This Should Be the Best of Times for Gun Owners. And Yet…
Atlanta, Ga. — This should be the happiest National Rifle Association Annual Meeting in many years, and it probably will be. Gun owners can celebrate the victory of a president the NRA endorsed, pro-gun majorities in the House and Senate, and Judge Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.
The first NRA convention I attended was in 2010 in Charlotte, and the political talk has always been focused on defense, stopping a powerful foe who would like to restrict or perhaps outright ban private ownership of firearms. But today, Barack Obama is retired. Hillary Clinton is walking in the woods in Chappaqua. Nancy Pelosi is still around, but she’s the minority leader in the House, and Democrats will need a wave in 2018 to make her Speaker again. Gun owners certainly don’t like Chuck Schumer, but he, too, is in the minority. Michael Bloomberg still has his billions for activism, but no longer runs New York City. Eric Holder is back in private practice.
As always, there are plenty of state level fights. Legislative efforts for “constitutional carry” — the right to carry a firearm without a permit, because the U.S. Constitution is the only permit you need — are moving ahead in Alabama, Texas, and South Carolina. Wisconsin State Attorney General Brad Schimel says he supports adopting constitutional carry in his state.
But considering GOP control of Washington, one might have expected “concealed-carry reciprocity” — national legislation declaring that if you have a concealed carry permit in one state, is must be recognized by all other states — to have been either featured in President Trump’s 100 days agenda or rapidly approaching passage. The bill has 188 cosponsors in the House, but has been sitting in subcommittee since January.
Justice Gorsuch is a fantastic win for the administration, but there’s still a lot of lower court judicial vacancies to fill: Circuit courts need nominees for 19 vacancies, and district courts are waiting to fill more than 100 vacancies. President Trump has yet to nominate his own director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has only six of the 26 assistant attorneys general and other major support staff he’s supposed to have at the Department of Justice.
Congress did pass, and Trump did sign, a bill that rescinded an Obama administration rule, requiring the Social Security Administration to send the names of anyone who was deemed mentally impaired and uses representative payee to help manage their benefits to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to block the purchase of firearms. The American Civil Liberties Union opposed the Obama rule because “it advances and reinforces the harmful stereotype that people with mental disabilities, a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent. There is no data to support a connection between the need for a representative payee to manage one’s Social Security disability benefits and a propensity toward gun violence.”
Still, this should be the golden age for Second Amendment advocates, and by extension, conservatives. (On the Venn Diagram, the two circles representing these groups overlap a lot but not completely.) And yet…
I Think He Missed a Memo
Are you noticing a pattern in President Trump’s statements?
“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters in an interview Thursday. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”
When discussing health care in February: “Very complicated issue…. I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”
After the House GOP canceled the vote on the American Health Care Act: “We learned a lot about the vote-getting process. We learned a lot about some very arcane rules in obviously both the Senate and in the House.”
Discussing North Korea with Chinese president Xi Jinping:
Mr. Trump said he told his Chinese counterpart he believed Beijing could easily take care of the North Korea threat. Mr. Xi then explained the history of China and Korea, Mr. Trump said.
“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” Mr. Trump recounted. “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power [over North Korea], but it’s not what you would think.”
Earlier this week, discussing NATO:
“I was on Wolf Blitzer, very fair interview, the first time I was ever asked about NATO, because I wasn’t in government. People don’t go around asking about NATO if I’m building a building in Manhattan, right? So they asked me, Wolf … asked me about NATO, and I said two things. NATO’s obsolete — not knowing much about NATO, now I know a lot about NATO — NATO is obsolete, and I said, “And the reason it’s obsolete is because of the fact they don’t focus on terrorism.”
If only someone had told him!
Do You Care about President Obama’s Speaking Fees?
Should conservatives care that former president Barack Obama is scheduled to be paid $400,000 check from Wall Street when he delivers a speech in September at a health-care conference run by Cantor Fitzgerald, a trading and investment firm?
