Sullivan Confirmation

Like a lot of our pro-gun leaders, I definitely don’t have any special affection for Michael Sullivan as director of the ATF. It doesn’t look to me like he’s done much to reform the agency, and I’m not sure he’s the ideal person to have that position. I’d definitely like someone hell bent on reforming the culture there, at all costs, but I doubt you’re ever going to get that out of Bush, who I think has given up on fighting his federal bureaucracies.

In my tradition not hesitating to challenge conventional wisdom on our side, I’m going to stir the pot here a little and suggest that expending time, energy and money in an attempt to defeat Mike Sullivan isn’t really going to accomplish anything. One thing I’ve learned from reading and talking to Dave Hardy, who has a lot of experience working in a federal bureaucracy, is just how little control the political appointees really have over a large agency like ATF. The bureaucracy will do everything it can to conceal facts, and the truth from the people the President appoints to run the agencies, to the point where it’s difficult to even know what needs to be reformed and where there are problems that need addressing.

We could expend a lot of energy, time and money, which are all limited resources, in a mad effort to defeat Mike Sullivan, which will cause Bush to appoint another appointee, who will likely have similar qualities, and also will have little ability or incentive to reform the agency. And that’s if we win. I think our chances of winning on this are virtually zero, because the Republicans aren’t going ot want to deny the president his nominee, and the Democrats aren’t going to scuttle a nominee unless it benefits them politically, which it doesn’t in this case.

So I’m going to put the onus on those of you who are demanding action. Why is this worth pulling out all the stops for? I’m willing to be convinced. But right now I think our energy is best spent making sure pro-gun candidates get elected in the primaries, and in 2008. Getting more pro-gun candidates elected puts us in a better position to push measures through Congress to strip ATF of the powers its been abusing. As much as I think it would be nice to get a real reformer in ATF, I don’t think you’re getting that out of Bush.

UPDATE: Well, it’s not an outright defeat of Sullivan, but I think Senator Craig and Senator Crapo just convinced me that maybe I shouldn’t be too quick to question the value of something that motivates enough grass roots to get this kind of action. Pretty clearly my mistake was not seeing that it could prompt action less than outright defeat of Sullivan, but still something that moved the issue forward. Pretty clearly I was wrong.

25 thoughts on “Sullivan Confirmation”

  1. I do agree with your solution long term. However, the reason to fight Sullivan’s appointment is because if we don’t join battle politically that only leaves one option besides slavery. And you know what that is. Two things nobody wants.

    I put the onus back on you to tell me how much time we have between now and the total destruction of 2A rights under a Sullivan. If you can’t tell me how much time we have to try your long term solution, don’t you think we should at least fight some delaying actions?

  2. I’m not sure this is a delaying action as much as going over the top and charging the machine guns. I don’t think defeating Sullivan is politically achievable, and even if by some miracle, we achieved it, we’d still be faced with Bush appointing another guy who isn’t going to fight for gun owners.

    It would take someone seriously committed to reform in the agency to even budge the bureaucracy an inch. I look at a lot of the other failed agency heads Bush put up to reform agencies like the CIA, who failed, and end up politically dead because of the fight.

    I really do think the only way to reform ATF is to abolish it, or strip it of much of the power it’s been abusing.

  3. I think it might be worth it for the symbolic victory if we can make it happen. Even if the net affect at the ATF is near zero, if it strengthens the image of gun rights as something that must be respected at all costs, it’s worth it. And even if we don’t defeat him, can we make it a Pyrrhic victory? And I’d rather have a director at ATF that is ineffective at reforming the agency than one that has no intention of reforming it and actively colludes in trampling our rights. I’m thinking the only way to lose this battle is to not fight it or to half-heartedly fight it.

  4. I think that’s a good argument, but it’s always a trade off. If too many gun owners spend their energy fighting un-winnable battles, that at best will get you a Pyrric victory, at the expense of other battles that are winnable, we’re not really getting ourselves anywhere. I haven’t focused much on the Sullivan fight because there are other things going on in Pennsylvania right now that I think take precedence, and are consuming a lot of my time staying on top of. I wouldn’t criticize anyone who gets fired up by the Sullivan deal, and fights to defeat his nomination, but I’m not sure I’d criticize someone who doesn’t. It’s not an issue that really rouses me, and it’s taken me a few weeks to be able to put into words exactly why.

