Patterico's Pontifications

6/28/2008

L.A. Times Forgets to Tell Readers That Obama Supported the D.C. Gun Ban

Filed under: Constitutional Law,Court Decisions,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 5:16 pm

Howard Kurtz notes that Big Media is failing to hold Obama’s feet to the fire for his flip-flop on firearms.

Barack Obama is under hostile fire for changing his position on the D.C. gun ban.

Oh, I’m sorry. He didn’t change his position, apparently. He reworded a clumsy statement.

That clumsy statement, which his campaign is now running away from, was pretty categorical: “Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.” Yet, Kurtz says, the newspapers aren’t calling him to task:

But even though the earlier Obama quote and the “inartful” comment have been bouncing around the Net for 24 hours, I’m not seeing any reference to them in the morning papers. Most do what the New York Times did: “Mr. Obama, who like Mr. McCain has been on record as supporting the individual-rights view, said the ruling would ‘provide much-needed guidance to local jurisdictions across the country.’ “

Add the L.A. Times to the list. In David Savage’s piece on the Heller decision, he allowed Obama to pretend he has always supported the decision, which found unconstitutional the very ban Obama’s campaign had declared constitutional:

On the presidential campaign trail, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama were supportive of the court’s ruling.

. . . .

For his part, Obama drew a somewhat different lesson from the court’s decision. He said it endorsed both gun rights and reasonable regulation.

“I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the rights of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures,” he said.

“I know what works in Chicago may not work in Cheyenne. We can work together to enact common-sense laws, like closing the gun-show loophole and improving our background-check system, so that guns do not fall into the hands of terrorists or criminals.”

Wouldn’t it have been helpful to tell readers that Obama’s campaign said the D.C. law was constitutional?

Yes, that would have been helpful . . . to the truth.

But not to Obama.

And increasingly, that appears to be the editors’ calculus for deciding what appears in the paper.

UPDATE: In a story today about the Obama move to the center, the editors once again allow Obama to act as though he has always been in favor of the result in Heller:

Obama’s reaction to another Supreme Court ruling, which struck down a gun ban in Washington, D.C., stood in contrast to that of many local political leaders and was more tempered than that of many liberals. Whereas his hometown mayor, Richard M. Daley of Chicago, and Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton sharply criticized the court decision, Obama was more welcoming. He said the ruling “reinforces that if we act responsibly, we can both protect the constitutional right to bear arms and keep our communities and our children safe.”

The best they do to undercut this notion is to say that “McCain’s campaign said Obama was unable to give a clear account of whether he viewed the Washington gun ban as constitutional” and claim that Obama has given “mixed signals” on the issue. How about saying that his campaign flatly declared the ban constitutional? There’s nothing “mixed” about that signal . . .

UPDATE x2: Is this a mixed signal, or a flip-flop?

Thanks to daytrader.

47 Responses to “L.A. Times Forgets to Tell Readers That Obama Supported the D.C. Gun Ban”

  1. Why guess, let the man tell you himself.

    YouTube has the skinny on this one

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFSWG2ut0Cc

    daytrader (ea6549)

  2. Eastasia has always been at war with… (who is it again? I’ve lost track…)

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  3. HOPE and CHANGE

    That’s not a campaign slogan

    It’s the motto for a half way house of detention.

    daytrader (ea6549)

  4. Patterico, I think this sentence above came out different than you intended:

    “Wouldn’t it have been helpful to tell readers that Obama’s campaign said the D.C. law was unconstitutional?”

    You can delete this after you read it.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  5. “Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.”

    And many of his opponents believe abortion is legal, but that doesn’t mean they believe it should be.

    In point of fact, Obama and four Supreme Court Justices believe the ban is constitutional, but thanks to the decision, they’re now wrong.

    This seems to me a matter of legal precedent changing, not dastardly flip-flopping.

