Poltical Report: Bullying Bloomberg's Bubble Gets Burst

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

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POLITICAL REPORT

CHRIS COX, NRA-ILA Executive Director

Bullying Bloomberg's Bubble Gets Burst

Congratulations are due once again to you and your fellow NRA members. When New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg came to Washington, D.C. in an all-out effort to strip the Tiahrt Amendment from a government spending bill, you handed him a crash course in civics--and civility.

Bloomberg is fixated on undermining the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, and then pushing forward with a new round of baseless lawsuits against the firearm industry and perhaps even against you--the industry's customers. But to do so, he must first eliminate the privacy protections of the Tiahrt Amendment, which prohibit fishing expeditions into the sensitive trace data maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (batfe).

Bloomberg was not troubled by the vehement law enforcement opposition to his position. Both batfe and the Fraternal Order of Police (fop), the nation's single largest group of rank-and-file officers, wrote letters to Congress to express their deep opposition to the mayor's gambit. Bloomberg responded by calling the fop a "fringe group."

Bloomberg fell victim to the tunnel vision of a politician from a big city who bounces back and forth between the coasts.

Bloomberg instead relied upon the only way he knows to win political battles--by buying the outcome. His campaign for mayor was one of the most expensive in history, with more than $90 spent per vote.

So he went about trying to buy the outcome of the vote in Congress by spending vast sums on advertising in the home districts of key lawmakers. His ads painted his targeted law-makers as anti-law enforcement, despite the clear positions of both fop and batfe. Some stations refused to air the ads because they were clearly deceptive, but others gladly took the money and ran the ads. Bloomberg threatened to run these ads against other lawmakers as well.

Bloomberg must have figured he had the battle won in a cinch. He had rallied 200 other big-city mayors to his cause, he had paid for blanket advertising in support of his position and the anti-gun national media was parroting his talking points in editorials and articles. To a slick city politician, the formula must have seemed unbeatable.

But, as Bloomberg would soon learn, that's not what wins votes in Congress. Bloomberg fell victim to the tunnel vision of a politician from a big city who bounces back and forth between the coasts. Bloomberg's website proudly displays a map of mayors who support his campaign, and it brings to mind the boys and girls at a junior high dance--clusters huddled on both coasts and only a few specks coloring the vast distance in between. But the vast "fly-over" country above which Bloomberg speeds in his private jet holds more than farmland and wildlife--it holds voters, and lots of them. And the 535 hardworking men and women of the U.S. Congress care far more deeply about the opinions of voters in their states than about orders and threats barked by a big city mayor from half a continent away.

In the Senate, Bloomberg thought he had made progress. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., gladly stripped the Tiahrt language from the spending bill that originated in the subcommittee she chairs.

But other opinions awaited Bloomberg in the full Senate Appropriations Committee, where Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., offered an amendment to not only reinstate the Tiahrt language, but to strengthen it considerably. Shelby's amendment passed with broad bipartisan support. Bloomberg's allies, Sens. Lautenberg, d-n.j., and Feinstein, d-Calif., mounted a last-ditch effort to gut the Shelby language, but this, too, was rejected by the committee.

In the House, the Tiahrt language survived through subcommittee, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Chairman Alan Mollohan, D-W.V. But Bloomberg's henchmen lay in wait in the full House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., led the charge with a provision to delete the Tiahrt language entirely. The day before the committee meeting, Moran predicted he was within one vote of victory, but after hours of fierce debate, his amendment was defeated on a routine voice vote. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., followed up with an amendment painted as a "compromise," but it would have made trace data available to anyone simply for the asking. His amendment was defeated by a bipartisan vote of 40-26.

Bloomberg issued his typical condemnations of Congress, saying in a statement, "Today's vote by the House Appropriations Committee is a profound disappointment. It shows that Congress is out of step with the bipartisan coalition of mayors, police chiefs and other Americans from all over the country that united behind a common-sense issue."

But House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wisc., had a different take. He made a public statement for the record in the committee hearing, saying, "The mayor's staff came into my office, and rather than discuss the merits, they simply did what so many bullies do . . . they threatened to run ads in my district if I didn't bow to their wishes," according to a committee transcript. "I don't react very well to bullying, and I don't react very well to threats," Obey said.

So the lesson for Bloomberg has several facets. Threats and bullying do not make friends and influence people on Capitol Hill. In fact, they do quite the opposite. And the editorial opinions of the national media also mean little to most members of Congress. The Washington Post and The New York Times don't vote in elections. Lawmakers are far more interested in the opinions expressed by their hometown papers, and even more so in the opinions of constituents and voters in their district.

We have long known and practiced the truth. The grassroots support of millions of Americans means everything. When those Americans are concerned about an issue, willing to speak their mind politely to their lawmakers and-- most importantly--make voting decisions based on that issue, politicians will listen.

And if, indeed, Bloomberg runs for president as an independent, we may get a chance to teach him this truth directly.

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