White House muzzled gun control groups

The White House reportedly got the gun control groups to agree to hold their fire, as it were, in exchange for the groups being permitted a seat at the negotiating table.

Been there, done that. Bad move.

It’s understandable why the White House, any White House, wants to be the only one calling the shots, and why they want outside groups to sit down and shut up. No one in politics wants competition, or worse, someone else going off the reservation, muddling your message, or undercutting your strategy.

Only problem is, traditionally when outside groups agree to this little Faustian bargain with the White House, the groups, and the issues they care about, flounder.

This is exactly what happened with progressive groups across the board during the Obama campaign in 2008, and in the first years of the Obama White House. Team Obama, and then the White House, gave them marching orders, and told them to rein everything else in.

Who can forget the now-infamous, and successful, and mistaken effort by the Obama campaign to shut down 527s during the 08 campaign? It wasn’t until September of ’08, when many, including the campaign, started worrying that Obama might just lose to McCain (remember, this was before the economic meltdown (and Sarah Palin) changed the picture drastically), that the word went out, subliminally of course, that outside funders would no longer be persona non grata in the Obama White House if they funded 527s. Sadly, it was a tad too late, but fortunately for the now-President, the economy pretty much guaranteed that the 527s wouldn’t be necessary in any case. He got lucky.

quiet, secret

Silence by Shutterstock

Fast forward to 2009, the first year of the administration. Again, the Obama administration made clear to outside groups that they’d better toe the line, or they wouldn’t be welcome in the Obama White House. Groups like SLDN, then the lead gays in the military group, were cut off by the White House for daring to speak up against the President’s seeming-reticence about moving forward on his promise to repeal DADT.

The head of another large gay group reportedly got his head handed to him by a senior White House staffer for another sin of outspokenness. Suffice it to say, the group’s only criticism of the new President came when Rick Warren was chosen to give the invocation at Obama’s swearing-in in 2008. After that, not a peep of dissent. Ari Berman tells the story for the Nation:

Dog muzzle via Shutterstock

Dog muzzle via Shutterstock

Gay rights was another major issue on which Messina clashed with Obama supporters. The relationship between the administration and gay rights groups was strained from the outset, when Obama chose Rick Warren to deliver his inaugural invocation. “It is difficult to comprehend how our president-elect, who has been so spot-on in nearly every political move and gesture, could fail to grasp the symbolism of inviting an anti-gay theologian to deliver his inaugural invocation,” wrote Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), in the Washington Post.

After reading the op-ed, Messina sternly rebuked Solmonese during a meeting at the White House. “I’m never going back to another meeting like that again,” Solmonese angrily told his staff afterward. From then on, HRC, to the consternation of other gay rights groups, toed the administration line.

On gay rights we had our biggest successes when gay advocates were willing to stand up to the White House and demand action, whether the issue was DOMA, DADT or marriage.  And that didn’t come from the big groups, outside of SLDN, because the groups had decided early on to toe the party line and do what the White House wanted, even if the White House was doing the wrong thing, such as defending DOMA in court using a re-purposed anti-gay Bush administration brief.  It came from the activists.  The same story was repeated on immigration, except this time, the groups got wise and started to speak-up-and-out a while back, following the lessons learned from the gay community.  And it’s why gay rights and immigration are two of the only groups getting what they want of late.

Take another issue, health care reform.  Liberal groups were notably mute, at the behest of the White House, particularly with regards to the President’s promise to pursue a public option, one of the lynchpins of his reform proposal.  Remember how well that worked out for women’s groups, agreeing to hold their collective tongues, during health care reform? That got them the Stupak amendment:

Early on, the organizations had opted to stay quiet on the abortion funding issue for fear of making a politically tricky negotiation over a health care overhaul even harder.

“We were trying to diffuse the situation, knowing that the time to fight on the notion of federal funding for abortion was not this political moment – the health care reform bill is hard enough. Now I’m thinking we might have recognized that we were going to have this fight, and we should have stood firm a year ago and we might not have found ourselves here,” said Laura MacCleery, director of government affairs at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

More from Natasha Chart at OpenLeft, writing at the time:

Nancy Keenan, head of the national NARAL group (and most obedient of the obedient losers) was apparently personally promised before the health care battle by the Obama administration that they would look after the organization’s constituency interests in the health care bill and preserve the status quo.  In return, NARAL was asked to stand down its activism.

They did. So with all their colleagues, they got caught with their pants down when a floor vote on the Stupak amendment was imminent.

I’m all for working with the Obama administration and Democrats generally, and a number of us have proven our ability to do just that, time and again, all the way back to when Barack Obama was still battling Hillary Clinton in the primaries.

But that doesn’t mean we’re always going to be on the same page with the administration, and it doesn’t always mean that the White House is going to be doing what they should be doing on any given issue.  All politicians fall short on some issue at some point.  And it’s the job of outside groups, outside interests – of their friends and allies – to intervene when an intervention is needed.

Team Obama doesn’t like to acknowledge this fact.

