Barack Obama and I agree on a few things. Yes, let's keep firearms from sociopaths. And no, I don't see much point in ordinary Americans owning armor-piercing ammunition. It might be useful for hunting rhinoceros, but since they have been extinct in North America for about three million years, the danger of being charged by a rhino in downtown Denver is minimal.
Hundred-round magazines? What do you plan to hunt, lemmings?
So why do I have a queasy feeling when the president talks about using the power of his office to push gun control? It comes down to trust.
In polities where divided government is the rule, trust is essential. The interests of the nation must not only supercede the interests of any political party, they must be seen by all to do so. In a crisis, if the opposition does not trust the party in power to put the nation first, deadlock and even insurrection will ensue. If the governing party does not trust the opposition to do the same, repression will result. The history of our country offers ample proof of both.
Why am I dubious about President Obama's current "gun control" effort? Because the man makes it very hard to believe that he cares about anything other than his personal agenda, or that he gives even a moment's thought to the objections of his political opponents. Did he offer Congress a series of proposals with near universal backing, so that the legislative branch might share some credit for addressing a problem much in the news - thereby encouraging a more productive and deliberate "bipartisan" approach?
No. The president is not one to share. He immediately politicized the issue, accusing those who refused to endorse his entire program of fear-mongering and truckling to the NRA, while placing the nation's children in peril. If he could plausibly have worked in shooting granny, he would have.
This short, intense campaign carries the fingerprints of those among the President's advisors who never want a crisis to go to waste. That's why it has eerie similarities to the just-passed fiscal cliff conflict and the debt ceiling crisis to come. These share an intense pressure to "do something," a simplistic cast of heroes and villains and a president who disavows responsibility for any part of any problem, while accusing his political enemies of whatever evil is convenient, targeting them for the torches-and-pitchforks brigades of his panting sycophants in the media.
The president recently surrounded himself with children while announcing "gun control" proposals which ranged from the commonsense to the uninformed and ineffective to the disturbing. He also reminded us that children don't want to be scared by guns, which he apparently sees as sufficient grounds for the most sweeping changes in federal firearms policy in decades.
As bad as that was, the partisan divide is about to be worsened by many more of these same sort of antics. Recent reports have revealed that the Obama campaign apparatus will be reborn as an "Issues organization" so instead of governing, the president can continue his favorite role of campaigner-in-chief. We saw that on Monday.
These are not the actions of someone who wants to advance national policy through pursuit of common ground and discussion, giving consideration to others' objections. Rather, they are the hallmark of a demagogue, deeply committed to personal power regardless of cost. They are doings of one who seeks division, because he sees it as a key to his success. Who continues to exploit the demagogue's favorite emotional tools: envy, anger and fear. Who demonizes his opponents, no matter how cogent their protests against his excesses. Who beggars the country to promise his supporters their hearts' desire, whatever it may be. None of which engenders trust.
Barack Obama has another dubious trait: his taste for presidential rule through executive orders, actions and directives that bypass traditional lawmaking. His supporters cheer these moves as bold and helpful: "We can't wait!" Seriously? Do Americans really have the patience of a 6-year-old?
Each of these orders strikes at the protections our Founders created against a government that seeks control over every aspect of our lives. Daily Kosites among us should consider what will happen when these protections are finally wiped away by popular clamor for action. If government turns on them, to what will they fly for protection, the traditions, practices and laws having been smashed in the interest of expedience? And turn it will, never doubt: power brooks no opposition, from whatever quarter.
So, despite my agreements with President Obama, no thanks. By word and action, he has undermined the trust necessary for serious action on the problems besetting our country, gun violence among them. A less politicized approach might actually bring progress, but...
It seems beyond this president's abilities.
Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. Email him at