Thursday, January 17, 2013

Another Losing Battle: The GOP Takes Up Arms Against Obama's Gun Control Initiative

by Nomad

In the “it would be funny, if it were so embarrassing” files we see this latest entry about Obama's gun control initiative, announced yesterday. 
According to a Florida-based Conservative site, The Shark Tank:
Congressman Steve Stockman from Texas has taken aim against President Obama’s forthcoming executive orders that will further restrict gun rights by “eliminating funding for implementation, defunding the White House, and even filing articles of impeachment” against the President.
A statement like this doesn’t really surprise people anymore. Americans have come to expect this kind of toxic nonsense from Texas. Earlier this month, Stockman took up the NRA’s proposed solution to gun control ( more guns! for everybody!) by introducing a bill that would repeal mandatory “gun-free zones” around schools. 
It’s the usual GOP answer, pile a heap of insanity on top of the mountain of crazy already there and call it done.

After a whisper in his ear, Congressman Stockman has since backed off his threat to file impeachment articles against Obama, according to Raw Story. 
As if thinking aloud, he stated, 
“Impeachment is not something to be taken lightly,It is a grave and serious undertaking that should only be initiated in a sober and serious manner. It should be reserved only for most egregious of trespasses by the President.”
Egregious? meaning lying about elicit hanky-panky in the Oval Office? According the Republican party, egregious trespass does not mean endorsing a policy of torture in breach of United States and International laws? And it does not include illegal domestic surveillance or illegally spending taxpayer money on political campaigns? Those aren't impeachable offenses?  
Incidentally it isn’t the first time the Republicans have thrown around the word “impeachment” without consulting the constitution. Remember this? 

Despite that kind of, sort of retraction, Stockman then said:
“I would consider using Executive Orders to engage in attacks on a constitutionally-protected right and violating his sworn oath of office to be such a trespass. The President cannot issue executive orders depriving the people of full access to an enumerated constitutional right.” 
Stockman added that he did not think it will come to the impeachment of the president. Thank goodness, the Republicans do not need to lose any more time-wasting, losing battles to the Constitutionally well-informed president.

The Shark Tank also reported that Florida Congressman, Trey Radel, a Republican new-be, added his (albeit cagey) support to the idea of impeachment. He stated that “all options should be on the table” and this included impeachment. The problem is, of course, the Republicans are so caught up in their hatred for everything Obama, they have once again lost sight of the main issue. 
Gun Control.

Radel, once an improvisational comedian, actor, radio talk show host and journalist, (all good enough credentials to be a conservative politician, I suppose) said that we, Americans. 
“have completely lost our checks and balances in this country, the Congress needs to hold the President accountable for the decisions that he’s making right now, and that why again, I would say that all options should be on the table.
He might want to consult his copy of the Constitution.
According to the Constitution, there was nothing particularly unusual about what Obama did.

"All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives."

--U.S. Constitution, Art. I, § 1
"The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America."

--U.S. Constitution, Art. II, § 1, cl. 1 
At least, According to Dan Amir, writing for New York Magazine, President Obama issued no executive orders at all. They were in fact, executive actions. And anything a president- the executive- does is technically speaking an executive action.  
But when you take a close look at the initiative, on thing stands out: there's very little imperious  or dictatorial about it. It's all very common sense.
Of course, if you wish to paint the president as a rights-grabbing tyrant, then the word "order" is so much more effective. 

Whether order or action, Constitution Daily, a site operated by the nonpartisan, nonprofit institution, National Constitution Center attempts to shed some light on the legitimacy of “executive orders.” 
According to, the federal government’s official portal, “presidents use executive orders to direct and manage how the federal government operates.”
The order is a directive from the president that has the same power of a federal law. And like a federal law, Congress can pass a new law to override an executive order, subject to a presidential veto.
So despite what Radel believes, the checks and balances are well in place. Even with those options, if the GOP representatives in the House are not willing to work with the president, they are not in a very good position to counter any executive order that the president issues. 
With the Democrats controlling the Senate, the probability of a successful veto would make congressional action on the 23 executive orders difficult at best. The Supreme Court can also overrule an order in the same way it would find a law unconstitutional.
The problem for the Republicans in Congress is a familiar one. They can’t win the argument and they refuse to participate in the discussion. Therefore, with nothing else to do, it is time for them to bring up the infamous “I” word. 

