The National Rifle Association wrapped up its annual convention over the weekend, and much of the gathering went as expected. The NRA presented its familiar faces (Wayne LaPierre), its familiar villains (President Obama, Michael Bloomberg), it’s friends who are struggling to remain relevant (Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin), and a whole bunch of Republicans who are likely to run for president (Santorum, Perry, Walker, and Jindal).
Of course, it also presented a sadly predictable ugly side. One vendor at the convention, for example, sold “life-sized” torsos made to look like the president, which “bleed when you shoot them.” Asked if the Obama likeness was intentional, the vendor told BuzzFeed, “Let’s just say I gave my Republican father one for Christmas.”
Looking ahead, one of the more notable developments for the organization is the election of James Porter, an Alabama attorney, as the group’s new president. LaPierre may be the public face and CEO of the right-wing group, but David Keene, the former chairman of the American Conservative Union, has served as NRA president.
And Porter will make Keene look moderate by comparison.
As shown by his “culture war” comment Friday and others in his past, Porter’s style is likely to be one that fans the flames of an emotionally combustible debate.
Porter has called President Barack Obama a “fake president,” Attorney General Eric Holder “rabidly un-American” and the U.S. Civil War the “War of Northern Aggression.” On Friday, he repeated his call for training every U.S. citizen in the use of standard military firearms, to allow them to defend themselves against tyranny.
That last point is of particular interest. Our friends at “All In with Chris Hayes” aired a Porter clip on Friday’s show that stood out for me: “Our most greatest [sic] charges that we can have today is to train the civilian in the use of the standard military firearm, so when they have to fight for their country, they are ready do it. Also, when they are ready to fight tyranny, they are ready to do it. Also, when they are ready to fight tyranny, they have the wherewithal and weapons to do it.”
Porter hasn’t specified who, exactly, the tyrants might be, but it sounds as if he wants American civilians to be trained to use military weapons in case they need to commit acts of violence against the United States.
Say hello to the new president of the NRA.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 6, 2013
“Everybody Say’s We’re Great”: Discovering The American Majority With The NRA And Conservative Politicians
I have a piece going up later today over at CNN.com on the NRA convention, but there’s something I raise there that I want to elaborate on. If you look at the list of Republican politicians who spoke to the assembled firearm enthusiasts, it wasn’t exactly the A-team. Last year Mitt Romney showed up, but this year they had failed presidential candidate Rick Santorum, failed presidential candidate Rick Perry, universally disliked freshman senator Ted Cruz, currently unpopular Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, and former half-term governor and current punch line Sarah Palin. Every one of them would like to be president one day, but the only one with even the ghost of a chance is Jindal.
And what do they have in common? Some are has-beens, some have reached the pinnacle of their careers even if they don’t know it yet, but what distinguishes them isn’t just that they’re very, very conservative. It’s that—like the NRA itself—they’re obviously convinced that they represent the majority of the American public, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
When you’re faced with apparent public disapproval of your position on something specific or even your broad ideological approach, there are a couple of ways you can address it. The first is to say that the public may not agree with me, but they happen to be wrong. That, after all, is why we have certain protections written into the Constitution, so they are immune to the vagaries of popular sentiment. If we took a vote every time a new question about free speech came up, we would no longer have free speech. I’m sure gun advocates believe that even if most Americans wanted to outlaw private gun ownership, that would still be wrong, which is why it’s a good thing the right to bear arms is in the Constitution. The corollary is that Americans just don’t understand the issue well enough yet, but once they hear a full explanation, most will come over to your side.
The second approach you can take is to say that although it appears that you’re in the minority, that’s only because the public will hasn’t been properly understood. For instance, maybe the polls aren’t measuring opinion correctly. This was what many conservatives believed during the 2012 campaign, claiming that the polls were methodologically flawed and Romney was headed for triumph on election day. Or you can say that the truth isn’t to be found in numbers or systematic analyses, but in measures closer to the ground, like what you feel in your gut, or what people come up and tell you when you’re traveling around.
