Perhaps Tavis Smiley and Cornel West aren't such fringe dwellers after all.
Late-night TV talk show host Smiley and occasional academic West, co-hosts of a weekend radio show, actually said yesterday that Rush Limbaugh, a figure of towering evil as far as liberals are concerned, may have made a legitimate claim about gun ownership. (audio clips after page break)
On his radio program last week, Limbaugh pointed out that civil rights leaders such as Congressman John Lewis might not have gotten so bloodied had they been armed when they were attacked by racist thugs a half-century ago.
First, here's what Limbaugh said (audio) --
In Tom Brokaw's eyes you who are trying to defend a civil right that you have by virtue of the Constitution are the modern equivalent of people who denied civil rights to blacks in the '60s, in Tom Brokaw's view. And that has governed the way he sees this country ever since it happened, and a lot of other journalists too.
Try this -- if a lot of African-Americans back in the '60s had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed Selma? I don't know, I'm just asking. If John Lewis, who says he was beat upside the head, if John Lewis had had a gun, would he have been beat upside the head on the bridge? Anyway, that's what we're, and these people think like Brokaw are all over the media. This is the way they're looking at this.
Here's how Smiley and West responded to Limbaugh's remarks (h/t for audio, Brian Maloney at mrctv.org) --
SMILEY: Well, you see that slavery and civil rights have been injected now in this gun control debate with our friend Rush Limbaugh suggesting the other day, and I quote, 'if John Lewis had had a gun, would he have been beaten upside the head on the bridge?' So slavery and segregation and civil rights, but Danny Glover and Thom Hartmann of course raising the issue that the Second Amendment was established to stop slave revolts. So it's just fascinating to see all the arguments that are now being waged, everybody put out all the stops to make their point in this debate.
WEST: You know, my hunch is, one of the reasons why California had such severe loss is because my brothers and sisters in the Black Panther Party who did follow the law and did buy guns, all of a sudden generated a deep concern about ban on assault weapons. So, I mean, Rush in his own reactionary way ...
SMILEY: But I think there is something there though, let's be honest about it. If every black person and every brown person in America had a gun ...
WEST: Oh, there would be a ban on guns quick, believe me you. (Smiley guffaws)
Granted, the pair couldn't resist a reverse-racism dig and their commentary on Limbaugh's remarks might easily spun away by them as innocuous, but it's about as close as liberals ever get to agreeing with Limbaugh.
As for their half-joking claim that universal gun ownership by people of color would lead to a ban on gun ownership by presumably nervous Caucasians, an analogy comes to mind. Not only are conservatives staunch defenders of the Second Amendment, most are also opposed to abortion, and a disproportionate number of unborn children who die by abortion are conceived by people of color.
Which begs the question -- if conservatives are such racists that they would never want all people of color to own guns, why aren't conservatives also ardent supporters of abortion and Planned Parenthood, its leading practitioner, thereby causing fewer people of color to be born?
On his radio show today, Limbaugh mentioned that Smiley and West cited his remarks. "You know, they have to take their shots at me, but then they end up saying I've got a point," Limbaugh said. "If John Lewis and others at the Selma march had been armed, they wouldn'ta been firehosed and they wouldn't have had the dogs turned loose on em. This all came up last week as part of the gun control debate, but I'm not the one that injected slavery into this."