Or, how billionaires use wingnuts as human shields
At first, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s press conference seemed like a tone-deaf failure, a PR disaster, a complete clusterfogetaboutit. But then I began to realize his goal had nothing to do with improving the NRA’s image.
His goal was to feed the kind of dissension, fear and anger that sells ridiculous amounts of guns and ammunition. When you see that, it becomes clear: His plan worked perfectly.
Think about how easy it would be for LaPierre to effectively get ahead of the president on this issue. He could have said, “As Americans, parents and citizens, no one cares more about preventing deaths as the result of firearms than this organization. Everyday the NRA works to help teach gun safety as our 4 million members strive to keep their firearms secure. Our respect for the right to bear arms is unbreakable as is our commitment to a safer America. We will work with anyone who respects our rights and shares our goal of protecting our children.”
That would have been a fine PR stance. But LaPierre isn’t in the PR business. He’s in the gun sales business and he knows it better than anyone.
Everything LaPierre said was designed to feed the paranoia of monsters who storm in guns blazing to get your kids and your stuff abetted by a media and government who will do anything to get your guns. His ridiculous solution of a mass army of armed guards at schools didn’t work at Columbine or Virginia Tech and would further militarize America, of course. And, in a time we’re only cutting police budgets, it’s complete non-starter.
LaPierre can get away with this because he knows a secret that’s as obvious as the Fox News on our basic cable: There’s no way in hell this House of Representatives is going to pass any law that does anything but help the NRA sell guns.
House Republicans have only one fear in life: Being challenged by a Republican who loves guns and millionaire tax breaks more than they do. That’s how you get a party that the majority of Americans already think is too extreme rejecting bills because they don’t punish the poor and help the rich enough.
Speaker Boehner can’t even pass a bill that raises taxes slightly on the richest—along with raising them on the middle class—even though the cost of not doing so is that could easily cause the richest millions in stock market losses.
Because of a rule passed in the 90s by Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert, Boehner can’t even take a bill to the floor that the majority of his caucus won’t vote for. But he won’t even try. He knows better than anyone that passing bills with the help of Democrats will cost him his job.
The Michele Bachmanns, the Allen Wests, the Rush Limbaughs, the Glenn Becks… they all make Boehner’s case for him: You think I can negotiate with these maniacs? Thus we’re stuck with a status quo that the Billionaire Rights Movement is quite satisfied with.
How do you beat a movement that depends on crazy? A movement that turns tax cuts for billionaires, people going bankrupt and dying for a lack of insurance, buying more guns that are most likely to be used against you into acts of “FREEDOM!”?
Only by (1) being smarter and (2) more precise.
We say that Wayne LaPierre is stoking fear to sell more guns. We say John Boehner is sabotaging our recovery to protect tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. You point to the agenda behind the crazy.
We also need a permanent version of what the Obama Campaign did in 2012, using analytics with precision to take back the House—or at least create the perception that’s in somewhat possible. For as long as Republicans only fear Republicans, progress will be fitful and painfully slow.
We should also be more self-reflective. That was part of the beauty of the president’s speech in Newtown comforting the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre.
Have we done enough? No.
That’s an incredibly deep place for a president to get to, given the constant encouragement to see oneself as cloaked in immense power—and a key reason sitting presidents tend to lose the first debate, unless Ross Perot is involved.
I hope the president doesn’t give that reflection up, now that his legacy — preventing a depression, huge advances for gay and lesbian rights, getting bin Laden, passing near universal health care, eventually ending two wars, etc. — is secure. If now, with four years left, he can see his time in future retrospect, so much more is possible.
At a press conference this week, ABC’s (and soon to be CNN’s) Jake Tapper asked a question that many regarded as snotty: Where were you on gun violence?
Tapper wasn’t asking about gun violence the week before Sandy Hook and presumably knows the NRA exists and made it their number one goal to elect Mitt Romney—a guy who signed an assault weapons ban — over President Obama — who signed a bill to allow guns in a national park.
But the question was provocative and meant to provoke a defensive response. And it basically did, “I haven’t exactly been on vacation.”
But what if again the president had grown reflective, again.
“You know what, Jake. I said in Newtown that we had not done enough. I include ‘me’ in that ‘we.’ There are powerful political forces that make these issues incredibly tough but they are not an excuse anymore. We must do better and I ask the American people to do this with me because that’s the only way change ever happens.”
I’ve now entered into the American left’s favorite pastime — pretending we’re better at politics than the first African-American ever elected president of the United States. It’s a ridiculous assumption but it it’s a mark of the esteem I have for the man.
We should expect terrible, venal things from Wayne LaPierre, and we should expect great things from this president — because in so many ways he has delivered them.
And through him we can do so much more.
[Photo credit: Anne Savage]