It’s natural for people to weigh that kind of “evidence” more heavily when they think about where they stand in relation to the public. We all think we’re right, and if you’re engaged in the democratic process in any way, you have to believe that the people are, if not always wise, at least capable of arriving at the right decision given the opportunity. And if you’re a politician or a high-profile advocate, people are constantly coming up to you and telling you you’re doing a great job. Think about it this way: Let’s say you were in an airport and you saw coming toward you Elizabeth Warren and Linsdey Graham, and you were feeling bold, but you only had time to talk to one of them. Would you go tell Warren you think she’s a terrific advocate for the middle class and you hope she runs for president one day, or would you go up to Graham and tell him what you thought about him? Most of us are basically polite, and don’t like initiating confrontations with strangers if it isn’t necessary. So the politician thinks, “Everybody says I’m great!” because most of the spontaneous expressions of opinion they hear are positive ones.
If you’re someone like Wayne LaPierre, this is even more exaggerated, because you spend your time going from gun convention to gun show to gun club to gun barbeque, meeting a seemingly endless number of gun people. So how do you understand the fact that you just defeated a bill that every poll showed was supported by around 90 percent of Americans? You convince yourself that that 90 percent stuff is all just a bunch of baloney. First, your enemies aren’t part of America at all. “The media and political elites,” Wayne Lapierre said in his speech to the convention, “don’t get it because they don’t get America.” And if you want to know what Americans think, don’t bother with polls: “Everywhere I go,” LaPierre said, “I’ve learned that the NRA is truly at the heart of America’s heartland. That we are in the middle of the river of America’s mainstream. That what we want is exactly what most Americans want.”
The truth is that the NRA is a lot of things, but “the middle of the river of America’s mainstream” isn’t one of them. But from where he sits, that sounds perfectly accurate, in the same way that from where Sarah Palin sits, her brand of conservatism seems to have the support of most Americans, and if she ran for president she’d win. After all, everybody she talks to tells her she’s great.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 6, 2013
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced on Monday that it has hired Kim Daniels as spokeswoman for the USCCB president, currently Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York. Daniels, the USCCB announcement explains, is “an attorney whose practice has focused on religious liberty matters,” and she “brings to the USCCB her experience as director of Catholic Voices USA, an organization of lay Catholics that works to bring the positive message of the Church across a broad range of issues to the public square.”
The bishops left a few things off her résumé, says Grant Gallicho at Commonweal. Notably, the announcement “does not mention two of Daniels’s previous employers: Sarah Palin and the Thomas More Law Center,” a conservative legal organization at which Daniels fought for the right of pharmacists to refuse to dispense the morning-after pill. She spent nine years, from 2000 to 2009, at the Thomas More Law Center, established in 1998 by its president, Richard Thompson. Thompson and his center increasingly tend to “make news by making provocative comments about Islam.”
The more eyebrow-raising job is Daniels’ work as a paid adviser to Palin and her political group, SarahPAC. Daniels signed up to work with Palin after doing some legal work for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, at a time when “the former Alaska governor tried to remodel herself” after McCain’s loss, says David Gibson at Religion News Service. Daniels was described as “Palin’s personal domestic policy czar,” and that association leaves an open question for the bishops about “whether Daniels will deflect controversies or become a lightning rod herself,” says Gibson.
Palin has continued to alienate herself from all but her most loyal fans on the movement’s right flank, and it is not clear where Daniels’ relationship with Palin stands today. [RNS]
Yes, Daniels worked for Palin, says Kathryn Jean Lopez at Patheos, but “I wouldn’t read too much into the political significance of this as a bishops’ conference matter.” As Daniels has explained it, she “felt a call to work with this most prominent pro-life mother who was giving voice to issues close to her heart in the public square.”
