More From the Clinton Files

Dave Hardy has a follow up article about his visit to the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock published in this month’s America’s First Freedom. This one is also well worth the read.

The Brady Campaign’s correspondence with the Clinton White House, revealed here for the first time, illustrates how well and persistently it has stuck with the agenda laid out by its first real leader. The goal is to make handgun ownership illegal: Along the way, remember that half a loaf is better than none, and if you have to, settle for just a slice. Take whatever you can get, and keep on asking for more. Anything that makes gun ownership more burdensome or risky is a step toward that goal.

I have linked this before in a news links post, but I would encourage you to read this very frank memo Dave found, from Jody Powell to George Stephanopoulos in 1994 speaking of the risks of pursuing the gun control agenda. In addition to the letter, it also includes gun control proposals that the previous version I linked did not include. I will quote from the letter:

In my humble estimation, the reason we never get the political benefit from gun control that the polls seem to promise is because our proposals are substantively weak. We have yet to propose anything that people believe will make any difference. The people who are generally for gun control don’t make it a voting issue because it has no real impact on their lives. On the other hand. the inconvenience and hassle of wading through another round with indifferent and incompetent bureaucrats and the fear that this is only the first step toward more radical measures are quite real to people who own guns. As much as I hate to say it, the NRA is effective primarily because it is largely right when it claims that most gun control laws inconvenience and threaten the law-abiding while having little or no impact on violent crime or criminals.

Read the whole thing. It’s quite an eye opener. The Clinton White House obviously went ahead with some of these proposals, resulting in the federal assault weapons ban in September of that year. Powell asked the Clinton Administration to consider carefully what the consequences could be of pursuing this agenda:

I support registration in principle. But two questions need to be asked. Are the people causing the problem going to comply voluntarily? If not, do you have a way to effectively enforce compliance? If the answer is “no” in both cases. consider whether the benefits are worth making Bob Dole majority leader.

And in 1994, Bob Dole would indeed became Senate Majority Leader. Obviously Powell supported many of these policies, but he understood the issue well, and tried to communicate the dynamic to the White House. The Obama Administration was a picnic in the park compared to the Clinton Administration. Unlike Obama, Clinton knew how to work Congress. Obviously Clinton did not achieve half of what he and the Brady Campaign wanted to accomplish, but he accomplished much much more than Obama.

7 Responses to “More From the Clinton Files”

  1. countertop says:

    Over reach is always the biggest issue. The one that will eventually destroy your credibility, and without credibility, you and your issue get destroyed.

    Jody Powell hit the nail on the head, and he was absolutely correct not just in how the framing of the issue would be a political loser but in how it would have long term impacts on their credibility.

    My fear, after watching what I thought was Obama’s very good town hall performance on guns, is that we worked ourselves up so much that our response to Obama’s nothingburger of a gun proposal played right into his hands. We are screaming about taking guns away, and meanwhile Obama proposed nothing of the sort. End result, the pro RKBA crowd looks like its nuts. The other side comes across as far more reasonable.

    Now, thankfully, they can’t help themselves. And our overheated response to Obama doing pretty much nothing didn’t completely blow up in our faces, because as Charles Blow points out in the New York Times (still shaking my head over it) the left continues to use language and signals that completely justifies our reaction. But I’m wondering, is all that talk about supporting what Australia did really just designed to sucker us into a trap, and amush waiting to happen.

    We escaped this time, but if they next time we resond just as forcefully and accuse Obama of actions just as diabolical as in his town hall, will we begin to loose the trust of others regarding our concerns and the high ground we have occupied on this issue for so long.

    Just a thought.

  2. Excellent job of finding meaningful source material which reflects thoughtful Liberal attitudes toward gun control.

    Jody Powell hit the nail square; if the Party of Disarming America is to achieve their goal, they need to find an argument which would be effective in removing firearms from those who are the source of firearms violence.

    And there is no clear way of doing that, so … they’re screwed.

    To put the text into perspective, though, it might be educational to include the following quote:

    [begin quote]
    “I would like nothing better than to help kick the NRA’s butt. With good substance and decent positioning I think it can be done. I also think it would be possible to put together a strong,
    well-financed coalition that goes well’,beyond the traditional gun control groups. Indeed. I think such a coalition is critical. You really don’t want the traditional groups as the principal leaders.
    Though I have supported and contrib,uted [sic] to some of them, their ineffectiveness is demonstrable and the goals of some are not consistent with the best interests of the administration.”

    [end quote]

    Note that the espoused goal is not to “stop firearms violence” but to “Kick NRA’s Butt”!

    Just because there are a few Liberals who intellectually understand the reasons why their agenda is not as effectively presented as it might be, that should not fool the reader into thinking that they are willing to be “reasonable” about the dialogue between pro-gun and anti-gun causes.

    They never want compromise .. unless it is unilateral.

    • Sebastian says:

      Note that the espoused goal is not to “stop firearms violence” but to “Kick NRA’s Butt”!

      I’m glad you picked up on that. That’s a partisan instinct. There’s a lot of rah rah team in DC. The merits of NRA’s arguments don’t matter. What matters is they tend to hurt our team, so I want to “kick NRA’s butt.” Ideologically Powell probably wasn’t an ideological or doctrinaire gun control supporter, but they weren’t on his “team” so screw them. A lot of partisans are “ra ra team” types.

  3. Sam P says:

    In the Clinton timeframe, there were a significant number of generally pro-gun Democrats in Congress, they were slaughtered in the 2010 election, probably due to helping passing PPACA (“Obamacare”). Were they the reason the sunset provisions were inserted into the Federal Assault Weapons Ban?

    • Brad says:

      Even with Clinton twisting arms, there was barely enough votes to pass the 94 ban in the House of Representatives. The sunset provision probably was a concession to get enough votes.

      • Joe Huffman says:

        And even then Speaker of the House Foley did not close the vote until about 10 minutes after the clock ran out. I was watching it live. I thought we won when the end of the time allowed for voting was reached and they didn’t have enough votes. My, and those of many others, fury over Foley waiting those extra minutes cost him his seat.

  4. And yet some forces on our side keep clinging to an All or Nothing strategy that they back up with come and take it public antics.