National Rifle Association Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre isn’t someone who seeks out mainstream media attention. Unless it’s following an incident like a mass shooting or pending gun control legislation in Congress that requires a response from the NRA, he’s not one to gab idly with journalists just to get his name and face out there.
So what would prompt the NRA’s top man to give one of the first interviews he’s granted in years to the New York Times? In Inside Wayne LaPierre’s Battle for the N.R.A., author Danny Hakim used a “three-hour on-the-record conversation in late October” with LaPierre as the basis for a re-telling of Wayne’s time at the Association and a recap of some of the current controversies and battles the Association is fighting.
All told, it’s not a bad recounting of how the NRA came to find itself in its current predicament. But you can’t read it without considering the strategic decision-making that obviously went into this. It’s a move that couldn’t possibly have happened without the approval — and probably at the urging — of the NRA’s outside attorney, William Brewer.
The result is a surprisingly benign — some might even say almost sympathetic — portrayal of LaPierre and his current embattled position (especially considering who printed it).
…he was occasionally evasive, often startlingly direct and always acutely, sometimes painfully self-aware. …
…no matter how much time [LaPierre] had left, he said, he would spend it doing what he always did: fighting for the N.R.A. — not just against Democratic regulators looking to destroy his organization from without, but also now against the treacherous former allies seeking to do the same from within. “If I lose every friend,” he said, “I’m prepared to do it.”
Given that the piece appeared in such an ardently anti-gun outlet as the Times, the article is a notably even-handed, of not positive depiction of LaPierre as the beleaguered head of an organization that finds itself in serious trouble.
“Everybody knows we were singled out,” LaPierre said. “Everybody knows that it’s politics.” Whatever the fate of the N.R.A., he has held on far longer than many thought he could. In his spartan office, he seemed weary. After many long years spent building one of the most powerful organizations in Washington, he had found himself isolated and embattled. “Somebody asked me in a deposition how you feel about all of it,” he recalled, briefly looking up once more. “I said I feel sad.”
Noteworthy also is Hakim’s treatment of attorney Brewer. He doesn’t leave out the concerns about Brewer’s ethics or the astronomical amounts he’s billing the NRA, but Brewer is depicted as a crusading defender of civil rights, willing to cross ideological lines to defend constitutional freedoms.
Brewer decided to take the case. Whatever he felt about the N.R.A., he said, he saw a principle at stake. Government investigators should not target political enemies. “People were not only crossing the lines that are appropriately drawn by our Constitution,” he said, “they were aggressively determined to blur, cross, obliterate those lines. And you know what? If they could do it to those guys, they could do it to me. They could do it to all of us.” In this view, at least, Brewer was completely in sync with LaPierre. “I think everybody in the country ought to be on our side,” LaPierre told me. “Because if we don’t prevail, in my opinion, the United States is not the United States anymore.”
The way Hakim tells it, the $1400-an-hour counselor is also spearheading the effort to get to the bottom of what’s wrong at the NRA.
Brewer went to work. Rivals quickly came to view him as a Rasputin-like figure, whispering in LaPierre’s ear and billing the N.R.A. into oblivion, but he moved forward. He filed a First Amendment case that accused New York of blacklisting the organization simply for expressing its views. He also got the green light from LaPierre to undertake a broad internal audit.
It almost brings a tear to the eye.
His opinion is that it’s about two things; access and stasis. Giving the interview to the Times gets LaPierre’s side of the controversies and the ongoing pissing match with Ackerman McQueen out there. Agreeing to run a sympathetic — as much as possible — treatment by the Times gives the paper an in on a big ongoing story.
But why would the Times agree to a relatively benign portrayal of someone the paper and its readers clearly revile? In Dell’Aquila’s view, it’s better for those who hate the NRA and the causes it supports to keep LaPierre right where he is.
As the Times see it, according to Dell’Aquila, with LaPierre still in the big chair as head of the Association, at least through 2020, the NRA will continue to be discredited and embroiled in controversy…and therefore less able or effective in supporting gun rights and the Trump reelection effort.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Brewer’s interests either, as he’s a been dedicated, longtime supporter of Democrats and their causes.
How bad are things likely to get for the NRA in the new year? The Outdoor Wire‘s Jim Shepherd has a good (if darker) take on the latest in the State of New York’s ongoing investigation into the NRA and its non-profit status. He talked to a number of NRA board members who have been questioned by the New York Attorney General.
Having spoken with several of the current/former Board Members who have just been deposed, questioning in those depositions have led to a common conclusion: each person deposed has been surprised at the level of detail and specificity of the questions they’ve been asked.
General questions quickly give way to very specific ones. Those have revolved around some now-familiar names inside the organization’s current and former senior leadership.
What I’ve been told does nothing to assuage my growing concerns about the future of the organization we’ve all counted on to defend the Second Amendment on a national level.
If anything, the direction of the questioning adds to more concern. It would appear the ultimate goal isn’t to correct problems inside the NRA. Or even to distract the organization’s leadership during the 2020 election cycle.
The ultimate goal, it seems, is dismantling the entire organization.
That sorta jibes with Dell’Aquila’s take and makes perfect sense going into 2020. Both objectives are doable. There’s no reason for the NY AG to move the investigation along too quickly if stringing things out benefits Democrats heading into a critical election year.