CHICAGO (U-WIRE) — Since this column last sneaked into the Maroon under the watchful eyes of the editor, quite a bit has happened outside of the presidential race. So much related stuff has occurred, in fact, that it is very tempting to spend a full 800 words on just Rudy’s decision alone.
But, as mentioned a few weeks ago, prattling on about a race for the Senate off in distant New York goes against this column’s charter. As a result, then, prepare, gentle reader, for some more invective hurled in the direction of our favorite compassionate conservative: George W. Bush.
Charlotte, North Carolina, hosted the annual National Rifle Association convention/shoot-off/whatever this weekend past. Not much made it onto the news about the convention other than wide speculation that Charlton “Help me, Dr. Zaius” Heston will be elected to a third term as president. As another columnist mentioned, this means that we’ll have plenty of Rosie/Charlton battles in the next few years as Rosie O’Donnell, part of the Million Mom March, has become a Hollywood figurehead for the gun-control movement.
Other people have done far more research and have far clearer direction regarding what the above paragraph means, tied in with back stories involving the increasing presence of a mainstream gun-control movement since the shootings at Columbine, but they aren’t printed in the Maroon. I’ll do a quick recap, then, before shifting into incomprehensible invective.
First, the NRA, like all special-interest groups, is very interested in getting a sympathetic candidate elected president. Most pundits assume that the next president is going to seat three Supreme Court justices, especially if the next president is a Republican (I’ve been hearing for years about how Rehnquist is waiting for the Democrats to be out of 1600 Pennsylvania before he steps down). Sadly, arch-reactionaries like Antonin Scalia aren’t on the list of soon-to-retires. Instead, the list includes the likes of rightist-moderate Sandra Day O’Connor.
So if Gore, who has flip-flopped (surprise) on gun control while being essentially a proponent of it, is elected president, he can shape the Supreme Court in a way that will guarantee curbing the Second Amendment.
Furthermore, if the Million Moms have their way, they could sway a lot of swing representatives on gun control legislation. With a Democratic House in the mix, too, the NRA could be looking at lean times in terms of fund raising and in terms of, you know, the right to own arms so that you can protect your home against intruders and the like.
Luckily, however, the NRA feels it has a champion in George W. Bush — after all, one of the association’s vice presidents declared that, should Bush win, they would have a president “where we work out of their office.” I mentioned a lot of this two weeks ago while explaining how Bush has little birdies telling him that Gore was in the NRA once. But that was all before the march, before the NRA convention, and so on. Now the issue, and how Bush is trying to jockey into the middle, undergoes a bit more tension.
As Robert Dreyfuss mentions in his article about the NRA in last week’s issue of The Nation, the “soccer moms” Dole courted four years ago, and who now make up the block to get on your side, are marching around Washington and other cities on their holiday, demanding gun control. Bush is perceived by the NRA as a favorite son. Something, of course, has to give.
Obviously, as is always the case in presidential politics, the fringe is ceded to the middle. By heckling Gore over being in the NRA, Bush is suggesting that the NRA isn’t inherently all good. This is the kind of hit the NRA can expect to take during the quadrennial dash to the center.
Then Bush comes out with his free trigger-lock program in Texas. The deal is, he gives out trigger locks to whoever wants them, for free, because, as he explains, trigger locks make for safer homes. Of course, the locks aren’t mandatory, and there’s no way to enforce the use of the locks. The NRA, which managed to pervert the discourse earlier this year by indicating they just wish that existing gun laws were enforced better, would have a field day punching at the trigger locks. The program is just a (cheap) play for more moderate votes on Bush’s behalf, but when you pick at it for a total of a second, you notice how empty a plan it truly is.
I promised embittered invective earlier in the article, but by now only disillusionment remains. The GOP derided Clinton for eight long years about being too slick for words, about constantly evading responsibility, about always shielding himself behind magic tricks and unreality.
Now their champion, George W. Bush, is doing the exact same thing. He’s trying to convince those very same marchers, with whom he actually shares no common gun-control plans, that he is, in fact, on their side. If those soccer moms buy what he’s selling, then, well, the invective will flow like a flooded river in November.
Moacir P. De SÖ Pereira’s column originally appeared in Wednesday’s University of Chicago paper, the Chicago Maroon.