Elvin Daniel lost his sister to gun violence. But he’s also an NRA member who was at the convention this weekend, dreaming of buying an AR-15. Michael Ames reports from Houston.
Not long after Elvin Daniel joined the National Rifle Association, his sister, Zina, was shot to death by her husband. She was 42 years old and in the process of a divorce on the fall day last year when her husband, Radcliffe Haughton Jr., an ex-Marine, showed up at the Azana Salon and Spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin, with a loaded .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol.
An young attendee inspects a handgun during the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits on May 4 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)
Nothing could have prepared Daniel and the two daughters Zina left behind for the loss. But her violent death wasn’t a complete surprise. Earlier that month, Haughton drove to the suburban-Milwaukee beauty parlor where his wife worked and slashed her tires. He was arrested, and Zina filed for a restraining order. At the court hearing that followed, she told the judge: “I love my daughter. I loved my husband. I never wanted her to see him taken away.” To her husband, she said: “But things have gotten so bad, Rad. I just, we need to separate. We need a course before you hurt me. I don’t want to die. I just don’t want to die.”
Days later, Houghton killed his wife and shot six other women in the spa, killing two of them with shots to the head and neck, before finally shooting himself dead. The couple’s older daughter, Yasmeen, was in the spa and witnessed the events. The day the restraining order was issued, Houghton wrote a plea on his Facebook page. “Need to get out of Wisconsin, HELP…,” he wrote. The Internet did not help him escape the nightmare of his broken marriage, but it did provide, for $500 cash and no questions asked, the tool of his destruction.
And at the moment, they appear to be in denial about it. Peter Beinart on an outrageous Democratic attack on Nikki Haley—and why Democrats need to strongly denounce it.
If Dick Harpootlian were a Republican, liberals would be jumping over one another to call him a bigot. In 2002 Harpootlian called Lindsey Graham, then running for a South Carolina Senate seat, “light in the loafers,” thus fueling a nasty whispering campaign about Graham’s sexual orientation. Last Friday he struck again, telling activists to “send Nikki Haley”—South Carolina’s Indian-American governor—“back to wherever the hell she came from.”
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley enters the State House chamber in Columbia to give her State of the State address in January. Democrat Dick Harpootlian has told activists to “send Nikki Haley back to wherever the hell she came from.” (Mary Ann Chastain/AP)
But Harpootlian isn’t a Republican. Until he retired last Saturday, he was chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party. He made his comments about Haley at the party’s annual dinner, just before Joe Biden took the stage. And as a result, the liberal response has been muted. So far, neither Biden nor Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, whose candidacy for a South Carolina congressional seat has gained national attention, has repudiated Harpootlian’s comments. And for now, at least, conservatives are just about the only ones asking them to.
That’s a problem, because unless offenses like Harpootlian’s are slapped down hard, Democratic Party bigotry is likely to get worse. The reason is simple: the Republican Party is getting more diverse. Stung by its disastrous electoral showings among Americans who are neither white, Anglo, straight, nor male, the GOP has finally begun to broaden its candidate base. The party now boasts an African-American senator from South Carolina, Cuban-American senators from Florida and Texas, Indian-American governors in South Carolina and Louisiana, and Mexican-American governors in Nevada and New Mexico. In all likelihood, 2016 will witness the first-ever serious minority candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination. And it’s a good bet that either a minority or a woman will find a place on the Republican ticket. Prominent openly gay Republican politicians are only a matter of time.
The abortion clinic of alleged killer Kermit Gosnell was not illegal. But any talk of more government regulation unleashes an NRA-style assault from the abortion rights contingent, says Kirsten Powers.
What should we learn from the Kermit Gosnell trial?
Pro-choice activists at the March for Life on January 23, 2012, in Washington, D.C. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty)
But Gosnell’s clinic was not illegal. It was a licensed medical facility. The state of his clinic was well known: there were repeated complaints to government officials and even the local Planned Parenthood. He wasn’t operating under the radar but in plain sight, and he received referrals from abortion clinics up and down the East Coast. Gosnell performed plenty of abortions within the 24-week limit in Pennsylvania and worked part time for a National Abortion Federation–accredited clinic in Delaware.
