually law enforcement, medical professionals and school administrations, but sometimes also coworkers and family members—to petition a court for an order that prohibits an individual from from possessing, buying, or selling firearms for some period of time. Some states, like Maine, also have what are called "yellow flag" laws; those only allow law enforcement to secure such an order.

The House is ready to do its part, and will vote on a red flag law in the next couple of weeks. And Joe Biden is happy to apply his signature. So, it's up to the Senate to decide, as is pretty much always the case these days.

So, why are Republicans suddenly willing to talk turkey, at least a little bit? It is certainly the case that they are on their heels right now, and that total obstruction would be a very bad look. We'll be talking more about that next week. We would also guess that McConnell and the other leading Republicans believe that: (1) the anger inspired by Uvalde will fade, and Senate Republicans can eventually forget all about this, and/or (2) even if a red flag law is passed, it will be struck down by the courts on Second and Fourteenth Amendment grounds. But again, that's just a guess.

That's what we've got on this subject for today. We were going to write more, and in fact already did write 2,500 additional words. However, we want to get this posted while it's still Friday, and we're also teachers who know that attention spans aren't unlimited. So, we'll have one more lengthy piece on Monday. (Z)

Five Comments: The Uvalde Shooting

We ran three reader comments on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and then we ran one fairly lengthy one yesterday (on the Minnesota special election). We've gotten a vast amount of e-mail about the Texas shootings, however, and so we've decided today to select five of those to share:

A.K. in Alexandria, VA, writes: We read about ancient cultures sacrificing their children to their gods and are horrified. But we routinely sacrifice our children to the God of Guns. This sacrifice comes with sadness and ritual sayings—Thoughts and Prayers! Guns don't kill people, people kill people!—and occurs with increasing frequency. The God of Guns cannot be sated.


J.D.M. in Cottonwood Shores, TX, writes: So, once again, police officers equipped with a handgun are being criticized for not running towards an active shooter with an AR-15... Not a word about how absurd that Standard Operating Procedure is.

J.P.R. in Westminster, CO, writes: With respect to your comment on Rep. Randy Fine (R-FL) and his concerns about his own... equipment.

I am a mental health clinician with an earned doctorate in professional psychology (who doesn't even consider themselves all that Freudian), and I'll tell you it's a pretty safe speculation. Please note it's not a safe speculation that Rep. Randy Fine of Florida in fact has a small penis. However, it is absolutely a safe speculation that Rep. Randy Fine of Florida is very worried that he may have a small penis.

D.H. in Austin, TX, writes: During a job interview this week, my phone started to beep continuously, which I silenced. I was later horrified to find many messages asking if my family was OK. What is going on? What have I missed? Thirty seconds of panic ensued. The extreme, selfish relief that MY children were alive cannot be overstated. We live 200 miles from Uvalde, but that was close enough for people to worry. I still have persistent panic-induced visions of someone shooting my 9-year-old son in the face and him collapsing on the ground.

I have been here already. Nothing will be done. Nothing will change.

My children are half Latino and fully American by any measure or definition, legal or otherwise. Really, measures and definitions do not matter. Patrick Crusius did not ask anybody's backstory before pushing against what he described as a "Hispanic invasion" by killing 23 people in a Walmart in El Paso. Donald Trump showed his "support" for the victims by ordering the U.S. flag to be flown at half-mast and awkwardly bringing up Antifa. Nothing changed. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Pro-gun folks have developed enough situational awareness not to be pro-gun at this moment, while simultaneously pushing their views. On social media, I see frequent appeals to a deity from pro-gun conservatives as an effective strategy for political paralysis. My conservative cousin wrote on Facebook: "He doesn't always prevent tragedy but His grace will always see us through it." LinkedIn's algorithm served me a stranger's post that included "society and government cannot fix America's soul." Preachers tell me there are no atheists in foxholes, but I still think survival odds favor rational thought over prayer, even when taking fire. However, rational thought brings change, and a critical voting bloc wants no change.

As a Texas resident, I have no political representation, as I live under entrenched single-party rule. My yard signs, campaign donations, and social media rants are no match for a voting bloc easily triggered by ideas that books turn children gay, abortions are for baby-murdering whores, and mask mandates are a socialist plot. The Texas state assembly took my previously R+2 congressional district and gerrymandered it to R+29. I need to punch something every time I think Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and John Cornyn are my representatives in the U.S. Senate. I don't see the Democrats as much help. Let's all slow clap for Beto O'Rourke (D) interrupting Gov. Greg Abbott's (R-TX) press conference, and I will vote for Beto. But honestly, Beto garnishes little confidence as he moves up the political hierarchy by losing elections. It worked for Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA), I guess. Either way, there is no political reason for change.

I fear for my children and have no reason to believe anything will change. The U.S.'s inability to act embarrasses me.

D.M. in Orange County, CA, writes: I get that large Democratic cities with high rates of gun violence are an easy target for Republicans, but there is something in particular about Greg Abbott's response yesterday that irked me. His whataboutism deflection was a classic apples-to-oranges argument. Show me the number of 10-year-old kids mowed down in a classroom with an AR-15 such that their bodies can only be identified using DNA tests in Chicago, LA and NYC, and then compare that number to your small town in Texas. This was worse than whataboutism, it was ignoring the elephant in the room that weapons of this kind should not be readily available for any 18-year-old to purchase.

