Clinton’s giant deception
AUGUST 11, 1994. THE DAY BILL CLINTON WAS WAITING FOR.
His “tough, smart” crime bill and his gun ban were going to pass the House of Representatives. The victory would give Clinton the momentum he needed to push through his healthcare plan–and his 10,000% tax increase on ammo.
“We’ll win it,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Richardson (D-NM). “We have the votes,” said U.S. Rep. David Bonior (D-MI), majority whip. All was well. But not for long. By a vote of 225 to 210, the House voted against voting on the bill.
More than a procedural vote, more than an ambush, it was a high-order political explosion set off by a sneak attack, and the tremors shook the Clinton White House to its very foundation.
The question is, who was responsible?
The press called it “a startling defeat” that left a president “sputtering with anger” and congressional leadership “so stunned at their loss that they could hardly explain their gross miscalculation.”
But who put the ordnance on target?
The most powerful newspaper in the nation’s Capitol, hardly a friend to gun owners, didn’t mince words about what this vote meant to Bill Clinton. It was “the biggest legislative defeat of his presidency.”
Who did it?
The 3.4 million patriots who are the National Rifle Association of America.
NRA: OFF THE RADAR, ON THE WARPATH
“In early August, all the self-proclaimed experts believed the crime bill would pass without any serious threat, and certainly not a threat from the NRA,” said Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president. “We proved them wrong, and we showed this bill for what it was — a fraud.”
Check the newspapers back in early August for stories about NRA’s political activity. You’ll come up almost empty-handed. Sure, NRA lobbyists were plying the halls and offices of Congress. No question, NRA members were firing off letters and phone calls urging Congress to vote against any gun ban in any form.
But Clinton’s sentries–the big-city, no-guns, know-it-all media elite –didn’t catch on. Given up for dead, the NRA was off their political radar screens. But in fact, NRA was on the political warpath.
“Since February of this year, NRA has been on a war-footing,” said Tanya Metaksa, executive director, NRA Institute for Legislative Action. “And while we will continue that operating tempo through the November general elections, we had the throttle wide open in late Tuly and August.”
In many ways, the Metaksa operation which gave Clinton his biggest legislative defeat was akin to a military operation. “Half civil war cavalry and half modern-day SEAL team,” she said.
Stealth was key. Clinton didn’t have a clue that his sentries were being skirted or that his pickets were being picked off. American patriots were operating well behind the politicians’ lines of battle, drumming up opposition to a sick joke of a crime bill, forming new allies and getting stronger every day.
MORE FLAGS FLY IN OPPOSITION
NRA CrimeStrike spent months building a wide range of groups and individuals that supported genuine criminal justice reform and opposed the prorams in the crime bill mislabeled “prevention.” Chief architect of the coalition effort was NRA’s Rick Sellers, chairman of NRA CrimeStrike. “Our job was to tell the American people and Congress that this was not a crime bill, because it didn’t focus on criminals. Gun bans don’t impact criminals any more than dance lessons, yet this bill tries to fight criminals with both at a cost of billions of dollars.”
NRA public affairs and NRA-ILA communications personnel sent opinion editorials to newspapers and talk shows hosts. CrimeStrike shared crime bill analyses with many groups and individuals, broadening the base of opposition. “It was non-stop activity,” said ILA communications director Bill McIntyre. “We were in near-constant contact with news media.”
As August 11 approached, more and more flags flew in opposition to the bill. Democratic and Republican members of Congress. Think-tanks like the Cato Institute and Americans for Tax Reform. The editorial pages of The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Stveet Journal. Also pushing hard were associations of professionals who make up the entire spectrum of public servants who fight crime–rank-and-file police officers, district attorneys and correctional officers.
“NRA members, of course, formed the core of the assault team,” said Metaksa. “They were the ones who made the calls, letters and visits to congressmen.” One indication of member activity was found in NRA-ILA’s Grassroots Division, the central nervous system of NRA member communications and clout. “We were handling an absolutely unprecedented number of calls and letters, mostly from members reporting what theve done and seeking more information,” said Catherine Grant, division director. “We haven’t stopped since February.”
“A majority of Americans were behind us,” Metaksa affirmed. “They began to ask, ‘Tough? Smart? Wait a minute. These are politicians we’re talking about!”
From August 4 through 9, pollster Frank Luntz surveyed 1,000 registered voters nationwide and found that the more Americans learned about the bill, the more they disliked it. A day before the vote, the Washington Times interviewed chiefs of police in the D.C. area and found the same result. Referring to one local chief, the Times wrote, “The more he learns about the provisions of the crime bill, the less hopeful he becomes.”
“There was, and is, a lot to dislike,” said Elizabeth Swasey, senior policy counsel, NRA CrimeStrike, who with her staff played a central role in analyzing the crime bill and developing remedies to its many ailments. “It was full of pork, not crime-stopping power,” she said. Millions of dollars to teach muggers how to paint and rapists how to waltz. Billions for prison remodeling, not prison-building. A billion-dollar slush fund for Janet Reno to build “collaborative structures,” whatever they are. And, of course, a gun ban.