(Before we go any further, let’s just say that again… “former president Barack Obama.” Inhale, exhale slowly… just savor that for a moment. Okay.)
It’s a free country, and he’s not violating any law, government regulation or ethics code. Obama isn’t in a position to vote on legislation, sign anything into law, or directly influence government policy — although if he calls up a Democratic lawmaker on Capitol Hill, he’s got a good chance of getting a sympathetic ear.
Jill Abramson, former executive editor of the New York Times, lays out why so many Democrats are cringing at the early omens of Obama’s post-presidential life:
The habitual kowtowing of senior Democrats to the billionaire class has left their party close to morally bankrupt. Bernie Sanders was right to hammer Hillary during the primaries for her speaking fees from Wall Street. Even her most ardent supporters found these speaking fees indefensible. They were certain to be fodder for her opponents.
It was misguided of Obama to have signed on with the same D.C. speakers’ bureau as the Clintons, the Harry Walker Agency. For sure, it’s easy money. This giant of the speaking circuit has enriched the Clintons to the tune of $158 milion. During her campaign, Hillary explained that she took all that money because “it was what they offered”.
But do the Obamas really need the effortless lucre? One of the most attractive things about having Barack and Michelle Obama in the White House was the absence of ethical conflicts. They seemed to have impeccable moral judgment and real family values. And, thanks to a $65 million book deal with Penguin Random House, and a pot of money from the former president’s previous books, they are not in bad shape financially.
Can we be less upset with Obama and more upset with Cantor Fitzgerald? Yes, I know a firm that large is swimming in money, but does anyone who invests with them feel like that’s a little excessive for a guest speaker? I’ll bet you could get Biden for a quarter of the price, and he’s funnier.
The New York Post editorial board is gleefully quoting Obama’s words from 2010 back to him: “We’re not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that’s fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.”
But for most Democrats, it’s Obama’s willingness to take the money that’s more disturbing. Ready for a phrase I didn’t think I would ever write? “Over at Vox, Matt Yglesias has a point.”
“Nobody can ever work in the private sector before or after joining the government” isn’t a viable rule. What’s troubling isn’t any one specific case. It’s the sheer accumulation of them, leading to the perception that service in Democratic Party politics was viewed in general as just a stepping stone to a higher-paid gig in New York or Silicon Valley.
But the difficulty of drawing a clear, overarching ethical line is exactly why an ex-president, who is uniquely high-profile and uniquely insulated from financial pressures, ought to set a high standard. Obama doesn’t need a next job. As a former president, he is entitled to lifelong health care and a pension worth more than $200,000 a year. He’s already written two best-selling books and could easily write a third or fourth.
The two hallmarks of almost every major figure in the Democratic party over the past quarter century are 1) being much wealthier than the average American and 2) denouncing the greed of “the rich” and “corporate America” as the root of all of the country’s problems. They speak as if they became rich by accident. They just set out to make the world a better place, with no interest in accumulating wealth, and just happened to end up fabulously affluent with multiple houses!
And it’s not hard to find other Democrats who are wary about powerful political figures collecting six-figure sums from financial elites. This week one leading Democrat declared, “Because of money and politics, special interests dominate the debates in Washington in ways that don’t match up with what the broad majority of Americans feel.”
That Democrat was, er… Barack Obama, speaking Monday.
ADDENDA: Can you smell what The Rock is cooking… on the cover of National Review? Our David French concludes:
Rather than self-seriously viewing his career as secondary to his activism, Johnson clearly aims to entertain. He understands a core truth: that there is nothing wrong — and a lot right — with sheer, unmitigated fun. Not everything has to have a Message. Not everything needs to reveal Larger Truth. Sometimes a man has to shoot down an attack helicopter with a minigun. Not for social justice and not for individual liberty — but because it’s a cool thing to do.
“Sometimes a man has to shoot down an attack helicopter with a minigun.” I want to have that embroidered on a throw pillow.
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I’m happy with the Jets’ selection of safety Jamal Adams in last night’s first round of the NFL Draft.