  5. Put it this way. The North Vietnamese couldn’t win. There was no reason for them to keep expending their energy and resources fighting unwinnable battles. And, by God, they never won one. They never beat us on the battlefield.

    But who ended up with what they wanted and who went home defeated?

    I hope that lesson is not lost on you, the next time you ask yourself such a question. As a nation we don’t seemed to have learned it. We should have.

  6. Fighting tires both sides out though, and while we’re more energetic than the other side in that regard, I do think the battles need to be picked carefully. I’m not sure I like what I win if I defeat Sullivan, which is another Bush nominee, that the Democrats who control the Senate find acceptable, and who will also be very unlikely to be a reformer.

    Maybe I’m too skeptical of Bush at this point to have much faith in him, but I’d rather focus on making sure we don’t end up with someone in the white house who will unleash the ATF on gun owners and dealers like the hounds of hell.

    Of course, with Fred fizzling out, I may just have to get behind Ron Paul. Huckabee is good on guns, but not much else.

  7. Who’s expending a tremendous amount of time and energy?

    It costs us literally nothing–a letter or email on each of our part–if that’s too much to ask, if we’re that incapable of multitasking, if we have that little to give to “the cause,” then we’re doomed anyway and it doesn’t matter.

  8. In my mind was a lot of criticism I hear of other pro-gun groups, and NRA in particular, for not getting behind the fight, which for them would be a resource expenditure. It would also guarantee that Sullivan has absolutely no reason to work with us when he’s inevitably confirmed, and I do think it’s inevitable based on the makeup of the Senate and the committee, pretty much no matter what we do.

    You’re right, that it shouldn’t take that much effort to send a letter. But I fear that a lot of folks honestly aren’t that motivated, or have a lot else on their mind. If I can get folks to write one letter, I’m hoping it’ll be to their state reps in Pennsylvania to get Castle Doctrine through, which has a chance to pass, even if Fast Eddie vetoes it. Maybe I’m not giving folks enough credit.

  9. but I’d rather focus on making sure we don’t end up with someone in the white house who will unleash the ATF on gun owners and dealers like the hounds of hell. – Sebastian.

    You might want to ask Ryan about that distinction. Sure seems to be a lot of preemptive surrender in your philosophy as a way to avoid defeat. I really don’t get it.

  10. So we go over the top and hit the machine gun nest eh? I’m not advocating preemptive surrender. I’m saying taking out Sullivan isn’t going to happen, and even if we did, I’m not sure there’s really any prize there.

    There are some battles you’re just not going to win. Fighting Sullivan isn’t going to get the heat off Ryan.

  11. It may not, but it will put some heat on the elected s.o.b.’s who keep betraying us and their oaths, and since Bush can’t run again, you were aware of that, right(?), it might serve as a shot across the bow of whoever becomes our next president contemplating appointments to federal agencies.

    Not to mention the amount of time our elected s.o.b’s won’t have for causing other mayhem while fighting this fight. If they had to face this type of resistance from the voters every time they tried to saddle us with a damn boot licking authoritarian drone they just might decide to take an easier path and do the right thing in future.

    This may sound off topic, but I need to ask you a question before going further, just to try to understand your frame of reference and better explain mine. Have you ever been in a physical fight against odds?

  12. The way I see it, bringing Sullivan’s details to light needs to be done. Like I said, anyone who gets the endorsement of both Ted Kennedy and the Brady Bunch* is going to bode ill for us.

    Yes, if the NRA does this, it deos mean an expenditure of resources, but isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?

    We don’t have to fight as much as publicize. Sullivan’s backers speak volumes as to where he stands on gun rights.

    As to the fact that the appointee is kept in the dark, yes, that happens. But with Sullivan, they don’t even need to exclude him, he’s eye-to-eye with the rest of the ATF. Makes their job easier.

    * I realize the Bradies didn’t specifically endorse Sullivan, but saying “give him a chance” is close enough for me.

  13. NRA has staffers getting salaries regardless of what they do, and they put out regular alerts, the content of which costs no more or less no matter what they put into them. A simple one or two paragraph blurb is all it would take.

  14. There’s probably a 50% of a sex scandal knocking him out of power.

  15. I guess I have my answer. Which explains why you cannot even imagine victory unless you have a guarantee.

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