NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox introduced Vice President Mike Pence at CPAC yesterday and presented the former Hoosier State Governor with the Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire award for the “strength of character” he showed in defense of American liberties during his political career. The prize for the award was a “high powered weapon of war” — a flintlock rifle.
Mr. Cox talked a lot about the 2016 election, too. The NRA went all-in for 2016, he said, because “for those of us who support the Second Amendment, we knew our gun rights would be gone” if Hillary Clinton were elected. “Our right to keep and bear arms had survived the Supreme Court by just one vote, and he had just passed away…. So we made the earliest endorsement in our history when we endorsed Donald Trump for President in May.”
“You’re happy now,” Mr. Cox continued with what was probably the understatement of the convention, “but let me tell you: it was a lonely summer.” Of course, “the NRA hasn’t backed down from a fight in 146 years, and we sure as hell weren’t scared of Hillary Clinton.”
In response, Vice President Pence said…well, he didn’t say much at all concerning guns or the Second Amendment. Neither did two men from the White House who spoke earlier in the day, Presidential Advisor Steve Bannon and White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus.
Don’t get me wrong: all of these folks said many things said that, if sincere, should give gun rights supporters reason for optimism. Everyone was bullish on Neil Gorsuch, both about his temperament and judicial philosophy as well as his chances of confirmation in the Senate. (Ted Cruz offered a big “thank you” to former Senator Harry Reid for paving the way by changing the Senate rules to require only 51 votes to end a filibuster for confirmation of executive and judicial nominees instead of the usual 60 in 2013.)
Bannon expressed that “deconstructing” the undemocratic and officious administrative state was a top priority for the administration. Gun owners are all too aware of the dangers to our liberties posed by career bureaucrats based inside the beltway making up complicated rules with the force of law with barely any oversight from Congress. From a gun-rights perspective, all of it was a darned sight better than listening to Democrat Keith Ellison’s insistence that he didn’t really mean it when he said he wanted to repeal the Second Amendment.
I was struck, however, by a remark made by a mainstream media type: Pence’s speech “sounds like a State of the Union address” because it was a grab-bag of items for various interests. Despite earlier promises from President Trump to enact national concealed carry license reciprocity, however, I haven’t heard much talk about Representative Hudson’s bill on the matter or other pending legislation, such as the Hearing Protection Act. Even a Second Amendment stalwart like Senator Ted Cruz didn’t have much to say on pending legislation. It’s all the more surprising because this is CPAC; if one can’t throw a little red meat before this audience, where can you do it?
Gun owners played a vital part of Trump’s coalition in near-run states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Florida. States without which Hillary Clinton would be hearing “Hail to the Chief” when she arrives at the next Broadway show.
Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan mentioned in the Wall Street Journal that some folks feel that Capitol Hill is currently “overstuffed” with legislation, and that a plan to roll out some legislation related to infrastructure won’t happen until closer to the midterm elections. Noonan doesn’t think much of the plan.
That struck me as exactly wrong. The first year’s legislative agenda defines a new administration. Early programs stand out before everything, in the following three years, becomes a blur…. Big endeavors can be promising in ways that aren’t always calculable…. The Democrats will have a hard time opposing such a bill in 2018? They’ll have a hard time opposing it now. And constituents aren’t stupid. They’ll remember in ’18 what a congressman didn’t do in ’17….
[O]ne wonders if the White House is getting snookered by longtime Hill urchins, or snookering itself.
Twenty-sixteen was an earthquake. The ground beneath Washington’s feet shifted. People here need to get over their shock and start recognizing the new lay of the land.
Perhaps everyone’s putting the gun rights mojo on the Hill into confirming Gorsuch and generally supporting the Administration’s plans on the regulatory state. Those are both worthy goals, but considering how much effort the NRA put forth last year (and is continuing to put forth this year,) I expected more.
Both President Trump and NRA Executive VP Wayne LaPierre will on Friday, so perhaps we’ll hear something more concrete. And if we don’t, well everyone has been stressing the importance of holding the Administration accountable. To his credit, during his talk, Steve Bannon went out of his way to say: “Hold us accountable, hold us accountable to what we promised, hold us accountable to for delivering on what we promised.”
Well, gun owners, you know what to do.