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VP silent on blame in Binghamton, Pittsburgh killings: a lesson from Mark Levin.
It was President Bush’s fault.
When a student went on a rampage and killed 32 students at Virginia Tech in April of 2007, then-Senator Joe Biden, at the time running for the Democrats’ presidential nomination, knew exactly who to blame. He pinned the blame squarely on the man in the Oval Office. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Now Vice President Joe Biden is silent on the topic of presidential responsibility for the mass murders in Binghamton and Pittsburgh. Nor has he laid blame at the feet of current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
What exactly had then-President Bush and ex-Speaker Gingrich done to set off Cho Seung-Hui, the South Korean immigrant who killed himself in the attack? The president and “the Gingrich revolution” of 1994 said Biden, were responsible for something he called “the politics of polarization.” Notwithstanding that the “Gingrich revolution” was 13 years earlier, Biden added darkly that the shootings “didn’t happen accidentally.” Coincidentally, Biden made the remarks in New York at an April gathering of the Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. They were reported at the time by Newsmax on April 20, 2007. Biden was back in New York City addressing the same group on Friday, when news broke of the Binghamton rampage that killed 14.
This time, however, Biden had a different reaction to a shooting spree.
“In Binghamton, someone entered a rec center where an examination was being given for…immigrants to become Americans…Walked in through the back door and allegedly shot and killed up to 13 people,” Biden said. “I don’t have any more details, except I’d ask you to keep these folks in your prayers. We’ve got to figure out a way to deal with this senseless, senseless violence.”
Unlike his remarks in April 2007 in which he blamed the incumbent Republican president and a former Republican Speaker of the House, Biden was silent as to whether Obama’s policies, which he himself is helping to shape, contributed in any way to the shooting. Nor did he offer his thoughts on whether the policies of fellow Democrat and current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may have been a contributory factor to the slaughter.
The very next day after Biden’s latest speech, in which he did not assign blame for the Binghamton shooting rampage, 23-year-old Richard Poplawski shot and killed three Pittsburgh police officers. Why? The Associated Press quoted the killer’s best friend as saying Poplawski’s motive was “the Obama gun ban that’s on the way” and that the cop killer “didn’t like our rights being infringed upon.”
Biden, uncharacteristically, has been completely silent. No Biden comments can be found on the linking by the killer of what he believed to be a forthcoming Obama policy to the vicious murder of the three Pittsburgh cops.
What we have here is, as the saying goes, a teachable moment. A horrifically sad one at that. It goes far beyond the yet-again foot-in-mouth antics of the garrulous politician who is the number two in the Obama administration.
Let’s turn to the new bestseller Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, by radio talk show host Mark Levin. (Full disclosure: Mr. Levin is a former colleague from the Reagan administration.)
Specifically, the focus Levin gives at the very beginning of his book to the Conservative’s belief in the importance of the civil society. One of the conditions of a civil society, Levin writes, is respect for the individual as a “unique, spiritual being with a soul and a conscience.” But that respect for an individual’s freedom also brings in its turn responsibility by the individual. In the civil society, Levin writes, “the individual has a duty to respect the unalienable rights of others and the values, customs, and traditions, tried and tested over time and passed from one generation to the next, that established society’s cultural identity. He is responsible for attending to his own well-being and that of his family. And he has a duty as a citizen to contribute voluntarily to the welfare of his community through good works.” He or she must respect the rule of law.
Suffice to say, both the killer in Binghamton, Vietnamese immigrant Jiverly Voong, and Pittsburgh’s American-born Poplawski utterly failed in the most basic task of not just American civil society but any civil society. They had what most American citizens treasure, what people from around the world stream into this country every day (legally and illegally) to achieve — the right to be treated as an individual. To exercise their freedom to, as Levin puts it, pursue their own legitimate interests in a civil society, to work towards the achievement of their dreams under the rule of law. Both men quite deliberately used their freedom, their individual choice, to violate the rule of law. To commit mass murder. And in the civil society there must be consequences for such actions to the individuals who took them. In fact there are. Voong shot himself to death, understanding surely that he would never be free a single minute longer after his capture. Poplawski, after shooting two cops point-blank in the head as they stood in his doorway and a third behind them, told a friend he would die that day. He didn’t, not having the guts to inflict the same punishment on himself that he had just served on the three policemen whose job it was to protect the citizens of the civil society of Pittsburgh. To enforce the rule of law. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provides the death penalty for cop killers. Mr. Poplawski killed three in cold blood, and it’s a safe bet that his fellow citizens in the civil society of a state once governed by Founding Father Benjamin Franklin will be watching his fate closely.
But there is a larger pattern here. And as the Biden accusations against Bush and Gingrich illustrate, a pattern that is both unhealthy for the country as well as capable of backfiring on the accuser. The pattern? Blaming not the individuals who committed the acts but others — a president or a former Speaker for example — in what is actually a move towards what Levin has accurately termed “political suppression.”
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