Sometimes it seems that they’d rather think their friendly-critics crazy, filled with an irrational hate of all things Obama.  After all, it’s easier on the psyche to consider your critics bonkers than to acknowledge the alternative, that perhaps they just might have a point.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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12 Responses to “White House muzzled gun control groups”

  1. caphillprof says:

    Home › Jefferson › Quotations › Spurious QuotationsStrongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms (Quotation)Quotation: “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”Variations: None known. http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/strongest-reason-people-to-retain-right-to-keep-and-bear-arms-quotation You are not entitled to your own facts.
    Subject: [americablog] Re: White House muzzled gun control groups

  2. victoriousreality says:

    George Mason, who wrote the Bill of RIghts, said that the militia was the “whole people” and that the surest way to enslave the population was to take away their guns.

    But, even putting the “anti-tyranny” reason aside, it’s IMMORAL to disarm private law-abiding citizens while leaving criminals, gangs, cartels, all heavily armed.

  3. Roman Smith says:

    There are five steps to tyranny. The first step is “Us vs. Them.” Dividing the nation, calling people extremists, putting people who disagree with you down are all the first signs.


    It happened in many cases in history (Stalin, Hitler, Chavez, etc.). Sawing division and hate are hallmarks of tyrants. Reaching our to opponents and moving towards solutions people can agree on are hallmarks of democratic leaders.

    Make your own conclusions as to what is happening now in the United States.

    BTW, Step Two is “Obey.”

  4. rickgee says:

    “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” —– Thomas Jefferson

  5. MyrddinWilt says:

    No it was created to allow the slave states to keep their slave patrols necessary for maintaining the police state required to maintain slavery.

    It had absolutely NOTHING to do with freedom, it was the exact opposite. The correspondence on the issue is very clear. The ‘regulated militia’ referred to are slave patrols.

    The 2nd amendment didn’t stop Bush stealing the 200 election, didn’t stop segregation and it was passed in the first place to protect the slavers. The UK has gun laws that effectively prohibit private gun ownership other than shotguns completely but it is hardly a tyranny and in no danger of becoming one. The US on the other hand has a gulag in Cuba.

    The NRA is a threat to democracy, not a protector. Its the NRA members that wear the jackboots in this country.

  6. BeccaM says:

    If you’re there at the proverbial negotiating table, but told to shut up, you are there purely for the PR optics, not because your cause will be taken up with the same degree of fervor with which you would push it.

    Especially with this Administration and President, we’ve been shown time and time again that only the squeakiest wheels are greased. Those who go along to get along end up with crumbs, and then are berated if they give anything in return but unwavering support and cheerleading.

  7. BeccaM says:

    Not really, no. The writings at the time and the language of the Amendment itself make it clear the main reason was so a brand new nation with no standing army whatsoever could quickly create an armed force out of ‘well-regulated’ state- and local- level militias.

    You’re right though: Guns need to be out of the hands of the crazies and the criminals. There’s also nothing wrong with reducing the overall lethality of the weapons citizens are permitted to own.

  8. samizdat says:

    I can’t figure out if Liberal groups are patsies, pussies, or just plain stupid. Obviously these people are well-educated, so why do they even talk to this degenerate, Drone-bama? Surely they’ve heard of the Nuremberg trials. Do they really want to be associated with a self-absorbed, narcissistic, arrogant authoritarian? I wouldn’t touch him with a ten foot pole, for fear of absorbing a portion of his bilious aura. I’d rip him a new one, though, verbally speaking, if’n I was ever given the chance.

    OT: Pfc. Bradley Manning nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Feels good that the man I wrote in, and then voted for President has received some good PR.


  9. caphillprof says:

    The Founding Fathers were trying to create a nation, not a joint suicide pact. This reading of tyranny into the 2d amendment is just nonsense.

  10. Brewha80 says:

    The one problem that I have with your statement is the fact that the 2nd amendment wasn’t created for a hobby. It was created to prevent a tyrannical government from ruling over individuals of the states in our nation. While a tyrannical government may never exist in our country, firearms are controlled by the people to ensure it never does. I do however, believe that the senators and representatives need to come to some sort of agreement on PREVENTION of gun crimes. This may mean stronger background checks, stiffer penalties on gun related crimes and even an assault weapons ban; however, deranged people will still commit crimes with guns no matter what laws are in place.

  11. MyrddinWilt says:

    There is no point in being quiet because we want different things that are not compatible.

    The WH wants a quick PR success, we want to reduce the number of gun deaths to the lowest possible.

    Your hobby is not worth one child’s life let alone the lives of those 30 kids in Newtown or the 30,000 lives lost a year to gun violence and accidents.

    Since the NRA is going to fight any measure as if it was a total ban, fine, lets go for a total ban because we are not going to get a gun registry or an assault weapons ban or even gun clip bans either.

  12. Drew2u says:

    2008 and 2009 led to the Republican majority and country-wide state gerrymandering redistricting

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