Gabrielle Giffords:The Helpless Pawn On The Ethics Train Wreck


Ex-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords


James Taranto, the witty conservative commentator on the Wall Street Journal’s “Best of the Web” blog, properly takes aim at the New York Times op-ed supposedly authored by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and shoots it full of holes, quite accurately finding the piece guilty of almost every ethical violation that has characterized the shameless, and deservedly unsuccessful, effort to exploit the Sandy Hook massacre for gun reform. “Giffords’s 900-word jeremiad should be included in every textbook of logic and political rhetoric, so rife is it with examples of fallacious reasoning and demagogic appeals,’ he writes, noting that she is a “practitioner of incivility and unreason.”  Some of Taranto’s indictments:

  • “The argumentum ad passiones, or appeal to emotion. She leads with this one: “Senators say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets. The fear that those children who survived the massacre must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them, so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the gunman found them.” Continue reading

Why The Gun Bill Deserved To Lose, and Why We Should All Be Glad It Did

A bad day for Machiavelli is a good day for America.

A bad day for Machiavelli is a good day for America.

Consequentialism rules supreme in Washington, D.C.; that is the tragedy of our political system. If unethical conduct is perceived as having a positive outcome, few in D.C. will continue to condemn the means whereby those beneficial and lauded were achieved. Worse, the results will be seen as validating the tactics, moving them from the category of ethically objectionable into standard practice, and for both political parties

Thus we should all reluctantly cheer the likely demise of the Senate’s gun control bill yesterday. The compromise background check provision that failed wasn’t perfect, but it would have been an improvement over the current system. Nevertheless, the post-Sandy Hook tactics of gun control advocates, including the President and most of the media, have been so misleading, cynical, manipulative and offensive that their tactics needed to be discouraged by the only thing that has real influence in the nation’s Capital: embarrassing failure.

The tainted enterprise begins with the fact that it should not have been a priority at this time at all. Newtown did not signal a crisis; it was one event, and that particular bloody horse had left the barn. The supposedly urgent need to “prevent more Sandy Hooks” was imaginary, but it apparently served the President’s purpose of distracting attention from more genuinely pressing matters, notably the stalled employment situation and the need to find common ground with Republican on deficit and debt reduction. Meanwhile, the conditions in Syria have been deteriorating and North Korea is threatening nuclear war: why, at this time, was the President of the United states acting as if gun control was at the top of his agenda? It was irresponsible, placing political grandstanding above governing. In this context, Obama’s angry words yesterday about the bill’s defeat being caused by “politics” were stunningly hypocritical. The whole effort by his party was about nothing other than politics. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week, Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck Division: WSJ Blogger James Taranto

“It’s like a proponent of laws against hate speech standing on a street corner shouting racial slurs in order to “demonstrate how easy it is” to say offensive things under the First Amendment. Of course it’s ‘easy’ to do something that is perfectly legal and protected by the Constitution. That doesn’t mean you ought to do it, especially if you claim to believe it is wrong.”

—–Wall Street Journal blogger, pundit and wit James Taranto, describing the “stupid stunt”perpetrated  by Mark Kelly, the husband of  former Rep. Gaby Giffords, in which he purchased the kind of weapon he and his wife have been lobbying Congress to ban, a so-called “assault weapon,” in order to “demonstrate how easy it is to obtain” one.

At least Kelly didn’t break the law, like David Gregory, to show how easy it was to get an illegal magazine in Washington, D.C.


If this is the best argument you quiet.

If this is the best argument you have…be quiet.

Is this hypocrisy? No, it’s not hypocrisy. Kelly’s act is reminiscent, though not as certifiably cretinous, of stunt pulled by the foolish Ronald Miller, who walked into his child’s school and announced that he was going to start shooting people, just to show that he could. Kelly proved nothing. To someone who believes that a law-abiding citizen who believes he needs an assault weapon to protect his family against home invaders, Rodney King-style riots or the breakdown of civilization (never mind what Joe Biden or Andrew Cuomo think he needs), Kelly’s purchase proved only that the system works: a law-abiding citizen can buy a legal gun. The Horror. To anti-gun crusaders, Kelly proved that a gun they think should be made illegal is legal—but presumably they already knew that. Kelly was trying to demonstrate that legal conduct should be made illegal because people can currently do it?

Okaaaaay… Continue reading

Embarassing Democracy: Gabrielle Giffords and Government by Fallacy

Giffords Notes

The estimable website Fallacy Files contains much wisdom and many tools, most aimed at helping human beings avoid stupidity and the poor decisions it generates. Among the logical fallacies it documents are the flawed appeals, arguments for a proposition based on the supposed authority of an argument of a person based on factors that should have no bearing on the debate at all. A familiar example is the appeal to ignorance, in which an advocate argues that there is no evidence that X is true, ergo X must be false.

Yesterday, gunshot victim and former Representative Gabriella Giffords made what was called “a surprise appearance” at the U.S. Senate (don’t get me started on how much of a “surprise” it was—just try showing up to testify before the U.S. Senate as a “surprise” and see how far you get.) and made what was widely called “powerful testimony” advocating gun control legislation. It wasn’t powerful testimony; it was pathetic testimony. It contributed neither information nor reasoning to the debate. Giffords said, carefully, in labored speech, “Speaking is difficult. I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something.  It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act. Be bold, be courageous, Americans are counting on you.” Despicably, some Left-wing blogs even managed to use her appearance to further the MSNBC lie that a Sandy Hook’s victim’s father had been “heckled” during his testimony before the Connecticut legislature. “You’ll notice that NOBODY dared to heckle Gabby as she was speaking,” commented one.

Giffords’ testimony wasn’t “powerful.” It was pathetic. It was, in fact, a classic example of another logical fallacy documented by the Fallacy File, the appeal to pity, where emotion is used as a substitute for facts, logic and argument. Continue reading