Time's Joe Klein on Sunday found out what it's like to actually have to debate conservatives rather than the liberal media members he normally appears with on political talk shows.
When he uttered the typical left-wing line on ABC's This Week about the need for more gun control in the wake of Friday's movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado, Klein got a much-needed education from George Will and the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin (video follows with transcript and commentary):
GEORGE WILL: The killer in Aurora, Colorado, was very intelligent and farsighted and meticulous. I defy you to write a gun control law that would prevent someone like this with a long time horizon and great planning capability from getting the arms he wants. I just think this is a mistake.
A moment ago Joe made a statement, he gave us a theory, it's an empirical theory for which there is or is not evidence, which is that the globalization and coarsening of entertainment will cause or is causing -- I don't know what your point was -- things like this to happen more and more. These are testable hypothesis. Let's test them.
JOE KLEIN, TIME: I think it's undoubtedly true that we're seeing more frequent incidents like this in this country. It's all part of a zeitgeist. I mean, you know, we're on a national sugar rush in this country. The internet is part of it. You know the entertainment industry is part of it. The irresponsibility about gun laws is part of it. I mean, it's all together.
To be fair to Klein, I agree that the excessive violence in the media is having an impact on the society. However, as Rubin smartly pointed out, that's difficult to measure:
JENNIFER RUBIN, WASHINGTON POST: Listen, we can make all of the declarative statements we want. There is no shortage of empirical data in criminology. In fact, it's one of the most researched areas of social science. When we had the gun law, the assault ban weapon, there wasn't a decrease, when we let it expire, there wasn't an increase.
We have had a gradual decline over the last 40 years in gun violence and all kinds of violence, in part, because of better policing, in part, because incarceration. So I think some of these statements that there are -- we're having more of these incidents, they simply are not true.
And I think, yes, we should look...
Was Rubin correct?
Well, just last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a study confirming her view. As reported by NBC News:
Violent crime rates in the U.S. are reaching historic lows, according to new FBI data released Monday.
Instances of murder declined overall by 1.9 percent from 2010 figures, while rape, robbery and aggravated assault declined by 4 percent nationwide, according to records from more than 14,000 law-enforcement agencies around the country, FBI spokesman Bill Carter told msnbc.com. [...]
Although the findings, released in the FBI’s Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report, represent a seemingly small decline in crime overall, they aren’t just a blip. Rather, criminologists say, the decline is part of larger downward trend and the result of a series of changes that have contributed to a more peaceful society. [...]
According to FBI analysis, the homicide drop would mean that nearly 280 fewer Americans were murdered last year, which would be the lowest homicide death toll since the mid-1950s.
That bears repeating: "[N]early 280 fewer Americans were murdered last year, which would be the lowest homicide death toll since the mid-1950s."
The lowest since the mid-1950s when America's population was almost half what it is today.
But as readers know, liberal media members don't care about actual facts and statistics when there's an agenda to be driven:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: But when we have them, they're more deadly, aren't they?
KLEIN: Somehow I don't remember these happening every month when I was a kid.
RUBIN: They are not happening every month.
KLEIN: They are happening every couple of months.
ED RENDELL, FORMER DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR PENNSYLVANIA: We're having more of them. And they are more violent. And they're more violent because we arm these people with weapons that are meant for combat only, combat only.
WILL: Let me just note how comforting this argument is, because we're all going to sit around and agree that if we got to together and had legislative majorities and passed particular laws that clever people will pass, this won't happen anymore.
RENDELL: That won't happen, George, we said it is going to happen with less frequency.
ROBERTS: And with less deadliness.
RUBIN: But we don't know that. Listen, this guy's apartment was booby-trapped. This person's apartment was booby-trapped to the hilt. Do we really think that he couldn't have constructed some type of weapon of some type of grenade that would have blown us up?
Indeed, which was exactly what Colorado's Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper told CNN's Candy Crowley earlier Sunday morning. But I digress:
ROBERTS: Why didn't they go to the authorities?
RUBIN: Well, that's a very good question. And I think a lack of connectivity and the lack of neighborliness, and the reticence to intervene when someone is behaving oddly and strangely is a societal problem...
KLEIN: I'm just shocked to hear a conservative like George Will making an all or nothing argument on this issue. People died from getting the polio vaccine, that doesn't mean that we should do away with it. If this can limit the number of gun incidents -- if some laws can limit the number of gun incidents, then we should have them.
WILL: No, a conservative has, I think, a tragic view of life, which is that however clever the experts are going to assemble, and we heard a call earlier in the show for bringing in the experts, and how ever meticulously you draft whatever statute you wind up passing, the world is going to remain a broken place and things like this are going to happen.
Indeed. By contrast, liberals - especially in the media - think government can control every aspect of human behavior thereby making everyone's life better and safer.
And the beat goes on.