When the NRA went silent after shooting – shutting down it’s facebook and abandoning it’s twitter – conservative communicators were on the fence about whether the NRA had taken the right approach. The majority of the comments being directed at the conservative organization were vile, and it was easier to go dark completely than to spend excessive amounts of time deleting hateful and threatening comments. I disagree with this strategy, but I understand that the NRA did what it thought was necessary.
However, anyone who believes that the NRA’s presser last Friday was a success is completely out of touch with reality. It was a disaster.
LaPierre came off as patronizing and disingenuous. He didn’t seem appropriately upset about the children killed in the Newtown shooting. The NRA put forth an unrealistic plan that supports its own agenda at the expense of conservatives principles – specifically fiscal responsibility and federalism. Our country is about to go over a fiscal cliff because our government has a serious spending problem, and the NRA wants the federal government to create legislation that would require every school to have an armed guard. Likewise, such federal legislation would undermine state and local governments. And because LaPierre did not take questions, listeners were left to fill in the blanks about how the NRA expects the government to pay for all of this.
The press conference was in a word, a trainwreck.
It's amazing how much damage LaPierre is doing to the NRA without even allowing questions.— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) December 21, 2012
The NRA push to federalize school security is a loser for the organization and its cause, primarily because of the federalization.— Joshua Treviño (@jstrevino) December 23, 2012
In his statement LaPierre predicted that the mainstream media wouldn’t have anything positive to say about his speech. He was correct. But it wasn’t just journalists at Wapo and Huffpo who were critical of the the press conference. Countless conservatives also called out LaPierre and the NRA for their wrongheaded tone, timing and temperament.
The NRA clearly didn’t learn from that experience. Sunday morning on “Meet the Press,” LaPierre struck the same tone, attacking the gun control-crazed mainstream media instead of defending the NRA’s plan.
“Look, i know there’s a media machine in this country that wants to blame guns every time something happens, I know there’s an anti-Second Amendment history in in town, for 20 years, they say it’s because Americans own guns,” LaPierre told Gregory.
@nra Wayne LaPierre is wrong spokesperson at wrong time! Comes across as angry grinch, when we need sympathy 4 dead+defender of guns.— Crystal Wright (@GOPBlackChick) December 23, 2012
When asked for specifics about the NRA’s plan, LaPierre was not prepared to answer the most basic questions.
“I’m just trying to test your views here, Mr. LaPierre about how it would actually work,” Gregory said. “How many [police officers] do you think you have to have on campus and where? Is it sufficient to have them at the front of the school?”
“That’s up to our police,” LaPierre said, before repeating his claims from the press conference that the President, media and federal buildings all have armed guards.
But it does matter how many guards the NRA would expect the schools to have. More police equals more money. How much money does the NRA expect this legislation to cost?
When asked about who would pay for this new program, LaPierre had an even worse answer.
“We have all kinds of foreign aid we do. My gosh, we’re doing $2 billion to train the police in Iraq right now,” LaPierre said. “With all the money in the federal budget, if we can’t come up to do this, there’s something wrong.”
In that moment, LaPierre likely lost whatever support he still had among informed conservatives. While conservatives in Congress are fighting the Democratic Party tooth and nail to slash funding for important programs that are already in existence because our country can no longer afford to pay for everyone and everything, the NRA would have Congress write a blank check if it means the NRA can save its hide.
At the end of LaPierre’s “Meet the Press” interview Gregory asked him if he still had the “clout” that he used to. Clearly, he does not. In LaPierre’s own words, there’s obviously “something wrong,” given that the NRA has gotten so much push-back from the Right since the shooting.
That something, is that the NRA needs a new spokesman, a new plan and a new attitude.