Sunday, November 20, 2011

Analysis, Judgment, and Discourse

A little while ago I tweeted this - - regarding political bias affecting our judgment and analysis, and I was thinking specifically in the context of events.  More specifically, I was reading a Facebook post regarding the alleged assassination attempt that occurred last week at the White House -

Some nut job took a rifle and fired shots at the White House.  The President wasn't there.  The Facebook post focused on the gun used and distance shot from, and how unlikely anything would have occurred, as well as wondering if Obama wasn't there.  The discussion that followed was about how nothing would have happened, and how now Obama will supposedly use this as him surviving an assassination attempt.  The individuals discussing this are all conservative in their political ideology.

Now, if the President used this during his re-election campaign, it would be unfortunate, and very inappropriate.  In any event, what bothers me about this discussion is that it so readily dismisses an alleged crime in favor of irrational political discussion.  The point of the post, and of the comments, was that Obama couldn't have been killed because he wasn't there, so why worry about it.

This is why he was charged with ATTEMPTED assassination, not assassination.  Under law, a person is guilty of an attempted offense if they make substantial steps towards committing that offense.  Impossibility is not a defense.  Let's repeat that , impossibility is not a defense.  Why? Because the law determines that an individual shouldn't be off the hook for their actions simply because some external factor prevented them from completing their task.  Now, based on the facts thus far, it seems reasonable that firing a gun (most likely regardless of the gun and/or distance), establishes a prima facie case that the guy arrested took substantial steps towards his task of assassination.  The fact that he could never have achieved his task on that day is irrelevant to the criminal offense of attempt.

Why does this conversation bother me so much.  Because the individuals involved are smart people.  They are usually thoughtful, reflective, and considerate when approaching topics (granted, I rarely talk politics with any of them).  I just continue to find it sad that whenever politics comes around, we throw are rational faculties out the window so often in favor of letting or bias take over.  This has to change.  As these individuals are conservative, they are not going to agree with President Obama's policy choices. Fine. Their conservative ideology though shouldn't result in them using that judgment of not liking anything associated with Obama to analyze this event so poorly and so out of context.

This is a story about what appears to be a psychotically impaired individual doing something very stupid, and very dangerous.  Our political bias should have no role in analyzing it.  On a weekend when we are getting bad hints that the "supercommittee" doesn't have an agreed deal, and many folks are bemoaning the inability of Congress to get along and compromise and pass legislation, maybe its good to take a step back, and think that when our political climate has become so charged that a simple news story becomes an opportunity for political mudslinging among us, what would we expect from our leaders?

It's become almost impossible to have constructive political discourse today. Until that changes, among us, among the citizens, what happens (or doesn't happen) in Washington is only going to get worse.