Monday, February 25, 2008

Dick Cheney Opposes Gun Control! I Read It in The Post

America's newspapers are having a tough time of it. Plummeting circulation, declining ad revenues, and news stories that aren't.

The latest headline maker is the discovery by The Washington Post that Vice President Cheney opposes gun control! Who'd have thought?

This month Mr. Cheney joined a brief filed by 305 lawmakers in the Supreme Court case over the constitutionality of the District's gun control laws. A federal appeals court struck down the gun ban -- the most far-reaching in the nation -- as unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. The District appealed the case, which is scheduled to be argued on March 18; Mr. Cheney and the lawmakers urged the justices to uphold the lower court ruling, which concludes that "once it is determined -- as we have done -- that handguns are 'Arms' referred to in the Second Amendment, it is not open to the District to ban them."
As The Post would say, the problem is are two:

This is now an old story. The 305 bipartisan members of the House and Senate who filed the brief with Mr. Cheney did so more than ten days ago. Old news.

Past that, The Post seems to want to have it two ways. On the one hand, Dick Cheney is the evil twin, secretly running the executive branch and his boss, who has been reported for some years by The Post as being too dim to turn off a bulb. On the other hand, they describe Mr. Cheney as no more than a hired hand, who in this instance surprises by disregarding the boss' directions.

Back to The Post
The problem is, Mr. Cheney's position puts him at odds with the administration's official stance in the case. Rather than rubber-stamp the lower court decision, Solicitor General Paul D. Clement is arguing that the Second Amendment bestows an individual right but that "protection of individual rights does not render all laws limiting gun ownership automatically invalid." Mr. Clement worries that adopting the rationale of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit could invalidate a host of federal gun control laws; he argues for a more flexible approach that would, for example, allow a court to consider public safety concerns when analyzing the constitutionality of a firearms regulation. The brief is carefully written, thoughtful and apparently not radical enough for Mr. Cheney.
It should surprise no one that The Post's evaluation of SG Clement's brief as carefully written and thoughtful is the sound of one hand clapping. Most commentators, perhaps much more experienced in matters of briefs to SCOTUS, have found in the brief evidence of haste, incoherence, missing essential parts, lacking grounding, all wrapped in elementary school grammar. The leading theory is that it was thrown together at the last moment and tossed over the transom.

The Post theorizes that Vice President Cheney lost the battle for the Second Amendment within the Administration. Possibly so, but it's more likely that he didn't know of the content of the SG's brief until after it was filed. Fortunately, it is so poorly written as to offer little risk of directing the thoughts of more than one or two of the Justices. More likely is it that the "Capitol Hill gang," as The Post calls the bipartisan majority who signed onto Mr. Cheney's much better brief, will influence the Justices.

Heck, next there will be a story in The New York Times suggesting that Senator McCain's disgruntled former staffers are concerned about the Vice President's shooting expeditions with members of the NRA.

What is the legacy media coming to?

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