Commentary Magazine


Topic: National Rifle Association

Demonizing NRA Won’t Transform America

Turn on virtually any talk show heard or viewed in the mainstream media this past week and it’s clear that most of the chattering classes are convinced that the Newtown massacre marks a turning point in the history of American culture. According to this narrative, the country’s understandable shock and horror over the slaughter of innocents at the Sandy Hook Elementary School is the equivalent of Pearl Harbor or 9/11 in that it has fundamentally altered the political correlation of forces that has prevented gun control. More to the point, they believe this sea change is so profound that it will effectively silence advocates of gun rights so as to render them incapable of stopping whatever it is that Vice President Biden’s task force comes up with.

The principal target of this effort is, of course, the National Rifle Association that sensibly stayed silent for several days after Newtown and has only just started to make its voice heard. Most liberals are assuming that the low profile the group has had since then is just the start of a new era in which its influence will be curtailed. The assumption is that anger about Newtown is so great and the impulse to try to do something to prevent another mass shooting is so widely supported that the NRA will no longer dictate to Congress. But, as the Pew poll cited earlier by Alana shows, support for gun rights may yet survive Newtown.

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Turn on virtually any talk show heard or viewed in the mainstream media this past week and it’s clear that most of the chattering classes are convinced that the Newtown massacre marks a turning point in the history of American culture. According to this narrative, the country’s understandable shock and horror over the slaughter of innocents at the Sandy Hook Elementary School is the equivalent of Pearl Harbor or 9/11 in that it has fundamentally altered the political correlation of forces that has prevented gun control. More to the point, they believe this sea change is so profound that it will effectively silence advocates of gun rights so as to render them incapable of stopping whatever it is that Vice President Biden’s task force comes up with.

The principal target of this effort is, of course, the National Rifle Association that sensibly stayed silent for several days after Newtown and has only just started to make its voice heard. Most liberals are assuming that the low profile the group has had since then is just the start of a new era in which its influence will be curtailed. The assumption is that anger about Newtown is so great and the impulse to try to do something to prevent another mass shooting is so widely supported that the NRA will no longer dictate to Congress. But, as the Pew poll cited earlier by Alana shows, support for gun rights may yet survive Newtown.

More than any other lobby or cause, the NRA is the boogeyman of the American liberal imagination. To listen to liberals talking about it is to hear a portrait of an organization that treats errant members of Congress the way heretics and Jews were handled by the Spanish Inquisition. More than that, many liberals speak as if it is primarily a profit-making entity funded by gun manufacturers that has imposed a bizarre reign of terror on an unwilling populace.

Yet even though the NRA is assuming a much lower profile these days, the idea that it and its 4 million members will simply go away or be drowned out by the chorus of outrage over the murder of 1st graders is based more on liberal ideology than hardheaded political analysis.

It is true that the chances of a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban that expired several years ago has just gone from nonexistent to quite possible. Indeed, it is more than likely that Biden will propose something that will have far wider scope than the previous bill since the rifle used by the murderer in Newtown was legal even under Connecticut’s assault weapons law.

It is entirely possible that Americans are ready for a ban on military-style weapons, especially those that fire large amounts of ammunition in a short time. Many are also ready for a stronger background check system for gun purchasers.

That these ideas are things that the NRA has previously successfully opposed is, as I have written before, evidence that the group regards any regulation, no matter how reasonable, as merely the thin edge of the wedge of a larger agenda whose goal is the effective repeal of the Second Amendment. In this sense they are like pro-abortion groups that fight furiously against even the most reasonable restrictions on the procedure such as parental consent because they also not unreasonably believe that such bills are merely a prelude to an attempt to repeal Roe v. Wade.

The effect of Newtown will be to point out to the NRA those areas where they have overreached. But the expectation that supporters of gun control can do more than that is highly unrealistic.

After all even Joe Manchin, the senator who has become the poster child for NRA members who have had second thoughts about the issue in the aftermath of Newtown, has yet to say what gun control measure he will actually support in any of his seemingly innumerable press interviews.

What liberals who think Newtown means that gun rights can be rolled back will re-learn in the coming weeks is that the NRA’s influence is not so much a matter of money as it is of votes. For all of its bad press, the NRA is the living illustration of democracy, not influence peddling. Its voice has carried weight in Congress because it speaks for 4 million members who share its concerns about the threat to gun rights. That concern is currently overshadowed by anger about Newtown and the widespread though largely mistaken conviction that there is a way to legislate such tragedies out of existence. But it won’t take long for the liberal war on guns to wake up the NRA and its members and far more numerous sympathizers.

As Pete wrote earlier today, the demonization of gun supporters by media figures such as Piers Morgan illustrates the politics of a moment of outrage, not the sort of fundamental shift in American culture that would be required for liberals to do more than enact measures on the margins of the issue, such as assault weapons. Indeed, the comparisons to Pearl Harbor and 9/11 should prove instructive to those who think the NRA is on its last legs. Though both those events did transform American politics in the short term, in the long run the effects were minimal.

Try as they might, those seeking to capitalize on Newtown can’t make America a country that no longer thinks that gun rights are the guarantee of democracy. That is a belief that is not shared by any other modern democracy, even a country like Israel, where gun ownership is widespread. But like other stubborn elements of American exceptionalism, it is not the sort of thing that will be erased even by an event as horrific as Newtown.

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The Gun Control Moment

There is little doubt that the Newtown killings have materially changed the discussion in this country about guns. The shock and horror about the murder of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School has created a demand for some sort of action by the government that will assuage the public’s need to believe that another school massacre can somehow be prevented. The result is that President Obama has the opportunity to pursue an assault weapons ban or restrictions on ammunition without having to worry very much about the usually vociferous opposition to such measures from the National Rifle Association and its many supporters.

