I’ll give Steve Dettlebach this much: When the dumbest thing President Joe Biden’s choice to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ever tweeted resurfaced after his nomination was announced, he didn’t delete it. That takes guts. Or stupidity. Either one.
I’m going with stupidity.
A bit of background before we get to Dettelbach’s tone-deaf, racially tinged tweet about a sports legend — a missive that would be hilariously inept if it came from your dimwit high-school quarterback but comes across as more disturbing from a man who will potentially decide just how much of your Second Amendment freedom you get to use.
Dettelbach was a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio during the Barack Obama administration. According to CNN, he’s “currently a partner at BakerHostetler and helps lead the firm’s white collar, investigations and securities enforcement and litigation team.”
I mention this not just to rattle off his résumé but to remind you, before we get to the next part of this dumpster fire, that this man not only holds a law degree but has reached the top echelons of his profession.
(Also another reminder: Having been appointed by Obama and nominated by Biden, Dettelbach has the stamp of approval from the two gun-grabbingiest administrations in American history. Here at The Western Journal, we’ve pushed back on both administrations’ encroachments on our constitutional liberties. We’ll continue to do so — and you can help our fight by subscribing.)
Given that Dettelbach could be one of the most powerful men in Washington, D.C., it didn’t take long for people to scour his social media history for any hint of impropriety.
Normally, one should object to poring over every single thing a person has posted on Twitter, looking for anything that can be used to smear them. However, when it turns up something this cretinous, one also has to admit these kinds of investigations do occasionally have merit.
Here’s Dettelbach in 2016, two days after the death of boxer Muhammad Ali:
“We salute #MuhammadAli as a great American,” he tweeted. “Sadly, we need to acknowledge that Donald Trump wouldn’t even allow him to come into America.”
We salute #MuhammadAli as a great American. Sadly, we need to acknowledge that Donald Trump wouldn’t even allow him to come into America.
— Steve Dettelbach (@SteveDettelbach) June 6, 2016
Ah, yes, Muhammad Ali, the legendary pugilist known worldwide as the Lagos Lip. Wait, no, that’s not right. Was it the London Lip that they called him? The Lahore Lip?
Oh, no, wait — it was the Louisville Lip. As in, Louisville, Kentucky. The city he was born in. Which is in the United States.
He was born in Louisville, KY. pic.twitter.com/ycvecyMYLS
— Destrier (@Destrier15) April 11, 2022
I’m not saying you need to know Ali’s “Louisville Lip” moniker to be considered intelligent. However, anyone with a passing knowledge of our shared culture knows that there are really only two athletes of American extraction who are universally known throughout God’s green Earth, from Andorra to Zimbabwe: Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan. Perhaps one could include LeBron James as well, although one would also be forced to note the precipitous drop-off in character and charisma there.
You don’t need a law degree to know this. In fact, if you don’t know this, I can make a cogent argument you should have your law degree revoked. That’s how bad it is.
So you just assumed he wasn’t born in America because of his (non-birth) name? If only we had a term for that ?
— Michael B. Lynch (@MLynch22) April 11, 2022
Now, I’ll grant there are two potential explanations for the broken logic behind this tweet, one slightly more charitable than the other — but both with the whiff of passive racism and xenophobia about them.
We’ll start with the less-charitable interpretation:
Dettelbach saw Ali’s name trending and automatically assumed, given its Islamic provenance, that the boxer was an immigrant. Of course, Ali was born Cassius Clay before he converted to the Nation of Islam, after which he changed his name. (He later converted to Sunni Islam and disavowed the NOI.) Enraged at then-presidential candidate Trump’s promise to enforce and tighten immigration law, he used the occasion to fire off a tweet and … well, here we are.
The more charitable interpretation is that Dettelbach was trying to make a poor political point using Ali’s religion as a prop, even though he knew that, yes, Ali was American.
As you might remember, Ali died during Trump’s first presidential campaign, and part of Trump’s platform involved restricting travel from nations that potentially posed national security threats. Much of the threat stemmed from radical Islamic groups.
This proposal was termed the “Muslim ban” by the establishment media despite the fact that the list of countries Trump eventually used to impose his travel ban was originally assembled by the Obama administration. Details, details.
Perhaps, then, Dettelbach wanted to make some kind of point about how a Trump presidency would ensure Ali couldn’t come to America if he weren’t already here. Except that’s still othering the boxing legend, using an American as a stand-in for Muslims abroad because Muslims are a minority here, implicitly diminishing his American-ness in the process. This also disregards the vast majority of Muslims who were wholly unaffected by the travel ban.
But why should we fault Dettelbach for not thinking this one through? It’s not as though he’s part of a mentally exigent profession; he’s merely a respected legal mind with years of government work who’s currently a partner at a prestigious law firm and is now being tapped to head the ATF.
The only reason the latter explanation isn’t as bad as the former is that it merely displays partial ignorance, not total ignorance.
However, not only is it still offensive, but it also doesn’t make much sense — meaning that it comes across as the less-likely alternative. My guess is that Dettelbach is a guy who isn’t a fan of the sportsball and, seeing the outpouring of grief and tributes for Ali, decided to do a little tone-deaf clout-chasing on a subject he knew less than nothing about and wasn’t willing to put in the slightest bit of research on.
I fully admit I could be wrong, but it’s not as if other alternatives to my theory make Dettelbach’s tweet look good, either.
If a Republican posted this, no matter what his excuse, he’d be drummed out of Washington in three seconds.
This, of course, isn’t the main reason to oppose Dettelbach’s nomination: He’s a Democrat careerist hack who plans to wage a legal battle against your constitutional freedoms.
Gun control groups are praising the pick, with the president of Everytown for Gun Safety saying Dettelbach would be a “strong leader” and the nomination showed the Biden administration was “doubling down on its commitment to gun safety.”
Biden also said that “Steve’s record makes him ready on day one to lead this agency” and that he was “immensely qualified,” always a sound indication he’s neither of those things.
Thankfully, we may never have to find out.
“Administration officials acknowledge Dettelbach faces long odds in the Senate largely because gun-rights groups routinely oppose any nominee for the agency that regulates guns,” CNN reported. “The ATF has operated under a series of acting directors since its last Senate-confirmed leader stepped down in 2015, and the Senate last confirmed an ATF nominee in 2013.”
It’s almost a shame, given that I would have loved to have seen Dettelbach’s tweets praising the can-do immigrant spirit should Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ever visit the White House.
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