Will supporting guns finally cause politicians to lose their jobs?
BACK WHEN I was President Clinton’s political adviser, I cited poll numbers to try to talk him out of even a tiny tax increase on the middle class, in the form of a four-cent hike in the gas tax. But the final word went to Lloyd Bentsen, Clinton’s Treasury secretary. “Mr. President,” he said, “I’m sure Paul’s polls are correct. But I never saw a fella lose his seat for voting for a four-penny gas tax.”
Bentsen was right. The modest tax increase went through. Yes, the 1994 midterms were a disaster for my Democrats. But not because of the gas tax.
Bentsen’s political observation comes to mind in the current discussion of gun control. Sure, the polls say 90 percent of Americans support expanded background checks. But have you ever seen anyone lose his or her seat for voting against gun control? I’ve seen more than I care to recall lose their seat for supporting it.
On immigration, liberal and conservative elites are united—and wrong.
TWENTY YEARS ago the leaders of Europe agreed on a bold step: a new currency called the euro. They promised that the euro would improve life for everybody—and denounced all opposition as ignorant, xenophobic, and backward. Their words gained extra plausibility because many of the opponents of the euro really were ignorant, xenophobic, and backward.
The great unspoken question in the immigration debate is whether this “living in America” wage premium is a benefit to be cherished or a problem to be overcome. To a startling extent, political leaders agree: the wage premium is the problem—and immigration is the answer. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty)
Yet the backward critics were right, and the enlightened proponents were wrong. And so it is with the immigration debate in the United States.
Nothing unifies the American elite like immigration. From Barack Obama to Paul Ryan, from the editorial board of The New York Times to that of The Wall Street Journal, from the offices of Facebook to those of Goldman Sachs, everybody who counts more or less agrees.
The facts on the ground are anything but auspicious for America injecting itself into an intra-Arab morass, writes Lloyd Green.
How many Middle East quagmires does America want? How many can it afford? After our so-called triumphs in Iraq and Libya – and our not-so-triumphant 12-year experience in Afghanistan – the siren song of Syria now beckons. Mr. President, resist that call. We are not wanted there; America has no need to go there. Think Viet Nam, without a Cold War to offer as rationale for our presence. Indeed, those who urge you to go there never voted for you, and that should tell you something about your future base of support when things head south. Yes, we are actually in the curious situation where the American and Arab publics are united on a key issue: Don’t go to Damascus.
So what was President Obama thinking when he declared last summer, in a moment of rhetorical folly, that the use of chemical weapons would violate an imagined “red line?” As Leslie Gelb made clear, the region has more than 30 years experience with chemical weapons, which the Reagan Administration treated as business as usual. Ruthless realpolitik? Sure. But effective.
The facts on the ground are anything but auspicious for America injecting itself into an intra-Arab morass. Sunni leaders are divided between those sympathetic to the politics of the Muslim Brotherhood, such as Qatar and NATO ally Turkey, and Middle East monarchies such as Saudi Arabia. All oppose Assad, yet each backs a different camp in Syria. As a senior American official put it, “there is no coherent Arab coalition.”
Nearly every idea in the Bill of Rights comes with restrictions and limitations. To think that the Second Amendment should be any different is absurd, writes Michael Tomasky.
Every time I write a column on guns, the howl arises that I am talking about a right that is enshrined in the Constitution, buddy, and I better watch myself. The howl then transmutes into an extended harangue that this right is absolute, and no libtard fascist, whether me or the Satanesque Dianne Feinstein, is going to limit the right in any way. The first soldier to charge across this rhetorical veld is followed by hundreds harrumphing their assent. The only problem is that it’s an ahistorical, afactual, and barbaric argument. No right is absolute. In fact, the Second Amendment arguably has fewer restrictions on it these days than many of the other first 10, and there is and should be no guarantee that things are going to stay that way. In fact, if we’re ever going to be serious about trying to stop this mass butchery that we endure every few months, they cannot.