NRA members fought hard to deliver crushing broadsides to the most anti-gun president in U.S. history. After victory was denied him August 11, Clinton pounded the pavement for days to revive his bill and restart his presidency.
THE WILL OF GOD, THE VOICE OF M0SES
At a police convention in Minneapolis, Bill Clinton said it was the will of cops that the bill pass. That’s odd, because most police prefer prison-building. But the bill allows all $8 billion in “prison-building” to be spent on remodeling and improving existing prisons.
In the Rose Garden, it was the will of crime victims that the bill pass. Not odd at all. Because one crime victim standing with Ciinton was a fugitive from justice wanted for violating probation for felony drug charges. Janice Payne had been sought for almost a year when Louisiana authorities saw her on TV next to the president. One of those authorities reached for the telephone and called NRA to right the wrong. NRA alerted the press, and, within hours, the nation learned the credentials of Clinton’s newest crime bill supporter. Ms. Payne’s support was not surprising, as the bill provides get-out-of-jail-free cards to drug traffickers.
On Sunday, August 14 at an African-American church in suburban Maryland, Clinton said it was the “will of God” that the bill pass. That’s odd indeed. The bill’s 30 million Family and Community Endeavor Schools (F.A.C.E.S.) program teaches lifestyles to youth-at-risk, but forbids teaching religious values like, “Thou shall not kill.”
Then NRA TV commercials hit the airwaves. Attacking the bill’s police and prison frauds and the many benefits the bill offers to drug traffickers and sex offenders, NRA Honorary Life Member Charlton Heston warned, “What President Clinton is not telling you about the crime bill shoul be a crime. Almost a third of it is for social programs … and kid’s programs that can teach thou shalt not use dirty drug needles, but can’t teach thou shalt not kill.”
A CRIMESTRIKE-STYLE CRIME BILL
On Saturday morning, August 20, U.S. Rep. Bill Brewster (D-OK) and U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) introduced a lean, mean crime bill NRA CrimeStrike helped craft: all cops, all prisons, no pork, no useless gun bans. Exhausted from dusk-to-dawn meetings with lawmakers, NRA-ILA staff kept working around the clock to encourage lawmakers to support the Brewster-Hunter bill. By midnight, the Brewster-Hunter bill had more than 180 cosponsors.
A House vote was planned shortly before midnight Saturday, but the Brewster-Hunter success spooked the White House, and Clinton cronies cancelled the scheduled vote. On Sunday afternoon, the critical vote–on whether to allow the crime bill to be voted on–went to the anti-gunners’ favor, 238-189. A vote to send that bill back to committee in favor of the Brewster-Hunter bill failed 232-197.
POWER, PR AND A POSSIBLE INVASION
Meanwhile, in exchange for a pro-Clinton vote on the crime bill, the Clinton White House had been offering public relations services, gambling casinos and, some speculate, an invasion force. In fact, deal-making was rampant before and after the August 11 vote.
The Associated Press reporttd that a White House aide called U.S. Rep. Peter Torkildsen (R-MA), who voted against the bill, and offered to “influence Boston Globe columnist Thomas Oliphant [who criticizied Torkildsen’s NO vote] in exchange for a favorable vote on the bill.”
A staff aide to U.S. Rep. Barbara-Rose Collins (D-MI) called Tony Hope, who chairs the National Indian Gaming Commission. The Collins staffer asked Hope about “the casino that was going to happen now”–now that Collins, a black Caucus member, had switched her vote on the crime bill to YES. If Clinton would intervene to approve a proposal by Chippewa Indians to operate a gambling casino in Collins’ downtown Detroit district, Collins would vote YES on the bill.
An earlier Detroit casino plan had been rejected after two years of study. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt approved the latest Detroit plan in three days, on Augs 18.
After Clinton’s mid-September broadcast on plans to invade Haiti, columnist Cal Thomas wrote, “It is not stretching things to speculate that the [congressional Black Caucus may have traded support for the crime bill and health care for an admistration promise to invade tiny Haiti.”
“This is the way Washington ought to work,” Bill Clinton would say when the crime bill passed the House August 21, 1994. He signed it into law September 13.
November 8, 1994: THE FINAL SALVO
Yes, guns were banned, but the Clinton presidency is still adrift and taking on water.
Yes, gun rights took fire, but so did this president. Politically, the Administration’s wounds are mortal. While law-abiding gun owners grow stronger, Clinton grows weaker, his agenda evaporating, his congressional clones begging him to stay away from their districts and campaign for someone else. Anyone else.
Clinton lost the very attributes NRA members regained–power and prestige. NRA and its members are using that power and prestige now–pressing the fight to Election Day, when we start getting back what is rightfully ours: our guns, our government, and our constitutional rights.”
Copyright National Rifle Association of America Oct 20, 1994
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.