That such measures are unlikely to prevent mentally unstable persons from obtaining weapons is almost beside the point. Governments cannot legislate the abolition of the sort of evil that led a disturbed individual to kill children in Connecticut last Friday. Nor is it likely or even desirable that Washington seeks to restrict the rights of Hollywood or video game makers that produce the sort of violent entertainment that creates the culture of violence that may also contribute to crime. Sadly, there is little likelihood that any of this will lead to a push to give more funding to the sort of mental health issues that do lead directly to violence.

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There is little doubt that the Newtown killings have materially changed the discussion in this country about guns. The shock and horror about the murder of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School has created a demand for some sort of action by the government that will assuage the public’s need to believe that another school massacre can somehow be prevented. The result is that President Obama has the opportunity to pursue an assault weapons ban or restrictions on ammunition without having to worry very much about the usually vociferous opposition to such measures from the National Rifle Association and its many supporters.

That such measures are unlikely to prevent mentally unstable persons from obtaining weapons is almost beside the point. Governments cannot legislate the abolition of the sort of evil that led a disturbed individual to kill children in Connecticut last Friday. Nor is it likely or even desirable that Washington seeks to restrict the rights of Hollywood or video game makers that produce the sort of violent entertainment that creates the culture of violence that may also contribute to crime. Sadly, there is little likelihood that any of this will lead to a push to give more funding to the sort of mental health issues that do lead directly to violence.

Yet at a time when the public wants something done, any solution that speaks to the revulsion people feel about the slaughter of 1st-graders will provide a degree of catharsis. With even pro-gun legislators saying they will support gun control and the NRA effectively silenced, the field is open for a game-changing push from the White House. The question is not whether it will happen but whether the president will overreach.

Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s first chief of staff, famously said of the 2008 financial meltdown “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” That sort of thinking led to a decision to exploit the situation to push through a liberal wish list in the form of a trillion-dollar stimulus boondoggle and ObamaCare. The former failed to revive the economy and the latter bogged the administration down in a crippling debate when its political capital might have been better spent on efforts to bring down the unemployment rate. Yet the president’s re-election last month may have convinced him that he was right all along about everything even if the new year may bring worse economic news that the implementation of ObamaCare will only exacerbate.

If the president opts for a quick, limited push on assault weapons that will allow him to say he has responded to Newtown effectively, the result will likely be an easy victory that will enable him to start off his second term on a positive note. However, the temptation to exploit this gun control moment may be overwhelming.

Liberal interest groups see the emotional reaction to Newtown as their chance to roll back gun rights in a way that would have been unimaginable only a week ago. But if Obama listens to them, he could overplay his hand and risk losing the support of the vast majority of Americans who support sensible restrictions on military-style weapons but not anything that smacks of an attack on the Second Amendment. The gun control moment is here, but the president and his supporters need to be wary of misinterpreting the reaction to Newtown with an overreach that could be a crippling mistake.

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The Key to the NRA’s Success

A week ago, a senseless and tragic shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, took the lives of 12 persons and wounded dozens. But instead of discussing what appears to be the gunman’s mental illness, the liberal mainstream media has spent most of its energy trying (to no avail) to use the incident to revive interest in gun control. This effort has utterly failed, with even President Obama refusing to obey the admonitions of some of his journalistic supporters to leverage the bloodshed for an attack on the National Rifle Association (NRA). This has only compounded their frustration, leading them to publish editorials like today’s New York Times jeremiad against the NRA, which rails about the reasons why “Candidates Cower on Gun Control.”

It is possible to make a reasonable argument in favor of some limits on ownership of particularly dangerous weapons though, as Rich Lowry pointed out in a smart opinion piece published on Politico, the gun control solutions favored by liberals would not have prevented alleged Colorado killer James Holmes from carrying out his crime. As Lowry points out, “Even scary looking guns formerly banned by Congress do not go on killing sprees on their own.” But the interesting point to be gleaned from the rehashing of the old debate about guns is not so much whether the NRA’s critics are right but the way they have come to demonize the organization. Leave aside for a moment the merits of their case about guns, and what comes across most clearly is an unwillingness to acknowledge that the NRA’s success is rooted in the nuts and bolts work of political organizing. Like the Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” thesis which cannot explain the enormous bipartisan popularity of the State of Israel by means other than a shadowy conspiracy of money and influence peddling, the NRA’s critics need to understand that it succeeds not by intimidation but because most Americans agree with it.

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A week ago, a senseless and tragic shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, took the lives of 12 persons and wounded dozens. But instead of discussing what appears to be the gunman’s mental illness, the liberal mainstream media has spent most of its energy trying (to no avail) to use the incident to revive interest in gun control. This effort has utterly failed, with even President Obama refusing to obey the admonitions of some of his journalistic supporters to leverage the bloodshed for an attack on the National Rifle Association (NRA). This has only compounded their frustration, leading them to publish editorials like today’s New York Times jeremiad against the NRA, which rails about the reasons why “Candidates Cower on Gun Control.”

It is possible to make a reasonable argument in favor of some limits on ownership of particularly dangerous weapons though, as Rich Lowry pointed out in a smart opinion piece published on Politico, the gun control solutions favored by liberals would not have prevented alleged Colorado killer James Holmes from carrying out his crime. As Lowry points out, “Even scary looking guns formerly banned by Congress do not go on killing sprees on their own.” But the interesting point to be gleaned from the rehashing of the old debate about guns is not so much whether the NRA’s critics are right but the way they have come to demonize the organization. Leave aside for a moment the merits of their case about guns, and what comes across most clearly is an unwillingness to acknowledge that the NRA’s success is rooted in the nuts and bolts work of political organizing. Like the Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” thesis which cannot explain the enormous bipartisan popularity of the State of Israel by means other than a shadowy conspiracy of money and influence peddling, the NRA’s critics need to understand that it succeeds not by intimidation but because most Americans agree with it.