Attendees hold handguns in the Sig Sauer booth during the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits on May 4 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)
Let’s begin by going down the list and reviewing various limits placed on nearly all the amendments of the Bill of Rights (I thank Doug Kendall of the Constitutional Accountability Center for helping me out here). The First Amendment, of course, guarantees the right to free speech and assembly, and to worship as one pleases. There haven’t been that many restrictions placed on the freedom to worship in the United States, although there is a steady stream of cases involving some local government or school board preventing someone from wearing religious clothing or facial hair or what have you. Sometimes a Christian school or church is denied a zoning permit; but more often it’s the freedom to worship of a minority (Muslim, Sikh, etc.) that is threatened.
As for free speech, of course it is restricted. Over the past 50 or so years in a series of cases, courts have placed a number of “time, place, and manner” restrictions on free speech. To restrict speech in general, the government must meet four tests. But this is always being revised and negotiated. Here’s one restriction on the Bill of Rights that I’d wager most conservatives would happily approve of. In 1988, the HHS under Reagan promulgated rules prohibiting a family-planning professional at a clinic that received federal dollars from “promoting” (i.e. telling a woman about) abortion. This was challenged partially on free-speech grounds. In Rust v. Sullivan (1991), the Supreme Court held that these rules did not violate the clinicians’ free-speech rights. So far as I can see, this is still law. It’s just one example from many free-speech restrictions that have been imposed over the years, as you can see here.
The week in wingnuts: more guns, fewer e-cigarettes, and the return of the Obama “birthers.”
New Hampshire: A posse you can trust
It seems Stella Tremblay, a Republican state representative from New Hampshire, is determined to get to what she thinks is the bottom of the Boston bombings. Earlier this week Tremblay went on a Boston radio station and suggested that the man whose legs were pictured blown off in the bombing was faking it, and said she wanted a full investigation into the attack. Not from the FBI, but from somebody “unbiased.” Her suggestion? Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a steadfast believer that President Obama’s birth certificate is a fake and who’s been accused of fabricating evidence to support his birther beliefs.
South Carolina: More guns, please
South Carolina lawmakers have been among the most vocal opponents to the pro-gun control push following the tragedy at Newtown, Connecticut. Already this year state politicians have introduced bills that would allow teachers to carry firearms and students to enroll in a high school gun class, but now they’re pushing a new strategy: with representatives this week signing a resolution “inviting and welcoming gun manufacturers into our state.” The resolution, which 55 South Carolina House members signed, discusses possible incentives for gun and ammo manufacturers looking to open and expand in the state, citing, among other things, a political climate that is more “hospitable” that other states’ less “accommodating” stances.
A new poll from Emily’s List shows an overwhelming number of voters now support the idea. It’s a movement the group hopes someone in the sisterhood is about to inherit.
With polls showing Hillary Clinton holding a formidable lead over all other potential candidates for president in 2016, a press conference to promote the idea of a woman president seems a little behind the news, a treasured dream catching up with a new reality, or perhaps a stalking horse for Clinton.
Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, which raises money and works to elect pro-choice Democratic women, said she has no inside knowledge of what Clinton is likely to do, but there is widespread acceptance of a woman as president, and 72 percent of voters surveyed think it’s likely to happen in 2016. While Clinton gets mentioned most, there’s no guarantee she will run, which is why Emily’s List wants to “ignite the conversation” around an idea whose time has come, and build a movement that Clinton or another in the sisterhood can inherit.
Ellen Malcolm, who founded Emily’s List in her basement 28 years ago, looked on like a proud parent as pollsters unveiled the latest numbers showing overwhelming support among voters across gender and party lines for a “generally well-qualified woman.” Those numbers were always strong, says Malcolm, but when voters were asked about their friends and neighbors supporting a woman, they weren’t so sure. These days, there’s no hesitation, the country is ready. “What a waltz!” Malcolm exclaims. Twenty years ago, no pollster would have predicted the dramatic shift in attitudes toward a woman president, or marriage equality, or even immigration, that we see today among the general public, says pollster Lisa Grove, who adds one caveat: voters still think it’s harder for a woman than a man to get elected president.