    SEK (bd295a)

  6. SEK, that’s an interesting point, but plainly one you’ve invented. There is no reason to believe that Obama or the campaign thought they were just giving legal advice rather than expressing their opinion on how the ban ought to be treated.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  7. I’m leaving up #4 as evidence I made a typo. I don’t think the change requires more notice than that.

    Patterico (cb443b)

  8. And thanks, SPQR.

    Patterico (cb443b)

  9. Via JustOneMinute

    The same folks who can read the Constitution and Bill of Rights and find an unassailable right to abortion and gay marriage can’t find a right to possession of a firearm.

    daytrader (ea6549)

  10. No prob, Patterico. But seriously for a trivial typo like that, you should feel free to delete my comment pointing it out. Its extraneous.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  11. Even if Obama’s recent statements on the DC banned not been so clear, what does Kurtz say about Obama’s record generally? This is the guy who admitted on a 1996 questionnaire that he advocated a total ban on handguns nationwide (only to lamely blame it on an aide, even though Obama’s own handwriting is on the questionnaire), and as recently as 2004, was in a minority even among Illinois Democrats in opposing a bill to make lawful self-defense in one’s own home a defense to local ordinances like Chicago’s (which, in turn, is virtually indistinguishable from DC’s).

    Xrlq (62cad4)

  12. There is no reason to believe that Obama or the campaign thought they were just giving legal advice rather than expressing their opinion on how the ban ought to be treated.

    You’re hanging everything on a fairly short press release:

    Senator Obama believes that we can recognize and respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and the right of local communities to enact common sense laws to combat violence and save lives. Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.

    That’s from last November. Here’s from yesterday:

    I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the rights of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures. [...] We can work together to enact common-sense laws, like closing the gun-show loophole and improving our background-check system, so that guns do not fall into the hands of terrorists or criminals.

    There’s no substantial difference. He believes 1) in the right to bear arms, but 2) doesn’t believe that right is absolute.

    This sounds remarkably like what he said at the ABC debate in April:

    As a general principle, I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms. But just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government can’t constrain the exercise of that right, in the same way that we have a right to private property but local governments can establish zoning ordinances that determine how you can use it.

    What’s the difference between the earlier statements and the latest one? The fact that one more Justice believed the ban to be unconstitutional. He probably still believes the ban was constitutional — that it represents “common-sense, effective safety measures” — but the Supreme Court disagrees with him. Again, I’m not seeing the contradiction.

    SEK (bd295a)

  13. Isn’t it amusing then, SEK, that the Obama’s media supporters see his more recent statements differently than you do. And write stories that appear to make Obama not in conflict with the decision?

    SPQR (26be8b)

  14. In the interest of having a fully informed electorate I propose a formal debate

    Between Obama and his campaign staff!

    daytrader (ea6549)

  15. The deeper problem is inverted logic and incoherent reasoning.

    “but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures.”

    Like what “common-sense” measure — a total ban on the right of self-protection equal to the threat historically “ravaging” those communities?

    His “measures” have had decades of liberal nurturing to prove their worth and they aren’t cutting it. People are dying in record numbers and not because law-abiding citizens have too many guns. So, Barry, how about demonstrating some of that fresh, audacious, dynamic, post-partisan, orthodox-busting, out-of-the-box courageous thinking we’re always promised?

    But a solution would interfere with ideology. Gee, and I’d been told to expect something different.

    rrpjr (fb0748)

  16. You have an individual right to liberty. That does not a preclude a reasonable requirement of five years’ service in a re-education camp until you learn to love the Obamesiah.

    nk (11c9c1)

  17. Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.”

    And many of his opponents believe abortion is legal, but that doesn’t mean they believe it should be.

    There’s a flaw in your parallelism: abortion is legal, the DC hand gun law was not constitutional.

    So, Obama’s opponents are correct in their belief, and Obama was not correct in his.

    Steverino (b42fd7)

  18. What you all are missing in the Obama’s recent statement is that he totally avoids the issue of whether a person should be allowed to own a gun for self defense inside the home.

    He rails on about “making the streets safer”, but neglects to point to any meaningful data as to how the handgun ban has managed to do that.

