Is Sen. Ayotte representing NH or NRA?

Sen. Kelly AyotteBy John Breneman

I swear to God, the Senate’s infuriating decision to reject expanded background checks for firearms’ purchases despite 90 percent public approval is making me want to shoot (OK, calm down) my mouth off — on this most divisive and vitally important issue.

As if more evidence was needed that guns can be extremely harmful, now poor Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) has shot herself in the foot trying to prove what a hard-core Republican she is.

I’m sorry, but I don’t know what else you call it. She apparently analyzed the political landscape in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre (and all those before it, next one coming soon), absorbed the data that 90 percent of the public wanted background checks … and then voted against the people who elected her.

And since doing so she’s been all over the national news.

You’ve probably seen some headlines and poll numbers. “Ayotte approval rating plunges 15 percent.” “Newtown victim’s daughter confronts Ayotte at town hall event.” “Ayotte’s calculated allegiance to extreme right is wrong for N.H.”

Actually, that last one is just my humble opinion.

Look, Kelly Ayotte is from New Hampshire so she’s got that going for her. I’d much rather like her than have to write about how she’s blowing it. I’m thinking maybe she’s just been getting some bad advice.

Flash back to the Republican National Convention last August. As part of the payoff for buddying up with John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Republican “rising star” Ayotte was awarded a nice speaking spot.

Sadly, her most memorable line was pure political dreck. “President Obama has never even run a lemonade stand — and it shows.”

Really? The bush-league lemonade stand quip leaves a sour taste as one of the least original lines ever (Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal used it last May and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus about a week later).

Coincidentally, one of the men whose approval she was courting — GOP nominee Mitt Romney — also had never run a lemonade stand. However, records show he did liquidate several lemonade operations and issued pink slips to their pre-teen proprietors.

Ayotte’s vote and subsequent blowback provides a new window into the long-held Republican strategy of making sure absolutely nothing gets accomplished under President Obama — his opponents have not disguised the fact that they would rather deny the president any political victories than do their jobs working for the American people.

This strategy is reprehensible to me.

However, there are examples of Republicans working for the public good. One is Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who teamed up with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to craft the compromise background-check legislation known as the Manchin-Toomey proposal.

Sen. Toomey, whose approval numbers have risen in the wake of his advocacy for this modest gun safety measure, shared his view of Republican motives after the bill failed to pass the Senate.

“In the end it didn’t pass because we’re so politicized,” he said. “There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it.”

Sen. Ayotte’s explanation on why she voted against the bill, against 90 percent of the populace, defies credulity.

Confronted at a town hall event by a man who said he had read her four-page explanation of the vote and still did not understand, Ayotte said, “In terms of a universal background check, as it’s been framed, I have a lot of concerns of that leading to a registry that will create a privacy situation for lawful firearms owners.”

Kelly Ayotte knows that is bull. She knows that, in an attempt to achieve compromise, Manchin and Toomey specifically ban the creation of a federal registry and establish harsh penalties for doing so. And her attempt to snooker New Hampshire voters with the far right’s “federal registry” talking point was positively cringe-inducing.

Sen. Ayotte’s real answer to the gentleman’s simple question — “What’s wrong with universal background checks?” — is this: “Powerful people whose money and support I believe I need do not want background checks or any gun-safety measures, and their support is more important to me than working to create a safer world.”

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association holds its annual meeting this weekend in Houston — and the “cold dead hands” people are, uh, bringing out the big guns.

Ted Cruz. Rick Perry. Bobby Jindal. Rick Santorum. Glenn Beck!

And, of course, Sarah Palin. (Remember when she featured Rep. Gabby Giffords and other Democrats on a hit list and mapped their districts with bull’s-eyes? That was before Giffords was shot in January 2011.)

But the speeches — part of what’s being billed as a “Stand and Fight” rally — are all a prelude to the keynote hater. Bullet-brained rock star Ted Nugent.

Back in 2007, Nugent was quoted as saying, “Barack Obama, he’s a piece of (dung). I told him to suck on my machine gun” and telling Hillary Clinton, while brandishing two machine guns onstage, “You might want to ride one of these into the sunset you worthless (witch).”

Yes, that is the man the NRA has chosen to make the big speech on the closing day of its big convention.

As I said before, I really want to like Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

But first I’m afraid she’ll have to chose another path than rolling with the Ted Nugent wing of the Republican Party.

 

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