At the group’s annual convention, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and others celebrated the demise of the Senate’s bid for tougher background checks on gun buyers.
The National Rifle Association is not known as a home for academics, but on the opening day of the NRA’s 142nd Annual Meetings and Exhibitions, the day’s brightest political star walked the stage like a constitutional law professor. Before he was elected as the junior senator from Texas last November, Ted Cruz was, in fact, a law professor at the University of Texas from 2004 to 2009. Cruz received a hometown hero’s welcome in Houston on Friday from a crowd of several thousand at the political event hosted each year by the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), the organization’s political lobby.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks during the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 3, 2013 in Houston, Texas. More than 70,000 peope are expected to attend the NRA's 3-day annual meeting that features nearly 550 exhibitors, gun trade show and a political rally. The Show runs from May 3-5. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)
There is nothing nonpolitical about the NRA-ILA, and the Leadership Forum functions as much as a rally for NRA members as a beauty pageant for politicians looking to curry favor with one of Washington’s most feared, loathed, and powerful political organizations. Within minutes of the hushed harmony of roughly 5,000 patriotic Americans pledging allegiance to their flag, NRA President David Keene said he knew the crowd had followed “everything that happened in the Senate last month.” Keene then introduced the ILA’s executive director, Chris Cox, as the man instrumental in defeating the background-check bill that failed to pass the Senate on April 17.
As the rally emcee, Cox articulated a series of arguments that speakers including NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, and Sarah Palin repeated throughout the day. Namely, that the NRA is an organization that is funded by and in the service of law-abiding gun owners, and that they are an innocent bystander in the fight over gun control.
Obama has governed not merely as a standard-issue White House drug warrior but as a particularly hard-headed and hard-hearted one, writes Nick Gillespie.
While a high school student at Honolulu’s elite Punahou School, Barack Obama was a high-flying member of a pot-smoking, party-hearty crew that called itself “the Choom Gang.” As biographer David Maraniss revealed in last year’s Barack Obama: The Story the future president “had a knack for interceptions. When a joint was making the rounds, he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted ‘Intercepted!,’ and took an extra hit.”
In his current trip to meet with Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto, Obama will once again be talking about illegal drugs and interceptions—and he will almost certainly continue his long habit of bogarting other people’s joints. As CNN summarizes it, one of the “key issues” of the trip is to strengthen efforts to stop the flow of pot, cocaine, methamphetamines, and other drugs from Mexico into the United States.
Despite thinly sourced stories by Obama boosters that the president in his second term “will pivot to the drug war” that he privately considers a “failure,” there’s every reason to believe any new initiatives coming out of this Mexico trip will disappoint the liberals, libertarians, and smattering of conservatives who took Barack Obama seriously when he questioned longstanding drug policies.
Congress isn’t to blame for Guantánamo, as the president would have us believe, says Thomas Joscelyn.
During a news conference earlier this week, President Obama was asked about the mass hunger strike at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. The president said it does not surprise him “that we’ve got problems in Guantánamo,” and it’s why he still believes “that we’ve got to close” it down. Obama ordered Guantánamo shuttered as one of his first acts in office, but more than four years later it is open. The president blamed Congress for the failure to deliver on his pledge. “I’m going to go back at this” and “reengage with Congress,” Obama vowed.
Towers overlooking a U.S. detention facility are silhouetted against a morning sunrise at the Guantánamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba in October 2012. (Pool photo by Michelle Shephard,via Toronto Star,via AP)
Congressional restrictions have made it more difficult to transfer or relocate Guantánamo detainees. But congressional opposition is not the only reason Guantánamo’s cells are occupied. Closing Guantánamo has always been a tricky proposition—one that is far more difficult than the president’s rhetoric implies.
Consider the findings of Obama’s own Guantánamo Review Task Force, which reviewed the files on the 240 detainees held as of January 2009. The task force’s final report, issued in January 2010, outlined the various national security challenges closing Guantánamo entails. Indeed, the report goes a long way toward explaining why 166 detainees remain in their cells to this day.
