This week, Wayne LaPierre and the GOP proved I've been wrong about the right wing. All these years I've thought the guys on the right were smart. But faced with 27 coffins in Newtown, Ct.-- 20 of them tiny--the NRA executive vice president and his Republican friends displayed the worst tin ears in American politics.
Almost everyone knows LaPierre's suggestion to put armed guards in schools is easily demolished. As my old friend Mike Kane points out, armed guards don't stop bank robberies, mall shootings, or casino heists. Before some of you dismiss Mike because he's your typical gun-hating liberal: Mike's a retired Army colonel.
While LaPierre was speaking, a man shot up a church in rural Pennsylvania and killed three people--one while she was decorating the Christmas tree. Three Pennsylvania troopers were wounded before they took him down.
In fairness, LaPierre couldn't have possibly known events were showing everybody what the real stakes are; but that matters not a whit, because very clearly, LaPierre didn't think things through before he got behind the podium. Example: It apparently didn't occur to him that he was calling for a big tax hike. Putting armed guards in every school would cost about $7 billion--$80,000 a year for each of America's 91,000 schools, not counting colleges or universities.
It gets much more bizarre. The wound that shooter Adam Lanza opened wasn't just about the blood of 20 children, their teachers, and his mother: It plugged into all the other wounds we carry because we live in 2012, in a world that serves up gun deaths like hamburgers, that screams at us day and night, that so offends our sense of what should be that we can barely look at each other anymore and spend much of our time peering into various glowing screens spewing God knows what.
Given that, the nation is in no mood to find the money someplace and make the new taxes revenue neutral. More likely, we'd find the money by laying a user fee on owners of assault weapons, semi-auto pistols with big magazines, silencers, and the like--maybe with a surcharge levied every time there's a mass shooting--and with an amendment repealing the 2005 law shielding gun manufacturers from liability when their products are used in crimes.
You can imagine how popular that would be with the NRA membership. Next thing you'd know, LaPierre would be imitating Sen. Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) and opposing his own proposal. Because obviously, LaPierre wasn't serious--just hoping to muddy the waters, change the subject, and seem to be doing something.
Instead, he ensured that almost no one will take him seriously again. And since the NRA is welded to the GOP, he's taken it with him. You can almost hear the politicians saying that as far as the GOP goes the right to life doesn't extend to the living.
When you pair LaPierre's appearance with the collapse of the House Republicans' so-called Plan B to avert the fiscal cliff--a crisis they created in August 2011 by refusing at gun-point to allow a routine rise in the debt ceiling--it's clear that the wheels are completely off the right wing enterprise.
What they are telling the country by what they're doing is that they're uninterested in governing, and therefore can't be trusted with the reins of government. This shouldn't be surprising, since at bottom, the right's most extreme elements, routinely described by an over-polite press as "libertarian", don't really believe in government.
That in itself is fine: This is America and we're all entitled to our boneheaded ideas. But people run for office to govern, and no one's yet explained why someone who doesn't believe in governing should be in government. Unsurprisingly, little is heard on this question.
Meanwhile, the GOP's right wing is spoiling for a divorce, and there are plenty in what's left of the mainstream GOP who'd welcome one.
What said divorce will create, of course, is two small, narrow rump parties incapable of commanding a national base, followed by the disappearance of at least one of them, and the rise of a new party to represent the GOP's natural constituency--the nation's rich, and its business interests.
Maybe when that happens we can return to grappling with the many problems that right wing-inspired policy has allowed to fester, and now threaten to overwhelm us. Then, perhaps, we can begin addressing the many very large problems that will come in train with the approaching future.
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