Friday, December 21, 2012

NRA: "WE NEED MORE GUNS" - A pathetic response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook

Out of respect for the Newtown victims and families, the National Rifle Association waited one week before blaming everything and everyone except guns. The NRA says it kept respectfully silent for a week, while others, presumably gun-control advocates, “tried to exploit the tragedy for political gain.” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre was at the microphone Friday, giving a poorly-timed recruitment speech disguised as a news conference.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," said LaPierre. He went on to say that the solution for schools is to put an armed police officer in “every single school in the nation”. Estimates have put the cost of doing this as high as $18 billion a year, and it should be noted that Columbine High School had armed guards in 1999, so a shoot-out between good guys and bad guys might not work.

While LaPierre was explaining the need for more guns, the rebuttal to this argument was being made by some guy walking up and down a rural Pennsylvania road shooting people. The shooter killed three people before he was fatally shot in a gunfight with state troopers. The gunman was stopped, but as in most of these types of incidents, too late.

The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was the last straw for a majority of Americans. Most want some sort of change in the gun laws. The NRA's poorly timed “news conference” turned out to be a public relations disaster. In the context of tragedy, the country wants a solution, not a sales pitch meant to benefit gun manufacturers.

As protestors repeatedly interrupted his speech, shouting that the NRA was “killing our kids,” LaPierre spewed blame everywhere except for where it belongs, going after the media, video games, and music videos. The solution is more guns - in schools, in businesses, and apparently in Chuck E. Cheeses.

LaPierre makes about $1 million a year as an NRA executive, so he must be doing this for the money. And where does that money come from? Gun owners, gun lobbyists, gun manufacturers... Do any of them have kids? Do they even care? The membership of the NRA can't possibly stand in unity with their cold-hearted buffoon of a spokesman.

If “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”, then what happens to the people standing in the middle? And how do you stop a crazed lunatic with an assault rifle and a kevlar vest? Let's hope your aim is good, because you might only get one shot.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Romney will win GOP nomination. But then what?

Mitt Romney's problem: The conservative base of the Republican party doesn't want him. He's won the most states, snagged the most delegates and raised the most money, but the enthusiasm gap keeps growing. And with the recent losses in unfriendly Southern territory, the best Romney could do was tout his wins in Hawaii and American Samoa.

Romney aides are putting a positive spin on things by saying that their candidate is so far ahead in delegates, it's just a matter of time. But that's the problem. The more time that goes by, the more chance for Romney to make gaffes that he won't be able to overcome in the general election. Furthermore, a long and drawn-out race is exposing the weaknesses in the Republican party.

Rising gasoline prices may be the biggest threat to Obama's re-election chances, so why are some Republicans arguing that the President wants to see the price of gas go up? Does that make any sense? When Rush Limbaugh called a female law student a "slut" and a "prostitute", the GOP candidates were afraid to alienate his conservative listeners, with Romney merely saying that Limbaugh's colorful display of misogynistic wordplay was “not the kind of language I would have used.” The other candidates also played down the incident. This kind of spinelessness is not helping Romney, and it's not helping the image of the Republican party. After all, half of all voters are women. The Republicans figure they'll worry about that in November. Good luck with that.

Each of Romney's challengers, after surpassing him and getting to the top, has blown it. Rick Santorum, the most recent of the anybody-but-Romney candidates, was gaining momentum when he decided to self-destruct. He called Obama a snob for wanting everyone to have a chance to go to college and said that John F. Kennedy's 1960 speech about his position on the separation between church and state made him want to “throw up”.

I've never heard a candidate say that he wanted to “throw up”. I have to say that it's not very presidential. Of course, he lost me when he started talking about “man on dog” sex. The Republican base, however, seems to be able to live with this kind of nonsensical talk. When Santorum went off about how much he hated college, his audience cheered.

Republicans, however, continue to hammer away at Romney because he's not conservative enough. They point to his term as Massachusetts governor, for example. The fact that he came up with a health care system that seems to be working is a sign that he knows how to run a state. But members of the conservative base believe that it's an example of how Romney caves in to public pressure and does what's popular. They have a point.

Romney won the GOP primary in Massachusetts with 75% of the vote, showing how popular he is there, and also showing how extremely popular his state health care plan is. But the fact that he passed a health care system that Obama later used as a blueprint for the federal law is a major problem for Romney, who now has to distance himself from his biggest achievement as governor. First he's for health care reform, then he's against it, an example of Romney's lack of any semblance of consistency. Romney changes position so much it's hard to tell what his position is, unlike Santorum, who has stuck to his homophobic rants and misinterpretation of JFK's 1960 speech, no matter how idiotic.

Romney's aides have pointed out that when it comes to the general election, Romney can win. They talk about the "reset" that comes when a candidate becomes the presumptive nominee. But the longer the process is drawn out by a delegate-allocation system designed to frustrate and confuse both front-runners and voters, the more likely it will be that Romney will have to defend not only his own gaffes, but the positions his party has forced him to take for the sake of political expediency.

Wouldn't it be great if, instead of saying Rush Limbaugh's use of the word "slut" was “not the kind of language I would have used”, Romney would have said something like “Limbaugh's an idiot and should be fired”? But the Republican party doesn't just listen to Rush Limbaugh. The Republican party is Rush Limbaugh. And that won't play well in November.

Romney will win the GOP nomination, but at what cost? His long list of gaffes will come back to haunt him. Having friends who own NASCAR teams is small consolation. But his $240 million won't hurt. Maybe he can buy his wife a few more Cadillacs.