Friday, June 18, 2010

Kagan: NRA=KKK?

Robert VerBruggen, an associate editor National Review, writes the magazine has obtained documents from Clinton Presidential Library suggesting that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan likened the National Rifle Association to the Ku Klux Klan while she was Associate White House Counsel during the Clinton Administration.

As the story goes, back in 1996, the Clinton Administration was trying to determine its position on the Volunteer Protection Act. It was a piece of legislation designed to protect volunteers at non-profits from legal liability. Apparently, there are notes which appear to be in Kagan's handwriting which ask if the law would apply to organizations like the NRA and the KKK.

Let's assume that she in fact wrote that note. Certainly it's disconcerting but frankly I would not be surprised if she held such a view. I don't think it's a stretch of the imagination to state there are a lot of urban liberals who would liken the NRA to the KKK. I mean how many urban liberals were transfixed by Bowling for Columbine?

The reason I say urban liberals is because if you live outside the city you tend to have a different views of guns and the NRA even if you are a liberal. When Howard Dean was seeking the Democratic Party nomination he made no bones about his support for the NRA while he was Governor of Vermont.

This urban/rural divide exists in Canada as well. When I interned for former NDP MP Nelson Riis back in 1994 I had the opportunity to sit in on a few NDP caucus meetings. At the time, the Liberal government of Jean Chretien was in the midst of instituting the National Gun Registry. You would think the NDP would have supported it. But no. At the time about two thirds of the NDP caucus was from Saskatchewan which is an overwhelmingly rural province and those members were more opposed to the registry than many conservative politicians. The only member of the NDP caucus who supported the National Gun Registry was Svend Robinson who represented an urban constituency in Vancouver.

This dynamic still exists within the NDP. Currently, there is a private members bill by a Conservative backbencher to abolish the National Gun Registry. Twelve members of the NDP Caucus voted in favor of scrapping the registry on the second reading of the bill. That's one third of their caucus. The final reading of the bill is expected in the fall.

But I digress.

Now I think this matter should certainly be brought up during Kagan's confirmation hearing. However, I think if Kagan is asked about it she will most likely reply that she does not recall writing the memo. Ultimately, I don't think it will damage Kagan anymore that the "wise Latina" remark damaged Sonia Sotomayor.

It was a given that President Obama was going to appoint a liberal to the bench. In the grand scheme of things, amongst all the bad options he had to choose from, she is the best of them.

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