    Except of course, making the streets safer for criminals.

    Dr. K (5139b5)

  19. It’s useless to debate whether Obamessiah changes his positions or not. Those who support him will support him no matter what. He could come out and declare he is against partial-birth abortion and that he thinks terrorists should be waterboarded, and his supporters will simply adjust their arguments accordingly.

    Sure, he lied about his support of the ban. What does it matter, though? We love Big Brother.

    steve miller (e5eca4)

  20. Would Obama appoint a Justice who would vote the other way?

    Dennis D (ae900a)

  21. This campaign trick belongs to Bill. The Clintons should sue for copyright infringement.

    In a story today about the Obama move to the center,

    Vermont Neighbor (31ccb6)

  22. I think the man should stick to his guns and stand for what he believes. All this flip-flopping under pressure is not good for his image. He should come out and say he does not support full gun rights because it is not making the people any safer, citing the recent rise in university gun violence in places like Virginia tech. and the rest. An individual cant just walk into a gun shop and purchase a gun only to use it the next day to massacre fellow, defenceless students and lecturers.There has to be a way to control this problem. The second amendment should not be more important than human lives. Laws were made for man. Man was not made for laws. Obama should make his position clear on this and not give the impression that he is wavering. I believe people should be allowed the right to protect themselves but that right should come with very strict restrictions. Thats why we have the police and the defence department. A situation where it is up to the people to take up arms and defend themselves is a recipe for anarchy. I am not for outright ban, neither am I for unrestricted and unsupervised access. There has to be a common ground somewhere.

    love2008 (0c8c2c)

  23. Until the supreme court ruled in Heller, there was no decisive authority to indicate that the D.C. law was NOT constitutional. As we learned in Alito’s recent Kennedy v. Louisiana dissent, a state’s laws are presumed constitutional.

    In other words, it’s actually perfectly accurate to say Obama believed the D.C. law was constitutional pre-Heller, and then say it isn’t constitutional post-Heller. In fact, those are both accurate statements of the law, at the time.

    Phil (276c70)

  24. there was no decisive authority to indicate that the D.C. law was NOT constitutional

    Correction: ther District Court ruled in favor of Heller, and DC appealed.

    Unless you are arguing that a Federal District Court is not a “decisive authority” (especially given that SCOTUS affirmed their decision), you might want to rephrase.

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  25. Unless you are arguing that a Federal District Court is not a “decisive authority” (especially given that SCOTUS affirmed their decision), you might want to rephrase.

    That’s correct, the district court is not an authority whose decision binds the parties without recourse. That’s why the issue went before the Supreme Court in the first place.

    Phil (276c70)

  26. I should note that if the supreme court had denied cert, then there would have been decisive authority.

    Phil (276c70)

  27. And if the SCOTUS had refused cert, that “non-binding authority” would have become very binding indeed. A Contempt of Court charge has the same weight from a Federal Judge as it does from the SCOTUS. (Not that the DC civil authorities are very big on obeying the laws, but still…)

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  28. (Sorry, we cross-posted.)

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  29. Yeah looks like we’re on the same page.

    Phil (276c70)

  30. But the District Court decision had already been made when Obama issued his “banning guns is Constitutional” statement, had he not? Which means that he was unaware of what the Constitution was interpreted by “competent judicial authority” to say, right? They were only days away from oral arguments before the Brethren, and Obama should have known this, given its importance.

    An experienced politician/”Constitutional Law professor” would have demurred a fixed position and stated that he would wait until the SCOTUS decision was announced, rather than doing what Obama did – a blanket declaration followed by yet another flip flop on his “core positions”.

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  31. Happy sunday to you Drumwaster. How are you this morning?

    love2008 (0c8c2c)

  32. Even the statement Obama is apparently trying to disavow (I really don’t see a lot of disavowal, since the values he refers to appear to have remained consistent) he said he “believes the D.C. law is constitutional.”

    Well, now it isn’t. So it’s perfectly rational for him to say it isn’t.

