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'Stop scaring people'

Associated Press

The Senate fight over measures to reduce gun violence will begin in earnest when members return to session, but the challenge for Republicans will be to identify a way to condemn a universal background check provision that enjoys overwhelming public support.

On ABC yesterday, Karl Rove offered a terrific example of why the upcoming debate is likely to be exasperating. Here's what the Republican strategist said about the background-check proposal:

"Let's be very careful about quickly trampling on the rights of people who -- and look, you want to get something done? Then stop scaring people."

Right, scaring people is bad. Let's have a debate, but leave the demagoguery out of it. Anything else, Mr. Rove?

"If there's one thing that scares a lot of people who believe in the Second Amendment, it's the federal government keeping a national registry of gun sales and gun purchases and gun owners."

This is what makes Rove such a special person in our contemporary discourse. Mere mortals wouldn't be able to pull off rhetoric like this with a straight face, and probably wouldn't even try.

First, note the hilarious hypocrisy -- Rove wants gun-safety proponents to "stop scaring people," and in the next breath, warns that the federal government intends to trample on the rights of citizens and create a national gun registry. Rove is effectively arguing, "You need to stop scaring people, so I can start scaring people."

Second, as a substantive matter, Rove has no idea what he's talking about. The proposed background-check system doesn't create a registry and doesn't "trample" on anyone's rights. Either Rove hasn't bothered to get his facts straight or, in the hopes of scaring people after denouncing scaring people, he lied on national television.

What's more, this fits into a pattern that has fascinated me for years. Rove has a remarkable ability to rely on some of the most ironic political attacks imaginable.

As I noted a couple of years ago, Rove has spent his professional life engaged in political sleaze, so he's accused Democrats of adding "arsenic to the nation's political well." Rove ran a White House that embraced a "permanent campaign," so he's accused the Obama team of embracing a "permanent campaign." Rove embraced the politics of fear, so he's accused Democrats of embracing the politics of fear. Rove relied on "pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted " political events, so he's accused Obama of relying on "pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted" political events. Rove looked at every policy issue "from a political perspective," so he's accused Democrats of looking at every policy issue "from a political perspective." Rove snubbed news outlets that he considered partisan, so he's accused Obama of snubbing snubbed news outlets that he considered partisan. Rove had a habit of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons, so he's accused Obama of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons.

And now Rove wants gun-safety advocates to "stop scaring people," while he makes bogus charges intended to scare people.

If this is indicative of how the debate over background checks is likely to proceed, it's probably wise to invest in some antacids now.