There ought to be a law

Correction, September 3, 2014: There may be more merit to the charges against Texas Governor Rick Perry than I had been led to believe. It’s still highly speculative, but Paul Rosenberg notes that Republicans have pursued the charges rather than a Democratic district attorney.[1] My larger point stands, however: Idiots get into power, stay for long periods of time, and do stupid things.

My initial reaction to Leonard Pitts, Jr., in his recent column on a 9-year old girl who accidentally shot her instructor in the head with an Uzi in Arizona is that he is right. Of course. It is so blindingly obvious. It is so unfathomable that no one foresaw that the recoil of such a weapon might lead to tragedy. And indeed there will always be stupid people, as in this case, everyone involved, except perhaps the young girl herself, whom we should indeed hold blameless.[2]

One of Pitts’ seemingly unassailable points is that there ought to be a law.[3] In the present paradigm, it’s hard to argue.

But then we have the example of Texas, which reminds us of what happens when unfathomably stupid people get into power, where a drunk-driving district attorney indicts the governor for first, threatening to veto funds for an anti-corruption office, and second, following through on the threat.[4] It all makes for grand theater, but it also belies my hope that faced with real responsibility for governing, authoritarian populists might rise to the challenge.

Indeed, in Texas, it seems political stupidity is not the sole province of any one party. And this exposes the fallacy in Pitts’ thinking. Where people and corporations may be stupid, he writes, “a country and its laws should be an expression of a people’s collective wisdom.”[5]

To be fair, Pitts is making a point about just how stupid the U.S. as a whole, not just Texas or Arizona, has become. “[F]or a country to be idiotic says something sweeping about national character.”[6] Here, again, it is hard to disagree.

But what this also shows is that it is unreasonable to repose trust in a political class. This is, after all, the same political class that, on the federal level, is now widely agreed to be in a quagmire, incapable and perhaps even uninterested in actually governing. It is also the same political class that has failed to address existential threats to human survival, including nuclear technology and climate change,[7] threats which are not solely the responsibility of those now in power.

Yet this is the same political class we rely upon to prevent a 9-year old girl from accidentally shooting her instructor with a machine gun. It’s no surprise it has failed.

  1. [1]Paul Rosenberg, “Rick Perry might go away for a long, long time: What even the liberal media isn’t reporting about his indictment,” Salon, September 3, 2014,
  2. [2]Leonard Pitts, Jr., “U.S. is exceptional — and stupid, too,” Miami Herald, August 30, 2014,
  3. [3]Leonard Pitts, Jr., “U.S. is exceptional — and stupid, too,” Miami Herald, August 30, 2014,
  4. [4]Mark Z. Barabak, “Texas Gov. Rick Perry is indicted, accused of abusing his power,” Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2014,; Manny Fernandez and Jonathan Martin, “Amid Debate Over Who Overstepped, Perry Calls Indictment a ‘Farce’,” New York Times, August 16, 2014,; Sahil Kapur, “Texas Judge Warns Rick Perry Not To Threaten Grand Jury,” Talking Points Memo, August 22, 2014,; Jonathan Turley, “Texas Rick Perry Indicted On Abuse of Power Charges,” August 16, 2014,; Paul J. Weber and Will Weissert, “Gov. Perry indicted, accused of coercion, abusing power,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 15, 2014,
  5. [5]Leonard Pitts, Jr., “U.S. is exceptional — and stupid, too,” Miami Herald, August 30, 2014,
  6. [6]Leonard Pitts, Jr., “U.S. is exceptional — and stupid, too,” Miami Herald, August 30, 2014,
  7. [7]Robert Socolow, et al., “An open letter to President Obama: The time on the Doomsday Clock is five minutes to midnight,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 14, 2013,

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