As the White House prepares to unveil its gun-violence proposals Tuesday, the National Rifle Association has released an attack ad calling President Obama an "elitist hypocrite" for having armed protection of his daughters but not believing that putting an armed guard in every public school in America is the only way to stop school shootings. "Are the president’s kids more important than yours?" the ad asks. The ad has succeeded in that it is getting a lot of attention, and failed in that it is scaring the straights. Specifically, a core interest group in American politics: parents.
At National Journal, Ron Fournier asks if the NRA has gone too far, writing that the ad "is indisputably misleading, and is arguably a dangerous appeal to the base instincts of gun-rights activists." On MSNBC, Joe Scarborough asked, "What’s wrong with these people?" His co-host Mika Brzezinski replied, "They are out of step, out of the mainstream, totally out of sync with what’s going on in our society, and quite frankly after seeing that, I think some of the people who run that thing are sick." Real Clear Politics contributor and Bush family cousin John Ellis tweeted, "The iron-clad rule is you leave the kids out of it. No longer an iron-clad rule. Politics just keeps getting worse."
The NRA's opponents marveled at the group's ad. "You have to wonder if they've got competent management," a senior administration official told National Journal. Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said on MSNBC, "I mean, it is disgusting on many levels... It’s also just stupid... This reminds me of an ad that somebody made about 2:00 in the morning after one too many drinks, and no one stopped it in the morning."
As was the case with its press conference following the Newtown shooting, this attack line might sound like a new low, but it's not actually new. It's another idea that's so stale it's featured on countless Facebook memes. At right is one of the many we spotted in December.
If the ad is a sign the gun control debate is entering a new phase in which we'll see more campaign-style tactics, Gibbs seemed to welcome it. "The president has the most exciting campaign apparatus ever built. It's time to turn that loose," Gibbs said. He speculated that the NRA had been telling members of Congress exactly how many new people had joined the NRA in their districts since the Newtown shooting. But Gibbs said Obama has more names: "If the NRA has a list, then Obama for America has a bigger list."
Update: The NRA has responded to the criticism. Spokesman Andrew Arulanandam issued a statement saying, "Whoever thinks the ad is about President Obama's daughters are missing the point completely or they're trying to change the subject," according to Talking Points Memo. "This ad is about keeping our children safe. And the President said he was skeptical about the NRA proposal to put policemen in all schools in this country. Yet he and his family are beneficiaries of multiple law enforcement officers surrounding them 24 hours a day."
Update II: White House press secretary Jay Carney says, "Most Americans agree that a president's children should not be used as pawns in a political fight."