You don’t have to agree with the NRA on its opposition to the assault weapons ban to understand that, contrary to the Times and the numerous other liberal editorial writers and columnists who have sounded the same theme, that its actions are a function of democracy, not an attempt to subvert it. If candidates — even a liberal Democratic incumbent — are loath to take it on, that is not because they are cowards, but because they know the NRA represents a critical mass of American public opinion.

The arguments in favor of gun control are at best questionable (such laws don’t reduce crime) and often a function of a cultural prejudice against firearms. But what’s really wrong with most of what we hear from anti-gun forces is their attempt to delegitimize the NRA. The group’s four million members represent not so much a special interest but a vanguard of a broad sentiment that sees gun ownership as a valid constitutional right. You don’t have to agree with them (though the Supreme Court does when it confirmed in 2008 that the Second Amendment meant what it says when it talks of “the right to bear arms”), but you must respect their right to organize. The NRA’s ability to persuade legislators is, like that of other successful advocates such as AIPAC on behalf of Israel, a reflection of the fact that their views are popular.

If the debate on gun control is to continue — and given the consensus that exists among the public and Congress though not among liberal editorialists against such measures there seems no reason why it should — it should do so without the imprecations of the NRA. If liberals wish to defeat it, they must do so by the force of reason, not by demonizing a legitimate and broad-based activist group.

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NRA to Score Holder Contempt Vote

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has leverage with House Democrats running for reelection in conservative districts, and its decision to score the Eric Holder contempt vote (in favor of it) will complicate Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s attempts to keep Democrats united in opposition (h/t HotAir):

“I think there are some members that will consider the recommendations of the NRA,” Hoyer said to reporters today. “Whether they think those recommendations are founded or not, I don’t know at this point.”

The number of Democratic defections could reach 31, according to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose committee voted last Wednesday to move the contempt citation to a full House vote.

Issa cites a letter sent from 31 Democrats to the Obama administration last year asking for them to be forthcoming with details of the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation as a template for possible Democratic “yes” votes.

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The National Rifle Association (NRA) has leverage with House Democrats running for reelection in conservative districts, and its decision to score the Eric Holder contempt vote (in favor of it) will complicate Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s attempts to keep Democrats united in opposition (h/t HotAir):

“I think there are some members that will consider the recommendations of the NRA,” Hoyer said to reporters today. “Whether they think those recommendations are founded or not, I don’t know at this point.”

The number of Democratic defections could reach 31, according to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose committee voted last Wednesday to move the contempt citation to a full House vote.

Issa cites a letter sent from 31 Democrats to the Obama administration last year asking for them to be forthcoming with details of the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation as a template for possible Democratic “yes” votes.

So far, Rep. Matheson is the first Democratic defector. Getting 31 Democrats to cross the aisle still seems like a long-shot for Issa, but the NRA scoring will certainly help. The lobbying group does appear to have had some interest or involvement in the Fast and Furious letter Issa mentions that had 31 Democratic signatories last year, since it was posted on the NRA website under “media.” If the Democrats lose 31 members on this vote, their argument that the GOP is using it as a ploy to tie Holder’s hands on voting rights becomes even more absurd.

The NRA, meanwhile, outlined its justification for scoring the vote in a recent letter to House GOP leadership, making the case that this is about gun rights, not partisanship (h/t Moe Lane):

It is no secret that the NRA does not admire Attorney General Holder. For years, we have pointed out his history of anti-Second Amendment advocacy and enforcement actions. Since taking office, Attorney General Holder has seized on the violence in Mexico to promote the lie that “90 percent” of firearms used in Mexican crime come from the U.S.; to call for bringing back the 1994 Clinton gun ban; and to justify the illegal multiple sales reporting scheme, which amounts to gun registration for honest Americans who buy long guns in southwest border states.

But our support of this contempt resolution is not about those issues — nor is it a partisan decision, for we have also expressed our strong policy disagreements with Attorney General Holder’s predecessors of both parties. The reason we support the contempt resolution is the same reason we first called for Attorney General Holder’s resignation more than a year ago: the Department’s obstruction of congressional oversight of a program that cost lives in support of an anti-gun agenda.

Hoyer will try his best to keep his party in line, but the election is a little more than four months away, and some Democrats won’t be able to afford being on the wrong side of the NRA.

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Putting the NRA on Trial With Zimmerman

Yesterday’s decision by Florida prosecutors to put George Zimmerman on trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin may serve to calm some of the racially charged anger about the incident in which an unarmed African-American youth was killed. Though some are already claiming the Zimmerman case will resemble the O.J. Simpson murder trial in the way it divides the public, it’s clear most Americans are content to let the justice system sift through the evidence and hope that justice will be done. Outside of the usual suspects seeking to inflame racial tensions (i.e., Al Sharpton, a veteran huckster whose efforts along these lines received the bizarre praise of Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday), there is another political agenda that is being pushed forward by the Martin killing: derailing efforts of the National Rifle Association and other conservative groups to enhance the right of self-defense via “Stand Your Ground” statutes or the “Castle Doctrine.”