While 41 Republican Senators and five Democrats voted against the bipartisan bill for universal background checks, the RNC says it’s Obama’s fault. That's despicable, writes John Avlon.
There’s chutzpah, and then there’s rank hypocrisy.
The RNC released a slick but cynical Web ad this week commemorating the first 100 days of President Obama’s second term. Politics ain’t beanbag, and no one expected their assessment would be sunshine and light. But there’s a particularly low place for folks who block and then blame—in this case, intimating with mock sadness that the president is legislatively impotent for failing to pass universal background checks in the wake of the Sandy Hook slaughter.
President Obama, accompanied Gabrielle Giffords (left), Vice President Joe Biden (center), and families who suffered gun violence, speaks on gun control April 17 at the White House Rose Garden. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty)
Reality check: 41 Republican senators (and five Democrats) voted against the bipartisan compromise bill crafted by Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Joe Manchin. And among Republicans controlling the House, the modest background check bill—supported by 90 percent of Americans—was considered DOA.
It doesn’t matter what the president says or does or whom he drinks with—Republicans are bent on opposing it all. That may be good news for Democrats in 2014 and beyond.
There is a malaise in Washington that’s spreading across the country. According to a New York Times/CBS News poll, “Americans [do] not give Mr. Obama high marks for his handling of issues”—even though they largely, at times overwhelmingly, agree with his positions on background checks for gun sales and a combination of tax increases and spending cuts to rein in the federal deficit.
The disconnect is sharp; the frustration, the sense of ennui palpable from Capitol Hill to California. You could fairly call it the Obama malaise, but it’s not his fault. It’s his very existence, his presence in the Oval Office, that fuels a nihilistic opposition, driving obstruction and seeding an increasingly disillusioned national mood.
That mood is distinctly different from the malaise that prompted Jimmy Carter to his self-pitying crisis-of-confidence speech in the summer of 1979. The crisis he identified then was not merely doubt about national leadership, but something “deeper, deeper”—a “loss of faith” on the part of the American people. He seemed to be saying that they had let the country, and him, down. He urged his fellow citizens “to stop crying and start sweating, stop talking and start walking, stop cursing and start praying”—to stop whining and to “say something good” about America.
Memo to everyone lambasting Obama for not getting along with Congress: The president is not all powerful. And he needs help from his supporters. By Jon Favreau.
He added the words in one of the later drafts. The announcement speech had been missing something, a direct response to the creeping cynicism of the previous decade. Why would this time be any different? What was so special about this political novice, that he thought he could solve all of these intractable problems on his own?
“That is why this campaign can’t only be about me. It must be about us—it must be about what we can do together. This campaign must be the occasion, the vehicle, of your hopes, and your dreams. It will take your time, your energy, and your advice—to push us forward when we’re doing right, and to let us know when we’re not. This campaign has to be about reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our sense of common purpose, and realizing that few obstacles can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change.”
Much has been written over the last few weeks about the limits of presidential power. Some smart observers have pointed out that these limits are not new; that historically they have had less to do with the personalities of our leaders than the structure of our democracy. The founders, reluctant to entrust any executive with the kind of authority that was so abused by the king they revolted against, created a separation of powers between co-equal branches of government.
President Obama is among those responsible for the decisions the country makes or doesn’t make, but as citizens, so are we. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)
Eric Nordstrom, who worked at the Benghazi consulate on the day it was attacked, choked up during Wednesday's hearings. 'It matters,' he said, that the committee investigate what happened before, during, and after the siege.
Corry Booker’s the hero mayor of Newark, and, yes, he’s running for Senate. By Lloyd Grove
The president’s push for $9 an hour has the GOP on the defensive. Eleanor Clift on the strategy behind the move. But this push could take the politics out of the perennial argument.
Meet the new Treasury secretary, same as the old Treasury secretary. Lloyd Green on nominee Jack Lew.
For John Kael Weston and other men on the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan drone strikes raise many uncomfortable questions. He writes on why we need clearer policy and guidelines for these silent killers.