The National Rifle Association just had an amazing victory in defeating a bill to require universal background checks on gun purchases — something it endorsed 15 years ago — and yet the speakers at its 142nd annual convention in Houston sounded awfully bitter. Several speakers devoted part of their speeches to media criticism, saying the big bad MSM had been mean to them. "Those in the media — yeah, you know who I'm talking about — they think they know better than we do, they think they're msarter than us," said Wayne LaPierre, the gun lobby's executive vice president. "Some in the media try to turn us into the bad guys," said Rick Perry, the gun toting Texas governor. "Acronyms," Sarah Palin said, like MSNBC, CBS, ABC, "one day they will think themselves accursed that they were not in this fight with us."
On Friday, the convention felt like a mini-CPAC, in that several potential presidential candidates took turns on the stage — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Perry — or appeared in video form, as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan did. Perhaps that explains the feeling of doom amid glorious triumph, because the gun legislation victory came just a few months after devastating electoral defeat. And so there were many displays of masculine swagger, enough to show that all these tough young guns could take on all of the week young gun-grabbers currently occupying the White House. Perry was introduced with a comically over-the-top video of himself showing great manliness while shooting at targets and wearing safety equipment. There's that GIF above, but you need the Ted Nugent soundtrack for full effect:
Cruz dared Vice President Joe Biden to debate the cause of crime. Referring to Biden's statement in February — "If you want to protect yourself get a double barrel shotgun, you don't need an AR-15" — Cruz responded that would be "very useful if it so happens you're being attacked by a flock of geese." (OK, just to be jerky in exactly the same way Cruz is, a shotgun is a very powerful weapon. And not just when birds are involved! Here's a discussion on an AR-15 fan site message board: "Self defense against bears. Shotgun vs rifle?") Cruz also had a George Costanza-esque weeks-late comeback to California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who said, "I am not a sixth-grader" when Cruz lectured her on the Bill of Rights. "Well, you know what? I'm not a sixth-grader, either." Zing.
Sarah Palin, as you might expect, was the sorest loser of them all. "We have a mainstream media that tore apart another president for using fleeting images of the 9/11 attacks in campaign ads" who claimed he was "exploiting tragedy for political gain," Palin said. And now? It's a "reliable poodle-skirted cheerleader for the president who writes the book on exploding tragedy." Yes, Aurora and Newtown were terrible tragedies. But, she said, "We could use a bit more emotion, by the way, about what goes on on the streets of cities like Chicago and New York!" (In 2012, there were 419 murders in New York City, which has a population of 8.2 million. The murder rate dropped again in the first quarter of 2013.) But Palin's big theme was that we are "letting freedom destroy itself." We must guard against forces against freedom, like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who tried to limit soda sizes. Palin took a shot at this at CPAC, and on Friday, she said Bloomberg was trying take on tobacco in public places. She brandished a can of Copenhagen, but did not actually dip, perhaps because first-time dippers often barf. Freedom defended.