Though we have yet to learn the full account of what happened between Zimmerman and Martin on the night of the latter’s death, it’s fairly clear that neither of those legal principles had much to do with the neighborhood watch volunteer’s shooting of the young man in the hoodie except in the most general sense, as the shooter asserted he was attacked first. But the effort to associate laws that back up citizens’ rights to defend themselves on their own property with Martin’s killing is becoming a touchstone of liberal rhetoric and reportage, as today’s New York Times feature on the subject illustrates. The conceit of the piece is to pin the nationwide drive to enact such legislation on the NRA and along with it the responsibility for any innocent blood shed because of these measures. Yet, what the Times and liberal critics of the laws fail to understand is that the popularity of such laws has to do with what most Americans believe is the defense of their liberty and safety and not race.

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Yesterday’s decision by Florida prosecutors to put George Zimmerman on trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin may serve to calm some of the racially charged anger about the incident in which an unarmed African-American youth was killed. Though some are already claiming the Zimmerman case will resemble the O.J. Simpson murder trial in the way it divides the public, it’s clear most Americans are content to let the justice system sift through the evidence and hope that justice will be done. Outside of the usual suspects seeking to inflame racial tensions (i.e., Al Sharpton, a veteran huckster whose efforts along these lines received the bizarre praise of Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday), there is another political agenda that is being pushed forward by the Martin killing: derailing efforts of the National Rifle Association and other conservative groups to enhance the right of self-defense via “Stand Your Ground” statutes or the “Castle Doctrine.”

Though we have yet to learn the full account of what happened between Zimmerman and Martin on the night of the latter’s death, it’s fairly clear that neither of those legal principles had much to do with the neighborhood watch volunteer’s shooting of the young man in the hoodie except in the most general sense, as the shooter asserted he was attacked first. But the effort to associate laws that back up citizens’ rights to defend themselves on their own property with Martin’s killing is becoming a touchstone of liberal rhetoric and reportage, as today’s New York Times feature on the subject illustrates. The conceit of the piece is to pin the nationwide drive to enact such legislation on the NRA and along with it the responsibility for any innocent blood shed because of these measures. Yet, what the Times and liberal critics of the laws fail to understand is that the popularity of such laws has to do with what most Americans believe is the defense of their liberty and safety and not race.

It needs to be understood that nothing in the “Castle Doctrine” or the “Stand Your Ground” statutes that have been passed in Florida and many other states would make it permissible for a person to seek out a suspected intruder and shoot him as it is alleged is the case with Zimmerman. But though liberals look askance at the laws, the reason why they have been passed with such ease has more to do with the fact that a majority thinks it is reasonable that citizens have the right to use force to defend themselves in their homes, backyards or even inside their cars.

The left-right ideological divide over gun rights in this country is fairly clear. Conservatives feel Americans have a constitutional right to bear arms and to use them in self-defense. By contrast, most liberals disagree with the Supreme Court about the meaning of the Second Amendment and would like to see gun rights severely restricted if not functionally eliminated, as is the case with some cities where regulations make it difficult if not impossible for most citizens to legally own a weapon. This is an ongoing debate in which both sides often talk past each other and feed into each other’s worst fears. Indeed, some of the NRA’s efforts to derail even the most sensible efforts at controlling the use of guns that are not necessary for either sport or self-defense — such as assault weapons — stems from a not entirely unfounded belief that the ultimate goal of any such measure is the banning of all guns.

This is, at best, a divisive debate, but it needn’t be exacerbated by the injection of race into the discussion. The attempt to brand self-defense laws or gun rights as a function of racism does nothing to advance racial harmony or a sensible resolution of issues arising from the use of weapons. Most Americans are satisfied with letting the courts deal with George Zimmerman. Liberal ideologues would be well advised to let the case resolve itself without attempting to turn it into a referendum on gun control or seeking to demonize the NRA.

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He’s Against the Special Interests

John Conway, Kentucky attorney general and the Democratic candidate for the Senate, running against Ron Paul, was asked on Fox News Sunday this morning why he wanted to be elected. He answered (paraphrasing, as the transcript is not yet available) that he wanted to go to Washington to fight against the special interests and for the state of Kentucky.

One question: isn’t the state of Kentucky a special interest? My dictionary defines the term to mean a “person or group seeking to influence legislation or government policy to further often narrowly defined interests.” As Kentucky is not coterminous with the entire country, it is, by this definition, a special interest. There’s nothing wrong with being one. A country, after all, is made up of practically nothing but. What good politicians mostly do is assemble temporary coalitions of special interests in order to further the national interest. What bad ones do is pander to particular special interests in order to ensure their own re-election.

So the constant political refrain about “fighting the special interests” is nonsense. President Obama never tires of railing against the special interests but has no problem doing big favors for labor unions, especially public-service ones. Republicans rail against the special interests but give all the help they can to advancing the agenda of the National Rifle Association.

It reminds me of one of this country’s more eccentric writers, Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913?), a critic, journalist, poet, and short story writer, known as “bitter Bierce” for his sometimes savage dismembering of other people’s prose. He is largely forgotten today, except for two things. One is his death. He went to Mexico in 1913 at the age of 71 to report on the Mexican Revolution and disappeared while “embedded” (to use a very modern term) with rebel troops. He was never seen again and no trace of him was ever found. The other thing for which he is remembered is  The Devil’s Dictionary, published in 1911.

A sometimes hilarious and often deeply cynical book, it is, second only to Mark Twain, a bottomless well from which to draw snappy quotations about politics. He defines politics as astrife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” A conservative, to Bierce, is a “statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.” A scribbler is a “professional writer whose views are antagonistic to one’s own.”

Ambrose Bierce did not define the term special interest, which was coined only a year before his dictionary was published. But one can imagine what he would have made of it. My suggestion would be: special interest, n. Any organization or identifiable group of individuals likely to fund or vote for one’s political opponents.

