North’s law of knee-jerk politics is this: “When you become a knee-jerk politician, you will eventually shoot yourself in the foot.” This is what President Obama has just done. He has decided that he is going to make gun control one of his two major issues.
The first issue is getting the House of Representatives to raise the debt ceiling. He has made it clear that he will not compromise in any way.
This is a safe political battle. The House of Representatives was willing to pass a bill to hand over $50 billion to Governor Christie and the other pork master governors of the Northeast, whose states got hit by Hurricane Sandy. That made it clear that the House of Representatives has no intention of cutting spending. If you vote to increase spending, and you refuse to vote to increase taxes, then you are committing yourself in full public view to the principle that a rising federal deficit does not matter. The deficit will soar, and the House will not fight this. Therefore, when push comes to shove, the House of Representatives will capitulate to Obama and will raise the debt ceiling.
The second issue is the Sandy Hook issue: a lunatic shot elementary school children in a local public school.
On this issue, President Obama shot from the hip. From what I can see, he has shot himself in the foot. He is telling Republicans in the House of Representatives that they must vote for a series of bans on assault rifles and accompanying paraphernalia.
Why do Republicans in the House have to do this? When almost half of American households own guns, and gun owners tend to be single-issue voters, why would it benefit House Republicans to capitulate to the President on this issue? He then becomes the great winner, and they become obvious losers. What incentive do they have to become visible losers?
Republicans in the House of Representatives who take a stand against Obama on this issue are going to make major swing voters in their districts very happy. But if they capitulate to him, they are going to make this same group of swing voters very unhappy. Congressmen are able to count noses. They know where their bread is buttered. Republicans’ bread is buttered on the side of the Second Amendment.
Obama has made a strategic error. He has said that he will overcome Congressional resistance by issuing executive orders. The average American does not know about executive orders. He has not heard that the President of the United States is in effect is a legislator, not merely an executive.
The next thing you know, some of them are going to find out the President is also a judge. The bureaucratic positions under executive authority which are known collectively as “administrative law judges” are a manifestation of executive power. The administrative law judge undermines the Western concept of law. That fact was made clear 30 years ago by Harvard professor Harold Berman, in his book Law and Revolution. In the introduction to that book, he made it plain that administrative law judges represent a break with the entire Western legal tradition. Obama will use administrative law judges to enforce his position on gun control.
When we look at the executive orders that Obama has signed, we see that they are exercises in impotence with respect to the gun control issue. They involve bureaucratic spending on irrelevant research boondoggles that one agency or another has cooked up to justify its existence. These executive orders represent no threat whatsoever to gun owners.
This being the case, it becomes clear that Obama is overplaying his hand. He is claiming to have the power to override Congressional resistance, but the actual executive orders indicate impotence on his part.
He has now given the National Rifle Association the greatest membership drive opportunity that it has had in two decades. The NRA plans to add one million names to its membership list. This is not out of the question. The NRA has said that this fight will be the fight of the century. I do not think there is going to be much of a fight at all. There is going to be a terrific fund-raising drive for the NRA, and Obama is going to come away empty-handed. This is going to prove that he does not have the votes in the House.
I think I understand why he is doing this. I think he has been forced into this by the Democrats’ position on disarming the citizenry. He knows he can’t win this battle, but he is supposed to go through the motions. He is now playing front man for Joe Biden, which is not a role he covets. But his knee-jerk supporters are forcing his hand — or maybe forcing his foot. “Look! My knee jerks just as spasmodically as yours does,” he is telling them.
Knee-jerk liberals have problems with jerking knees. The gun control issue is a classic knee-jerk issue for liberals. They simply cannot stop demanding gun control in the aftermath of some lunatic, suicidal maniac who gets his hands on guns and kills people. Liberals know that maniacs will still get their hands on guns despite gun control laws, and so will gang members. But, when you are a knee-jerk politician, you jerk your knee, no matter what.
Obama is going to demonstrate in full public view two things. First, he is going to demonstrate for everybody to see that his executive orders are all rhetoric, no substance. Second, he is going to demonstrate for everybody to see that the Republicans in the House of Representatives can keep him from achieving his goals on gun control.
He is squandering political capital on a fight he cannot win. But the jerking knees behind him have kicked him into action.