The rabidly pro-gun/anti-Obama group is pushing a wild theory – and intimidating some Democrats along the way
Apparently, the House Republican drive to issue a contempt citation to Eric Holder will end up attracting Democratic support – thanks to the National Rifle Association.
Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, who represents the most Republican-leaning district of any House Democrat, announced on Tuesday that he’s “sadly” concluded that the citation is necessary, and Rep. Steny Hoyer – the Democrats’ top vote-counter in the chamber – acknowledged that other members of the caucus are considering doing the same.
Matheson didn’t cite the NRA in his announcement, but Hoyer did, and for good reason. The rabidly pro-gun/anti-Obama group has decided to use the Holder contempt vote as part of its rating formula for House members. For Democrats like Matheson, whose sprawling, rural district is filled with voters who take their guns seriously, being on the wrong side of the NRA in an election year is a serious risk. So it seems likely that political survival instincts will prompt a few others to join with Matheson.
The question is why the NRA has decided to emphasize the Holder vote. The group’s official explanation, believe it or not, involves conspiracy theory – the idea that the Fast and Furious gun-walking program that led to the death of a border patrol agent in 2010 was actually “a political attack on the 2nd Amendment and that the Justice Department facilitated a crime to further their gun control political agenda.”
That was NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre’s assertion, and it’s been echoed by several Republicans in Congress, including Darrell Issa, the Oversight Committee chairman who has been leading the contempt push. On national television on Sunday, Issa said:
“We have emails from people involved in this who are talking about using what they’re finding here to support the — basically — assault weapons ban or greater reporting. So, chicken or egg? We don’t know which came first, we probably never will.”
Needless to say, there’s no evidence to support this kind of outlandish theorizing. Not that this is anything new when it comes to the NRA and the Obama administration.
As president, Obama has taken a hands-off approach to gun control, not wanting to pick a fight with the NRA and potentially worsen his already shaky standing with rural white voters. This has been a disappointment to liberals, although not a surprising one, since Obama’s posture is consistent with the approach top national Democrats have taken since 2000.
But it’s earned the president no credit at all with the NRA, with LaPierre claiming that the administration’s first-term record is “a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment during his second term.” Others on the right have embraced the same rhetoric.
There’s a lesson in this: The NRA, for all of its claims of independence and occasional endorsements of Democrats, functions as an arm of the Republican Party. That means that no Democratic president and no major national Democratic leader will get the benefit of the doubt from the group, no matter what his or her record says.
As I wrote a few months back, this raises a practical issue for Obama and Democrats going forward. They’ve long resisted pushing for new gun control measures out of a belief that alienating that NRA and gun owners in general cost Al Gore the 2000 election. But the decade-plus since then has shown that the NRA will oppose and smear them just as feverishly even when they do nothing – to the point that the group is willing to promote a wild conspiracy theory if it gives them a chance to humiliate a Democratic president’s attorney general. Is there a point when Democrats simply decide that if they’re going to fight with the NRA it might as well be over something real?
Steve Kornacki writes about politics for Salon. Reach him by email at SKornacki@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveKornacki More Steve Kornacki.
More Related Stories
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Guantánamo prisoner on hunger strike cries for help on Twitter
- 3 possible solutions to international tax avoidance
- “I just want the U.S. to send my father home”
- Army weapons engineer tied to white nationalist organizations
- Ted Cruz against the world
- David Vitter's hypocritical, punitive, horrible new amendment
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- Could hackers destroy the U.S. power grid?
- Democrats may be even worse than Republicans at regulating Wall Street
- Eric Holder versus journalism
- A progressive defense of drones
- There's no substitute for government disaster relief
- Holder signed off on search warrant for reporter
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- Closing Gitmo is not enough
- Murkowski: Palin too disengaged to run for Senate
- In IRS scandal, new GOP tactic is ignorance
- Code Pink activist berates Obama at national security speech
- Cuomo: "Shame on us" if New York City elects Weiner
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11
Alex Pareene surveys the burgeoning and bloated world of political news and opinion and explains the day's most essential story in Opening Shot, posted by 8:30 a.m. each weekday. Bookmark this page; follow @pareene on Twitter.