The sad fact of the matter is that the Congressmen and governors who rushed to judgement probably hadn’t even bothered to read the initiative before they declared the commencement of latest impeachment farce. Listening to Stockman and Radel, one seriously wonders if they understand how the US government actually works.
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The New York Times provides a more detailed list of the proposals and executive actions. The proposed Congressional actions are merely recommendations which Congress can accept or reject as they see fit. In any case, rest assured, given the mentality of the Republican-dominated House, none of these legislative proposals will go any further once they leave the Oval office. 

The executive actions, as the article points out, mainly involve agencies sharing information more readily. In spite of the GOP bluster, most of the actions use the words like “starting a ...campaign” and “reviewing the.. standards of...,” “issuing a presidential memorandum,” “starting a national dialogue about..," or ”improving incentives for..” Hardly what you might call bold but then Obama might have assumed- as he always does- that he was working with sane political partners in Congress. 
If anything, gun control advocates could claim that the Obama gun Control initiative is merely political theater, and lacks ambition. 

More interestingly, one could argue that all this Republican bluster is just selling a rather lackluster initiative to the American people who might assume the proposal to have more teeth than it actually does. Besides that, Obama seems to be daring Republican politicians to take up arms (figuratively speaking) against the will of the American people once again.

In a political master-stroke, Obama even dared the Tea Party Congressmen (or whatever they are calling themselves now) to discredit their own political credentials when he cited Ronald Reagan, the very heart and soul of the conservative movement. 
At the announcement and signing, the president said:
“A majority of Americans agree with us on this. And, by the way, so did Ronald Reagan – one of the staunchest defenders of the Second Amendment – who wrote to Congress in 1994 urging them – this is Ronald Reagan speaking – urging them to listen to the public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of military-style assault weapons.” 
It's rewarding to examine the August 28, 1986 statement from Reagan too.
"This is a matter of vital importance to the public safety … While we recognize that assault-weapon legislation will not stop all assault-weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals.”
“I do not believe in taking away the right of the citizen for sporting, for hunting and so forth, or for home defense. But I do believe that an AK-47, a machine gun, is not a sporting weapon or needed for defense of a home.”
“Certain forms of ammunition have no legitimate sporting, recreational, or self-defense use and thus should be prohibited.”
“With the right to bear arms comes a great responsibility to use caution and common sense on handgun purchases.”
“Every year, an average of 9,200 Americans are murdered by handguns, according to Department of Justice statistics. This does not include suicides or the tens of thousands of robberies, rapes and assaults committed with handguns. This level of violence must be stopped.”
“I think maybe there could be some restrictions that there had to be a certain amount of training taken.”
“Well, I think there has to be some gun control.”
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Like the tax reform bill, the House will find itself pitted against the majority of American voters on another divisive issue. According to a recent Pew Research survey, a strong majority of Americans support the president's proposal. (Even the most controversial- an assault weapons ban proposal- can draw a 55% support.) 

So, the only thing left to the radical Republicans is to talk about impeachment and continue to use the corporate-owned media to promote their agenda of obstruction and misrepresentation. 

It is probably exactly what Obama is counting on. With the 2014 mid-term elections on the horizon, it seems like the Republican party has learned nothing-zip- from the last election. 

And what are the NRA-backed, gun-rights promoting Republicans going to say when there is another massacre (God forbid) between now and 2014? What excuses do they plan to make to victims' families when the next Aurora or Columbine happens? 

Are they seriously willing to take that political risk?

It appears they are.