Point of personal bias here: My friend's wife had her right arm exploded off at the elbow by a single bullet from an AR-15 in the Las Vegas mass shooting. I know the kind of damage that gun can do from a distance. The mere thought of it used against children at close range is haunting.

We'll run five more comments with the Monday piece on gun control and the midterms. (Z)

This Week's Trump News

Again, this week has been dominated by the Texas shooting, which means it wasn't dominated by news about Donald Trump. He did come up a fair bit, nonetheless, but almost exclusively in the context of his less-than-stellar day with endorsements on Tuesday. That means a couple of other pretty important stories are flying under the radar.

The first of those is that he has suffered another setback on the legal front. Trump's lawyers argued that he should not be forced to sit for a deposition in the probe being conducted by New York AG Letitia James, as it would violate his constitutional rights. And why would it violate his constitutional rights? Because he might say things that could be used against him in other cases. In other words, Trump's lawyers know their client can't control himself, and can't be trusted when he's not fully scripted.

A four-judge panel unanimously decided that Trump's argument is ludicrous and said he has to show up for the deposition. Team Trump will presumably appeal to the New York Court of Appeals, and will lose there, too. Once that's all done, he'll have to show up for the deposition, at which point he will try to invoke the Fifth Amendment in response to every single question. So, James will either have to try to goad him into saying things he shouldn't, like the climax of the movie A Few Good Men, or she'll have to go to court again and argue that some of her questions are not incriminating criminally, and so aren't protected by the Fifth Amendment.

Meanwhile, The New York Times' Maggie Haberman continues to dig up new dirt on Trump on a regular basis. The latest is that when Trump's supporters were pushing for Mike Pence to be hanged on Jan. 6, Trump apparently thought that was a pretty good idea, and expressed disappointment that the then-VP was being rescued by the Secret Service.

There have been a few presidents who probably thought that hanging their VP would be a good idea. Thomas Jefferson surely felt that way about Aaron Burr and Jack Kennedy might not have been too unhappy to see Lyndon Johnson at the end of a rope. Andrew Jackson was the only president to openly threaten to hang his VP, though; during the nullification crisis, "Old Hickory" said he was planning to march down to South Carolina and string up the leaders of the Nullifiers from the highest tree he could find. The president did not mention VP John Calhoun by name, but everyone understood to whom Jackson was referring, since everyone knew who was taking the lead on nullification.

Now we have two presidents who have spoken approvingly of stretching the necks of their VPs. And because the Donald has so normalized outrageous behavior and violent talk, the story this week barely even moved the needle. (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude

We're holding some planned content, including the third "a**hole" piece and the tail end of the bracket competition because they are an ill fit with discussion of the shootings. Well, that and the fact that there's only so much time in the day. However, we're going to do a "schadenfreude" this week because those are at least somewhat on the light side, and maybe readers could use a little snark for dessert.

Today, we direct your attention to Zander Moricz, who graduated Pine View School in Osprey, FL, last week. Moricz is apparently a well-liked fellow, as he was elected class president for four straight years. That entitled him to deliver a speech at graduation.

Now, before we continue, let us say that—as educators—we basically favor letting a student deliver whatever speech they want to deliver in those circumstances. Yes, graduation ceremonies have to keep a schedule, and the speakers should stay within their allotted time. However, beyond that, the sky's the limit. Graduation ceremonies are for the students, and the speaker is (generally) their chosen representative. Someone who is graduating high school is an adult, or at least is on the cusp of adulthood, and should be trusted to use their discretion. And if they don't, they can begin to get some experience with the adult lesson that actions have consequences (well, unless your name rhymes with "Grump").

Anyhow, if you haven't heard about this story already, you may have taken note of "high school" and "Florida" and guessed where this is heading. No, not a school shooting—we've done enough of that for today. As you might guess, Moricz is gay. And he wanted to deliver a speech on LGBTQ+ acceptance. But, in view of the state's new "Don't Say Gay" bill, that was not possible.

So what did he talk about instead? Why, his curly hair, of course. He talked about how he used to hate having curly hair, and he used to try to hide his curly hair, especially since he didn't know anyone else with curly hair. But then, he met some adults with curly hair who told him it was OK to have curly hair. And he talked with some curly-haired teachers at the school who encouraged him to be his authentic, curly-haired self. And so, he decided to embrace his curly hair and to display it openly, loud and proud.

The careful reader will note, Moricz honored the letter of the law, and did not say "gay," not even once. And yet, if he had been allowed to do so, nobody would ever have heard of the speech outside of one smallish town in Florida. Now, because of the new Florida law, the speech got coverage across the country and around the world, and the straight-haired Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is the butt of the joke. If that is not cause for some schadenfreude, we don't know what is. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
May26 A Dozen Storylines from This Tuesday...
May26 ...And One Storyline from Last Tuesday
May26 The Uvalde Shooting: Let the Gaslighting Begin
May25 A National Tragedy (Part, What, 1 Million?)
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May20 Guest Columnist: The High Price of Education
May19 The Day After
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