John Conway, Kentucky attorney general and the Democratic candidate for the Senate, running against Ron Paul, was asked on Fox News Sunday this morning why he wanted to be elected. He answered (paraphrasing, as the transcript is not yet available) that he wanted to go to Washington to fight against the special interests and for the state of Kentucky.

One question: isn’t the state of Kentucky a special interest? My dictionary defines the term to mean a “person or group seeking to influence legislation or government policy to further often narrowly defined interests.” As Kentucky is not coterminous with the entire country, it is, by this definition, a special interest. There’s nothing wrong with being one. A country, after all, is made up of practically nothing but. What good politicians mostly do is assemble temporary coalitions of special interests in order to further the national interest. What bad ones do is pander to particular special interests in order to ensure their own re-election.

So the constant political refrain about “fighting the special interests” is nonsense. President Obama never tires of railing against the special interests but has no problem doing big favors for labor unions, especially public-service ones. Republicans rail against the special interests but give all the help they can to advancing the agenda of the National Rifle Association.

It reminds me of one of this country’s more eccentric writers, Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913?), a critic, journalist, poet, and short story writer, known as “bitter Bierce” for his sometimes savage dismembering of other people’s prose. He is largely forgotten today, except for two things. One is his death. He went to Mexico in 1913 at the age of 71 to report on the Mexican Revolution and disappeared while “embedded” (to use a very modern term) with rebel troops. He was never seen again and no trace of him was ever found. The other thing for which he is remembered is  The Devil’s Dictionary, published in 1911.

A sometimes hilarious and often deeply cynical book, it is, second only to Mark Twain, a bottomless well from which to draw snappy quotations about politics. He defines politics as astrife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” A conservative, to Bierce, is a “statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.” A scribbler is a “professional writer whose views are antagonistic to one’s own.”

Ambrose Bierce did not define the term special interest, which was coined only a year before his dictionary was published. But one can imagine what he would have made of it. My suggestion would be: special interest, n. Any organization or identifiable group of individuals likely to fund or vote for one’s political opponents.

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A Shot Across Their Bow

On Friday, Democrats (other than Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer, who are vying to lead their party in the Senate) got some bad news that, for a change, was not economic: “The National Rifle Association declines to endorse Senator Harry Reid, citing his votes for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, which is a blow, since the group backed him in the past.”

This is significant for several reasons. First, the NRA’s endorsement is critical in a large number of states. No less a political guru than Bill Clinton acknowledged that the NRA “made Gingrich the House speaker” in 1994 and  toppled Al Gore in  2000. Granted, ardor on the Second Amendment may have cooled as Democrats have sought to downplay the issue and since the Supreme Court affirmed it is both a personal right and binding on the states. However, the NRA continues to be a powerful interest group that can provide troops on the ground and critical advertising for its preferred candidates.

The announcement is also important because it signals that the group thinks Reid is a dead duck. Otherwise, why risk annoying the Senate Majority Leader? Its political calculation may influence donors and other special-interest groups to dump Reid and place their bets and money elsewhere.

And finally, this is a fitting and unmistakable warning about Supreme Court nominees. For years, Democrats and some Republicans felt their votes were “free” — they could, with impunity and without regard to their constituents’ views, vote to confirm nominees whose records reflected outright hostility to the Second Amendment. The NRA is making it clear that lawmakers are going to be held responsible for their votes. So Lindsey Graham, who voted yes on both the Kagan and Sotomayor nominations, is on notice: don’t expect the NRA’s support.

On Friday, Democrats (other than Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer, who are vying to lead their party in the Senate) got some bad news that, for a change, was not economic: “The National Rifle Association declines to endorse Senator Harry Reid, citing his votes for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, which is a blow, since the group backed him in the past.”

This is significant for several reasons. First, the NRA’s endorsement is critical in a large number of states. No less a political guru than Bill Clinton acknowledged that the NRA “made Gingrich the House speaker” in 1994 and  toppled Al Gore in  2000. Granted, ardor on the Second Amendment may have cooled as Democrats have sought to downplay the issue and since the Supreme Court affirmed it is both a personal right and binding on the states. However, the NRA continues to be a powerful interest group that can provide troops on the ground and critical advertising for its preferred candidates.

The announcement is also important because it signals that the group thinks Reid is a dead duck. Otherwise, why risk annoying the Senate Majority Leader? Its political calculation may influence donors and other special-interest groups to dump Reid and place their bets and money elsewhere.

And finally, this is a fitting and unmistakable warning about Supreme Court nominees. For years, Democrats and some Republicans felt their votes were “free” — they could, with impunity and without regard to their constituents’ views, vote to confirm nominees whose records reflected outright hostility to the Second Amendment. The NRA is making it clear that lawmakers are going to be held responsible for their votes. So Lindsey Graham, who voted yes on both the Kagan and Sotomayor nominations, is on notice: don’t expect the NRA’s support.

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Did SCOTUS Ruling on Guns Help the Dems?

Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling in McDonald v. City of Chicago was another major victory for supporters of the individual right to bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Building on the court’s 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, which held that the individual right to own guns could not be abrogated by the federal government, this new decision applies to state and local gun laws that similarly attempt to ignore the Second Amendment.

The 5-4 decision in McDonald has cheered conservatives and further depressed liberals, whose attempts to re-interpret the Constitution to allow for complete bans on gun possession have now been stopped in their tracks. But according to Politico, there’s a silver lining in all this for the Democratic Party, which has long been the driving force behind pieces of anti-gun legislation that treated the Second Amendment as an 18th-century typo. Kasie Hunt writes that the McDonald decision has effectively ended all discussion about gun rights in the country, and that means “Democratic candidates across the map figure they have one less issue to worry about on the campaign trail. And they won’t have to defend against Republican attacks over gun rights and an, angry energized base of gun owners.”