    Note that McCain (and Obama) would have been perfectly rational to say they “believe the death penalty for child rapists is constitutional” until a week or so ago. Then came the Kennedy decision. To say now that the death penalty for child rapists isn’t constitutional, but that our country can go on and seek to prosecute and punish child rapists to the full extent of the law is no flip-flop, either.

    Phil (276c70)

  33. Busy throwing cold water on damfoolishness. You?

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  34. I am cool. About the other day, I would like to apologise for some of my comments that day. It’s just not me to pick up quarrels. I think I was having one of those bad days.

    love2008 (0c8c2c)

  35. About the other day, I would like to apologise for some of my comments that day.

    Accepted. Forgiven. Forgotten.

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  36. That’s correct, the district court is not an authority whose decision binds the parties without recourse.

    .

    Neither is the Circuit Court of appeals, but ONLY for a small subset of cases that SCOTUS grants cert to. For all the others, the Circuit Court is THE authoritative source. Ones recourse is to an appeal, and DC lost on appeal too.

    cboldt (3d73dd)

  37. These attempts to rationalize Obama’s flip flop are more than a little astonishing. Should we have the horrid luck to see him elected President, I guess we’ll endure 4 years of these ludicrous rationalizations.

    We may end up seeing the Clinton administration as the last Democratic admin to be a bastion of honesty and forthright talk …

    SPQR (26be8b)

  38. The District Court dismissed [Heller's] lawsuit.

    .

    On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed the dismissal in a 2-1 decision.

    .

    The DC Circuit denied a motion for rehearing en banc.

    .

    SCOTUS watered down the DC Circuit’s holding.

    cboldt (3d73dd)

  39. We may end up seeing the Clinton administration as the last Democratic admin to be a comparative bastion of honesty and forthright talk …

    FTFY

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  40. Is anyone watching the Euro finals? Fabulous football so far. I am rooting for Spain. I predict a Spanish win. 2:1 against Germany. Anyone ?

    love2008 (1b037c)

  41. Drumwaster, it was supposed to be sarcastic, not accurate…

    SPQR (26be8b)

  42. They play sports in Europe? I thought they were too busy passing laws regarding the number of toys per pig, and regulating line dancing.

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  43. phil:

    There was nothing facially inconsistent between the La statute and the 8th Amendment.

    That was not the case in Heller. The language of the 2nd Amendment is clear and the DC statute conflicted with that language.

    wls (598eef)

  44. Drumwaster, you forgot saving Europeans from small kiwi fruit.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  45. In other words, it’s actually perfectly accurate to say Obama believed the D.C. law was constitutional pre-Heller, and then say it isn’t constitutional post-Heller. In fact, those are both accurate statements of the law, at the time.>/i> –

    .

    Obama would have sided with the dissent (at the DC Circuit, as rendered on March 9, 2007). To argue whether or not he can observe the formal legal posture at any given moment in time is just a comment on his power of observation.

    .

    My recommendation to the Democratic Party is that it continue its attachment to advocate for restrictions against the 2nd amendment, and that it increase in volume — declare that the dissent got it right, it’s what you really believe.

    cboldt (3d73dd)

  46. Spain wins the finals! My prediction was correct. 1:0. Though i predicted 2:1 against Germany. But who cares. they won and I was right.

    love2008 (1b037c)

  47. The gun regulation in question completely banned handguns from the District of Columbia, and permitted only police or security officers to obtain a license for a shotgun. Other people had to keep their shotguns in a totally disabled state. (Please correct any inaccuracies; this is the most accurate statement of the law I could find.)

    That is a total ban on gun ownership and is utterly inconsistent with the right to keep and bear arms. You simply cannot believe that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms – one that cannot be overruled by the whim of a legislature – and simultaneously believe that the D.C. law was permissible. The D.C. regulation was the gun-rights equivalent of prohibiting blogs, flyers, community speeches, and newspapers that are not run by the state.

    bridget (e8e4c8)


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