Her heart belongs to her family and the church, and her work with Palin was an outgrowth of that…. One of the key questions the church is confronted with today is: How do we teach and share the Gospel effectively?…. How Catholics in the pews hear and what they hear plays a major role in that. But the media in all its mainstream and social forms is where most people’s views of the church is formed. How do we engage there clearly, as Christians, lovingly and responsively? Kim has been devoting her time to just that question as a director of the Catholic Voices USA project. So I really can’t think of a better person to be joining Cardinal Dolan and the bishops’ conference in that effort to address that question. [Patheos]
What role Daniels will fill remains an open question, however. Her position is a new one, separate from the USCCB’s official press office. “Kim Daniels is not in the Communications Department,” Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the USCCB’s longtime spokeswoman, tells Religion News Service. “As head of the USCCB Office for Media Relations I speak to the media in that capacity.” That makes this “new territory for everyone,” says RNS‘s Gibson.
Daniels’ hiring also looks like an effort to satisfy Dolan’s goal of finding an “attractive, articulate, intelligent” laywoman to help recast the hierarchy’s image… because, as he put it, “In the public square, I hate to tell you, the days of fat, balding Irish bishops are over.” Yet Daniels, a mother of six, will also have to be credible, which means she would need to have a clear mandate. [RNS]
Whether Daniels has that mandate isn’t clear, since not all the bishops are comfortable with one spokeswoman speaking for all of them. Will she be the public face of Dolan’s policies, or a rival to Walsh’s media shop, or a behind-the-scenes policy shaper? We’ll find out. But there’s also “a final wrinkle,” Gibson says: “Dolan’s three-year term as USCCB president ends in November, and a new president may want to use Daniels in a different capacity, or not at all.”
By: Peter Weber, The Week, April 30, 2013
“Do the words ‘Senator Sarah Palin’ excite you?”
That’s the opening line of a recent email by The Tea Party Leadership Fund, which is trying to draft the former Alaska governor and past Fox News commentator to run for the Senate in 2014. The fund argues Palin has a clear path to victory in part due to recent polling showing incumbent Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, with less than 50 percent of the vote.
But, it being a draft, the group hasn’t talked with Palin about whether or not she’s interested. And Palin – whose PAC didn’t respond to request for comment from Whispers – is believed to be currently residing in Arizona, not Alaska. The fund’s Niger Innis says the interest of Tea Party members in a Palin run, however, is clear.
“We didn’t know that [the draft] was going to catch fire to the degree that it has. And what that tells us is that this is just the beginning,” he says. “It’s gone viral.”
But not all Tea Party groups are enthused about drafting Palin without first gauging her interest.
“I absolutely love her and I think she’s a breath of fresh air,” Amy Kremer, head of Tea Party Express, tells Whispers. “But until she says that she’s going to put her name in… we’re not going to go out there and advocate for her to get in the race.”
Judson Phillips at Tea Party Nation says the 2012 presidential election provided an important lesson about why drafting candidates is a bad idea. “One of the things we learned is that apparently Mitt Romney didn’t really want to be president,” he said. “The last thing the GOP needs is to put candidates who don’t want it.”
By: Elizabeth Flock, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, April 30, 2013
This will be short.
So, being the liberal I am I was listening to NPR yesterday just after I debated my weekly sparing partner, Republican Jim Innocenzi, on WTTG-TV here in DC. We went at it on guns. The story on NPR was about the president’s trip to Colorado to highlight his effort on universal background checks and to focus on that state’s passage of legislation to control guns.
Here is what I heard, verbatim, from Dudley Brown, head of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners in Colorado and the NPR announcer:
“This is a very Western state with traditional Western values,” he says. “And citizens had to have firearms for self-defense, and right now that’s still the case.”
…He’s promising political payback in next year’s election that could cost Colorado Democrats their majorities.
“I liken it to the proverbial hunting season,” Brown says. “We tell gun owners, ‘There’s a time to hunt deer. And the next election is the time to hunt Democrats.’”
Really? After the murders in Kaufman County, Texas and West Virginia of prosecutors and police, he really wants to talk about hunting Democrats, like deer? Is he trying to channel Sarah Palin? Wayne LaPierre, too, I guess. Can we just stop talk of bulls eyes and hunting public officials.
Come on. No one is taking away the 320 million guns in America; no one is stopping the $12 billion the gun industry makes a year; no one is preventing hunting; no one is taking away your constitutional rights.
Sadly, Dudley Brown and the NRA’s answer to gun violence is more guns. What a shame.
By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, April 4, 2013