If she’s right, that would be a big break for conservative Democrats in districts outside of liberal urban strongholds, who are burdened with defending their party’s stand on guns even if they claim to be pro-gun rights themselves. Indeed, Hunt goes so far as to claim that the “neutralization” of the gun issue and the influence of the National Rifle Association may make the difference in enabling the Democrats to hold onto their majorities in Congress.

But Democrats who think the court has silenced debate on the issue forever are kidding themselves. After all, the two decisive rulings reaffirming the meaning of the Second Amendment were 5-4 votes. That means the swing of even one vote on the court from the conservative majority to the liberal minority could change everything. That makes control of the Senate and the White House no less crucial in the future than it has been in the past for those who care about this issue. It’s true that conservative Democrats in the House can claim that this has nothing to do with them. But being a member of the political party that is currently replacing one of the four anti-Second Amendment votes (Justice John Paul Stevens) with another liberal, in the form of Elena Kagan, and which would, if they got the chance, happily replace any of the five members of the majority on this issue with a liberal who will tip the balance, is still a liability in those parts of the country where support for the Second Amendment is considered a matter of life and death.

Liberals may hope that the ruling dampens the ardor of conservatives who care about gun rights. But though Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is currently fighting an uphill battle to hold his seat in Nevada, may applaud the ruling in McDonald, voters know that he would vote to confirm a liberal, nominated by a Democratic president, who would overturn it, but that his Republican opponent would not do such a thing.

But even looking beyond the election, the idea that any Supreme Court ruling on the issue will end the political maelstrom on gun rights is almost certainly wrong. The court’s decision in Row v. Wade only rekindled the debate about abortion and the fact that most members of Congress and even the president have no direct power to either reaffirm or overturn Roe — except through the potential for change in the Supreme Court’s membership — hasn’t prevented abortion from remaining a hot-button political issue for decades. So long as there is a potential for either new legislation that will try to get around the Constitution or a switch in the composition of the court, there is little likelihood that the NRA will lower its guard or that its adherents will, even in a figurative sense, lay down their arms.

Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling in McDonald v. City of Chicago was another major victory for supporters of the individual right to bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Building on the court’s 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, which held that the individual right to own guns could not be abrogated by the federal government, this new decision applies to state and local gun laws that similarly attempt to ignore the Second Amendment.

The 5-4 decision in McDonald has cheered conservatives and further depressed liberals, whose attempts to re-interpret the Constitution to allow for complete bans on gun possession have now been stopped in their tracks. But according to Politico, there’s a silver lining in all this for the Democratic Party, which has long been the driving force behind pieces of anti-gun legislation that treated the Second Amendment as an 18th-century typo. Kasie Hunt writes that the McDonald decision has effectively ended all discussion about gun rights in the country, and that means “Democratic candidates across the map figure they have one less issue to worry about on the campaign trail. And they won’t have to defend against Republican attacks over gun rights and an, angry energized base of gun owners.”

If she’s right, that would be a big break for conservative Democrats in districts outside of liberal urban strongholds, who are burdened with defending their party’s stand on guns even if they claim to be pro-gun rights themselves. Indeed, Hunt goes so far as to claim that the “neutralization” of the gun issue and the influence of the National Rifle Association may make the difference in enabling the Democrats to hold onto their majorities in Congress.

But Democrats who think the court has silenced debate on the issue forever are kidding themselves. After all, the two decisive rulings reaffirming the meaning of the Second Amendment were 5-4 votes. That means the swing of even one vote on the court from the conservative majority to the liberal minority could change everything. That makes control of the Senate and the White House no less crucial in the future than it has been in the past for those who care about this issue. It’s true that conservative Democrats in the House can claim that this has nothing to do with them. But being a member of the political party that is currently replacing one of the four anti-Second Amendment votes (Justice John Paul Stevens) with another liberal, in the form of Elena Kagan, and which would, if they got the chance, happily replace any of the five members of the majority on this issue with a liberal who will tip the balance, is still a liability in those parts of the country where support for the Second Amendment is considered a matter of life and death.

Liberals may hope that the ruling dampens the ardor of conservatives who care about gun rights. But though Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is currently fighting an uphill battle to hold his seat in Nevada, may applaud the ruling in McDonald, voters know that he would vote to confirm a liberal, nominated by a Democratic president, who would overturn it, but that his Republican opponent would not do such a thing.

But even looking beyond the election, the idea that any Supreme Court ruling on the issue will end the political maelstrom on gun rights is almost certainly wrong. The court’s decision in Row v. Wade only rekindled the debate about abortion and the fact that most members of Congress and even the president have no direct power to either reaffirm or overturn Roe — except through the potential for change in the Supreme Court’s membership — hasn’t prevented abortion from remaining a hot-button political issue for decades. So long as there is a potential for either new legislation that will try to get around the Constitution or a switch in the composition of the court, there is little likelihood that the NRA will lower its guard or that its adherents will, even in a figurative sense, lay down their arms.

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Campaign Finance Reform? Just More Political Corruption

The effort by President Obama and congressional Democrats to sidestep the Supreme Court’s landmark free-speech ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case has sent these supposed advocates for clean elections down into the usual morass of special-interest legislation.

The Citizens United ruling overturned the McCain-Feingold federal restrictions, which prevented groups and corporations from exercising their right to comment on the behavior of our elected leaders. In this case, a so-called “reform” of campaign finance meant that incumbents had the right to silence their critics, such as in the instance that prompted the ruling, which concerned a film that was critical of Hillary Clinton and banned by the Federal Election Commission. The Court wisely saw this as a violation of the First Amendment.

