I warned last year of the perfect storm looming on gun control. Now, with the Tucson tragedy as a stepping stone, and with eyes firmly focused on his re-election, the president has finally opened a campaign to appease his base on the polarizing issue of gun control.
Let me completely disclose my position: I am a strong Second Amendment advocate. I believe in protecting our fundamental rights, including our Second Amendment rights, through the political process. To that end, I serve as honorary chairman of the "Trigger The Vote" voter registration campaign.
That campaign is funded by the NRA's Freedom Action Foundation. We work in every election cycle to register gun owners and hunters to vote and add them to the ranks of millions of grassroots voters who have established Second Amendment issues as the new "third rail" of American politics. Those voters, and the newly registered voters we can add to their ranks between now and then, will have the job cut out for them in the 2012 election cycle.
The 2012 re-election now looms large for this administration. Even while the president's top aides are deserting the White House to staff up his campaign office, those left behind seem to be working from a mandate to begin patrolling the divided Democratic base.
Up until now, the Obama White House has given a wide berth to the gun-control debate, abandoning campaign promises to pursue new restrictions on our gun rights. This avoidance does not reflect any shift in position; it is merely recognition of the political reality that most members of his party have no interest in yet another political loser of an issue being crammed down their throats.
At the same time, Obama's liberal base has grown restless and rancorous over the first two years in office, because he hasn't done everything they wanted, at least regarding more restrictions on our Second Amendment rights. They resent the president's avoidance of fulfilling his campaign rhetoric.
Gun-control groups have thrown tantrums for months that Obama wouldn't champion their agenda, with one group resentfully awarding him a grade of "F." And so only now is Obama sticking his toes into the swirling currents of the Second Amendment debate.
His campaign kicked off with a subtle op-ed in Tucson's Arizona Star newspaper that was intentionally vague. The words could be read as a broad endorsement of proposed gun-control measures; they could also be read to embrace the NRA mantra that enforcement of current laws is what's needed. But Obama's attempt to place himself at the center of an ideological divide over guns is pure political positioning and comes with the rank odor of cold, crass calculation. One can almost hear the tearing of another page from the Clinton playbook.
One thing he definitely got wrong, however, was his arrogant statement that he "expanded" the rights of gun owners. The Bill of Rights is guaranteed and can't be "expanded" by government, as it contains fundamental natural rights. Those rights can, however, be restricted by illegitimate government fiat, which is why the clear language of the Second Amendment prohibits even "infringement" upon it. But infringement is clearly on the agenda despite Obama's rhetorical vacillations.
Implementation of the goals set out in his article came via phone calls from Justice Department operatives seeking to arrange a series of "active listening" meetings for groups on both sides of the gun-control debate, as well as industry companies and groups. The proposed meetings were intended to develop an agenda of new legislative and regulatory proposals for the White House to embrace and push in Congress.
Let's tally the results thus far.
First, my friends, Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox at the NRA, not only declined the invitation but did so in the form of a strong letter that gave lie to many of the article's core assertions.
Second, gun-control groups eagerly attended their meeting, reporting on the process in glowing tones, which must have brought a rosy glow to the White House operatives assigned to the realignment of the political base. They continue their private muttering about a "lack of leadership" from the White House.
Third, the media panned the Obama strategy and operation. The White House must have been particularly stung by criticism from the editorial board of the Arizona Star itself where Obama's original article ran as an exclusive.
The meetings with other groups will continue. You can bet that we haven't heard the last of this issue. But so far, all that Obama has proven is the old political adage: The only thing accomplished by sitting in the middle of the road is that you can be hit from both sides.