This is why we can't have nice things.
It is my oft-repeated truism: he who frames the debate wins the argument. In the case of the frighteningly random mass shooting in Aurora, the Powers That Be are already framing the debate away from any kind of sensible gun control to a hapless shrugging of shoulders. And all that is exemplified perfectly by the booking of Michelle Rhee to the Meet the Press roundtable this week.
Michelle Rhee, former Chancellor of Public Schools for the District of Columbia, is not exactly the first person one would consider when putting together a roundtable to discuss the larger societal issues surrounding gun control and a culture of violence. But that doesn't stop Executive Producer Betsy Fischer and anchor David Gregory from asking her directly her feelings:
GREGORY: And if anybody has got experience like you do, Michelle, trying to identify vulnerabilities in especially younger people and they can manifest themselves at-- at such an early age, particularly in schools.
MS. MICHELLE RHEE (CEO & Founder, StudentsFirst): Yeah, I think one of the challenges that comes about in a-- in a tragedy like this is people want answers. Why did this happen or what is the solution? And so too often people want to identify one thing that can be changed that will ensure this never happens again. We do the same in education, what is the silver bullet? And the fact of the matter is I think when you hear these-- these conversations that go on, is that there is no one thing. It’s actually going to be complicated solution. It’s not just the availability of guns, it’s not just how violent video games are. This-- you know, in order to solve this problem in the long term, it’s going to-- it’s going to take a very comprehensive approach looking at lots of different angles.
Okay, my instinctive reaction to Rhee's words is "kinda out of her wheelhouse, that's why she's got nothing." She sets up an inarguable strawman: it's a complicated issue, there's no one solution, and then dismisses the elephant in the room: the availability and legality of assault weapons. Then she adds a favorite bugaboo of pearl clutchers: violence in video games. The end result? Nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders that falls in line with conservatives like David Brooks. The problem has no "silver bullet" so why even try?
But then I remembered Karoli's post from February:
Michelle Rhee and her new husband Kevin Johnson were honored, along with Gary Sinise and NRA President Wayne LaPierre by the Joe Foss Institute for being "outstanding Americans". [Republican millionaire fundraiser Foster] Friess was the chairman of the event.[..]
Some readers have accused me of unfairly linking Michelle Rhee with the right-wing cabal's aim to kill public education altogether. I ask them to consider Rick Santorum's statement, Foster Friess' very clear hatred of public schools (and unions), Rhee's associations with Rupert Murdoch, the Koch Foundation, Betsy DeVos and Scott Walker, her current "consulting" in Alabama (where there are currently no charter schools), and tell me again that she doesn't share their goals.
Michelle Rhee presents herself as someone solely concerned "with the children." Yet her by-the-numbers, bottom line approach to education serves only one master: the for-profit interests looking to grow our economy by privatizing public education. Palling around with billionaires who happen to represent those for-profit interests is never a bad thing for someone looking to turn a pretty profit from being a "school reformer."
Rhee has had a long and documented history of portraying herself as a "Democrat" while cozying up to Republican and conservative special interests. Her StudentsFirst organization requires their donations and assistance to push for busting teachers' unions and setting up profitable charter schools. No wonder she can't offer anything that might go against her buddies. So rather than advocating for measures that would have prevented someone from buying an assault rifle and 6,000 rounds of ammunition legally to mow down little Veronica Moser-Sullivan and recent high school grad Anthony Boik, Rhee smiles wanly and refuses to upset her conservative donors.