Obama and the Democrats have engaged in nonstop demagoguery about this issue, which they pretend is about ensuring fairness but is actually about protecting politicians and the mainstream media from both scrutiny and competition. A measure proposed by Maryland’s Rep. Chris Van Hollen and New York’s Sen. Charles Schumer attempts to skirt the Court’s decision by adding new disclosure rulings, which will burden those attempting to speak out and is almost certainly unconstitutional. As the New York Times reports, they’ve now made it worse by granting specific exemptions to some groups but not to others. And in order to gain the votes of moderate Democrats, they’ve added the National Rifle Association to the ranks of those who will be excluded from the new regulations. That has now been changed to include all groups with 500,000 or more members. That may lead some Democrats to think they’ll escape being tarred as anti-gun in a year in which anti-incumbent fever is running high. But all this does is narrow down the government’s discrimination between speech that it likes — such as campaign expenditures by labor unions — and speech it doesn’t like — such as any group targeted by the bill — while infuriating some liberals who are appalled at having to exempt the NRA.

This law isn’t just a mess. It also illustrates everything that is wrong about so-called reform of election spending, which amounts to nothing more than deciding who can speak and who can’t. The Times treats this as just the usual congressional log-rolling, in which deals are made to avoid antagonizing some while harming others. But free speech cannot be allocated like earmark pork legislation, which doles out funds to some districts while others get nothing. But to unprincipled politicians whose main goal is to silence their critics, there is no limit as to how low they will sink in order to pass a bill that will hamstring independently financed political speech.

The effort by President Obama and congressional Democrats to sidestep the Supreme Court’s landmark free-speech ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case has sent these supposed advocates for clean elections down into the usual morass of special-interest legislation.

The Citizens United ruling overturned the McCain-Feingold federal restrictions, which prevented groups and corporations from exercising their right to comment on the behavior of our elected leaders. In this case, a so-called “reform” of campaign finance meant that incumbents had the right to silence their critics, such as in the instance that prompted the ruling, which concerned a film that was critical of Hillary Clinton and banned by the Federal Election Commission. The Court wisely saw this as a violation of the First Amendment.

Obama and the Democrats have engaged in nonstop demagoguery about this issue, which they pretend is about ensuring fairness but is actually about protecting politicians and the mainstream media from both scrutiny and competition. A measure proposed by Maryland’s Rep. Chris Van Hollen and New York’s Sen. Charles Schumer attempts to skirt the Court’s decision by adding new disclosure rulings, which will burden those attempting to speak out and is almost certainly unconstitutional. As the New York Times reports, they’ve now made it worse by granting specific exemptions to some groups but not to others. And in order to gain the votes of moderate Democrats, they’ve added the National Rifle Association to the ranks of those who will be excluded from the new regulations. That has now been changed to include all groups with 500,000 or more members. That may lead some Democrats to think they’ll escape being tarred as anti-gun in a year in which anti-incumbent fever is running high. But all this does is narrow down the government’s discrimination between speech that it likes — such as campaign expenditures by labor unions — and speech it doesn’t like — such as any group targeted by the bill — while infuriating some liberals who are appalled at having to exempt the NRA.

This law isn’t just a mess. It also illustrates everything that is wrong about so-called reform of election spending, which amounts to nothing more than deciding who can speak and who can’t. The Times treats this as just the usual congressional log-rolling, in which deals are made to avoid antagonizing some while harming others. But free speech cannot be allocated like earmark pork legislation, which doles out funds to some districts while others get nothing. But to unprincipled politicians whose main goal is to silence their critics, there is no limit as to how low they will sink in order to pass a bill that will hamstring independently financed political speech.

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Campaign Finance Bill Blows Up

Maybe it was a devilishly clever plan. The NRA struck a deal with House Democrats to exempt it from a noxious campaign finance bill intended as an end-around the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. And the entire bill blew up:

Following a rebellion by two important factions of rank-and-file House Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has pulled a campaign-finance bill opposed by a broad coalition of special interest groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders had scheduled a Friday vote on the DISCLOSE Act, a bill requiring special-interest groups to disclose their top donors if they choose to run TV ads or send out mass mailings in the final months of an election. The legislation is designed to roll back the controversial Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, which overturned restrictions on corporate campaign activities. But after complaints from the conservative Blue Dogs and the Congressional Black Caucus, Pelosi was forced to pull the bill on Thursday night.

It seems there was something for everyone to hate:

The Blue Dogs are concerned that opposition from the Chamber, National Federation of Independent Business, National Association of Realtors and other business groups will damage their reelection prospects in the fall. The CBC, on the other hand, was unhappy about an exemption to the bill granted to the National Rifle Association agreed to by Van Hollen. While the exemption was later extended to other groups, the CBC remained concerned about the bill’s potential impact on the NAACP and other progressive groups.

That’s more revealing than anything said on the subject. The name of the game is to shut up the “other guy.” But if your guy’s First Amendment rights are going to be curtailed, well then it’s an outrage. That is precisely the mentality Justice Anthony Kennedy rejected in his majority opinion. It is fitting that in the scramble to limit speech, House Democrats learned how valuable it was to their own supporters. Now if they would only learn to safeguard that same right for their opponents.

Maybe it was a devilishly clever plan. The NRA struck a deal with House Democrats to exempt it from a noxious campaign finance bill intended as an end-around the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. And the entire bill blew up:

Following a rebellion by two important factions of rank-and-file House Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has pulled a campaign-finance bill opposed by a broad coalition of special interest groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders had scheduled a Friday vote on the DISCLOSE Act, a bill requiring special-interest groups to disclose their top donors if they choose to run TV ads or send out mass mailings in the final months of an election. The legislation is designed to roll back the controversial Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, which overturned restrictions on corporate campaign activities. But after complaints from the conservative Blue Dogs and the Congressional Black Caucus, Pelosi was forced to pull the bill on Thursday night.

