It’s Only “Politicizing” When You’re Wrong

Here’s Frank Bruni on “The Exploitation of Paris” for the New York Times:

Can’t we wait until we’ve resolved the body count? Until the identities of all of the victims have been determined and their families informed? Until the sirens stop wailing? Until the blood is dry?

I’d like not to be told, fewer than 18 hours after the shots rang out, how they demonstrate that Americans must crack down on illegal immigration to our own country. I read that and was galled, and not because of my feelings about immigration, but because of my feelings about the automatic, indiscriminate politicization of tragedy.

It’s such a disrespectful impulse.

And it’s such an ugly one.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall in the Times newsroom when the assignments are handed out after such a tragedy. How do they decide who will write the articles denouncing politicization and who will write the politicized articles?

It wasn’t so long ago that I read Nick Kristof’s “A New Way to Tackle Gun Deaths,” which details what Mr. Kristof calls “modest steps to reduce the carnage that leaves America resembling a battlefield” and which was published two days after the Umpqua Community College shooting.

Of course, both Mr. Bruni and Mr. Kristof write for the Opinion section of the Times. They haven’t been assigned viewpoints, and they’re entitled to have different ideas about the appropriate response to shootings. But it’s strange that Mr. Kristof and other perennial gun control advocates (for example, the president, who explicitly defended the practice of “politicization” immediately after Umpqua) escape Mr. Bruni’s criticism here.

I suspect the reason is that the columnist agrees with Mr. Kristof and President Obama. In his eyes, those who promote gun control after shootings are trying, without undue delay, to prevent the next shooting; those who promote the expansion of concealed carry rights or decry the dangers of immigration are pushing only tangentially related interests at a sensitive time.

The left’s true believers don’t allow the bad optics of “politicization” to slow their efforts at fixing what they see as the problem. Many on the right similarly harbor the deeply-held (if clearly absurd) beliefs that immigrants are disproportionately criminals and that more guns will lead to less gun violence because…deterrence, or the only-a-good-guy-with-a-gun argument, or some other nonsensical piece of propaganda. Why shouldn’t they be equally vocal about the measures they think would prevent the next crisis? (Of course, if Mr. Bruni thinks his opponents’ response is purely cynical, and not a good-faith show of support for the preventative measures they claim to favor, he should point that out directly.)

Because President Obama is right. The moment when people are most interested in a problem like gun control, when new light has been shed on its causes and its effects, is exactly the wrong moment to silence discussion of a solution. If your opponents are right, the world needs to hear and consider their ideas. If they’re wrong, show why they’re wrong. When you’re Frank Bruni and the opponent is Donald Trump, that shouldn’t be so hard, anyway.