10
Sep
03

NetZero E-mail on the Web

NetZero E-mail on the Web: “Juan Williams Smears Dean
Howard Dean deviates from liberal orthodoxy on one issue: gun rights. Coming from Vermont, the state with the nation’s least restrictive gun laws, Dean holds a genuinely moderate position. He opposes new federal gun-control laws, but he also believes the 10th Amendment trumps the Second and that states have the authority to pass whatever gun laws they see fit. Here is how Juan Williams, a journalist for NPR and Fox News Channel who was among the panel of questioners at last night’s Democratic presidential, characterized Dean’s position (note: Fox, which co-sponsored the debate with the Congressional Black Caucus, does not seem to have a transcript on its Web site, though the Washington Post does, but the transcriptions are our own, aided by TiVo):

Gov. Dean has suggested that states like Vermont, Montana and Wyoming, with overwhelmingly white populations, really don’t need gun control, in part because of their rural character, but urban areas, such as Baltimore, Md. [where the debate was held], with large minority populations, do need gun control.

This didn’t sound right to us. We’ve certainly never heard Dean cast his position in racial terms, and indeed it’s hard to imagine any politician in the 21st century taking the position that Williams attributes to Dean. Dean’s response convinces us we were right:

I have never said that African-American cities need gun control and white states don’t. I have never said that. What I have said is that rural states–and this includes places like Tennessee perhaps–that have low homicide rates, don’t need the same gun laws that urban states do, and if urban states want to have lots of gun control, let ’em have it, but just don’t impose the same gun laws that you have in New York City or New Jersey or California on states like Vermont, which have a very low homicide rate.

Now, Williams’s question is not completely off the wall. There is a historic link between gun control and racism, as Clayton Cramer noted in a 1995 law-review article: “Throughout much of American history, governments openly stated that gun control laws were useful for keeping blacks and Hispanics ‘in their place’ and for quieting the racial fears of whites.” It is implausible, however, to suggest that is the case today, when black citizens are full participants in the political process.

Williams could have raised the question of the racial implications of Dean’s gun-rights views in an unobjectionable way, perhaps by prefacing it: “Gov. Dean, doesn’t your position amount to saying that . . .” Instead, Williams simply stated as if it were a fact that Dean’s position is based on racism. Cravenly, he didn’t even direct the question to Dean but to novelty candidate Carol Moseley Braun. After describing Dean’s putative views, Williams asked Moseley Braun: “Do you agree?”

Moseley Braun, to her credit, didn’t take the bait, and Dean took time out of an answer to a subsequent question to set the record straight. None of that, though, makes Juan Williams’s performance any less shameful.”

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