It seems there was something for everyone to hate:

The Blue Dogs are concerned that opposition from the Chamber, National Federation of Independent Business, National Association of Realtors and other business groups will damage their reelection prospects in the fall. The CBC, on the other hand, was unhappy about an exemption to the bill granted to the National Rifle Association agreed to by Van Hollen. While the exemption was later extended to other groups, the CBC remained concerned about the bill’s potential impact on the NAACP and other progressive groups.

That’s more revealing than anything said on the subject. The name of the game is to shut up the “other guy.” But if your guy’s First Amendment rights are going to be curtailed, well then it’s an outrage. That is precisely the mentality Justice Anthony Kennedy rejected in his majority opinion. It is fitting that in the scramble to limit speech, House Democrats learned how valuable it was to their own supporters. Now if they would only learn to safeguard that same right for their opponents.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

With help from Saturday Night Live‘s Seth and Amy, Cliff May takes apart Jamie Rubin (no relation, thankfully).

With help from the IDF, we have a concise and thorough account of the flotilla incident.

With help from the increasingly unpopular president, “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, June 13. That ties the GOP’s largest ever lead, first reached in April, since it first edged ahead of the Democrats a year ago.”

With help from the upcoming elections: “There aren’t enough votes to include climate change rules in a Senate energy bill, a top Democrat said Tuesday. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, dismissed any hopes his colleagues might have of including regulations to clamp down on emissions as part of a comprehensive energy bill this summer.”

With help from J Street (the Hamas lobby?), Israel’s enemies always have friends on Capitol Hill: “In the most open conflict in months between the left-leaning Israel group J Street and the traditional pro-Israel powerhouse AIPAC, the liberal group is asking members of Congress not to sign a letter backed by AIPAC that supports the Israeli side of the Gaza flotilla incident.”

With help from the NRA, House Democrats are in hot water again: “House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the NRA. House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the National Rifle Association that was added to a campaign finance bill.”

With the help of Rep. Peter King, we’re sniffing out who the real friends of Israel are: “Congressional Democrats say they want to defend Israel — but without taking on Israel’s enemies. Bizarre choice — so bizarre as to make their professed support for Israel practically meaningless. At issue is a resolution proposed by Rep. Pete King (R-Long Island) that calls on Washington to quit the US Human Rights Council — which two weeks ago voted 32-3 to condemn Israel’s raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla. Incredibly, not a single House Democrat — not even from the New York delegation — is willing to co-sponsor King’s resolution ‘unless we take out the language about the UN,’ he says. Why? No Democrat wants to go on record disagreeing with President Obama’s decision to end the Bush-era boycott of the anti-Israel council — whose members include such human-rights champions as Iran and Libya.”

With help from an inept White House and BP, Bobby Jindal is beginning to look like a leader: “Eight weeks into the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of the Mexico, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has told the National Guard that there’s no time left to wait for BP, so they’re taking matters into their own hands. In Fort Jackson, La., Jindal has ordered the Guard to start building barrier walls right in the middle of the ocean. The barriers, built nine miles off shore, are intended to keep the oil from reaching the coast by filling the gaps between barrier islands.”

With help from Saturday Night Live‘s Seth and Amy, Cliff May takes apart Jamie Rubin (no relation, thankfully).

With help from the IDF, we have a concise and thorough account of the flotilla incident.

With help from the increasingly unpopular president, “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, June 13. That ties the GOP’s largest ever lead, first reached in April, since it first edged ahead of the Democrats a year ago.”

With help from the upcoming elections: “There aren’t enough votes to include climate change rules in a Senate energy bill, a top Democrat said Tuesday. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, dismissed any hopes his colleagues might have of including regulations to clamp down on emissions as part of a comprehensive energy bill this summer.”

With help from J Street (the Hamas lobby?), Israel’s enemies always have friends on Capitol Hill: “In the most open conflict in months between the left-leaning Israel group J Street and the traditional pro-Israel powerhouse AIPAC, the liberal group is asking members of Congress not to sign a letter backed by AIPAC that supports the Israeli side of the Gaza flotilla incident.”

With help from the NRA, House Democrats are in hot water again: “House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the NRA. House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the National Rifle Association that was added to a campaign finance bill.”

With the help of Rep. Peter King, we’re sniffing out who the real friends of Israel are: “Congressional Democrats say they want to defend Israel — but without taking on Israel’s enemies. Bizarre choice — so bizarre as to make their professed support for Israel practically meaningless. At issue is a resolution proposed by Rep. Pete King (R-Long Island) that calls on Washington to quit the US Human Rights Council — which two weeks ago voted 32-3 to condemn Israel’s raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla. Incredibly, not a single House Democrat — not even from the New York delegation — is willing to co-sponsor King’s resolution ‘unless we take out the language about the UN,’ he says. Why? No Democrat wants to go on record disagreeing with President Obama’s decision to end the Bush-era boycott of the anti-Israel council — whose members include such human-rights champions as Iran and Libya.”

With help from an inept White House and BP, Bobby Jindal is beginning to look like a leader: “Eight weeks into the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of the Mexico, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has told the National Guard that there’s no time left to wait for BP, so they’re taking matters into their own hands. In Fort Jackson, La., Jindal has ordered the Guard to start building barrier walls right in the middle of the ocean. The barriers, built nine miles off shore, are intended to keep the oil from reaching the coast by filling the gaps between barrier islands.”

Read Less




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