Polonius claims that "brevity is the soul of wit", so I will always try a pithy title. The first that came to mind was "Bill Clinton Lied", but that falls into the rather generic category of "The sun rose in the east".
This latest variation on the theme finds Clinton at the Consumer Electronics Show at Las Vegas last Wednesday, where he made the astounding conclusion:
Half of all mass killings in the United States have occurred since the assault weapons ban expired in 2005, half of all of them in the history of the country.
That is preposterous, as would be immediately apparent to any older member of the population who wasn't a victim of modern public education. Take, for example, an incomplete, off-the-cuff list of mass shootings that I tabulated only back to the early 1980s, and that just involves firearms. As for the "history of the country", who could possibly tabulate the mass killings that have stained our nation's soil in the hundreds of years that we have clawed our way across a forbidding continent?
To his credit, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post takes on a critique of Clinton's remarks in the 'Fact Checker' column (which rates claims that lack veracity with up to four 'Pinocchios', sort of a political Michelin rating) to do a quick tabulation of the understandably hazy figures, and comes to a quick conclusion that the "eye-popping statistic" was "way off base" and an "exaggerated claim". Even Clinton's own spokesman refused to comment on the source of the claim.
About the best that can be said of circumstances such as this is that Clinton often just doesn't know when to shut up, or that he has an inability to resist entertaining an audience rather than informing. As for the former, even Obama can find his prolixity insufferable, as when Obama abandoned a joint press conference when he couldn't get a word in edgewise. Clinton hardly noticed his departure and kept on talking as if he were in command again.
Joe Klein, who finally had to admit that he wrote Primary Colors, at first an anonymously authored roman à clef of the Clinton candidacy, tells the story of the Clinton character holding a rural audience spellbound with the story of his uncle overcoming the difficulties of his life despite having won the Medal of Honor, which the author soon discovers is a complete fabrication – from the uncle. This "nothing gets in the way of a good story" attitude is still alive and well in Clinton's yarns, and this mass-killing stat is no less typical for the guy who
Liberals Progressives can't help but fawn over.
That even extends to Kessler himself. He can't resist the temptation to find a way to soften the blow, so he cites statistics compiled by Mother Jones which only extend back to 1982, which might grant a total of "40 percent of the mass shootings in the past 30 years have taken place since the assault weapon ban ended", then tosses in a paragraph about how the subject is "complex" and doesn't lend itself to a "single factor". He concludes:
The result is only a three Pinocchio score, which is preposterous as well. Clinton is clearly wrong, "over-the-top" as even Kessler's headline states, but he still can't help but waffle on Clinton's addled fabrication or soften the talking points of the anti-gun lobby.Ordinarily, this might have been a Four Pinocchio claim. Given the fuzziness of the data and questions about definitions, we are going to cut Clinton a bit of slack in the final ruling. But such uncertainty in the data means politicians need to be very careful in making claims about gun violence.