In each of the first three years of his presidency, I urged Barack Obama (in vain…read here, here and here) not to vacation on Martha’s Vineyard—the summer redoubt of notables ranging from the Kennedys to Oprah—even if it is, among African Americans at least, as sure a sign as any that you’ve “arrived.”
Because it’s also a place where elite folk go to escape the hoi polloi, and so Obama risks looking like he’s out of touch if he’s living a lifestyle that’s above the pay grade of average Americans.
But the National Rifle Association has taken that line of reasoning one perverse step too far with its new ad that tags Obama as an “elitist” and a “hypocrite” for eschewing their calls for more armed guards in public schools while the president’s children have ‘round-the-clock security.
After disingenuously asking “are the president’s kids more important than yours?” the ad goes on to argue that Obama “demands” that wealthy Americans pay a “fair share” of taxes, but that “he’s just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security”:
In other words, the NRA cares if your kids get shot at school, but not Obama. Oh, and if he really favors gun control, he should either find a way to furnish armed guards for every child in America, or give it up for his own daughters, as well.
Nice try, NRA. But when it comes to the gun debate, let’s just leave the Obama girls out of it.
For one thing, the NRA—self-proclaimed advocates of self-reliance and smaller government—should be the first to appreciate the fact that the president and first lady Michelle Obama are millionaires who’ve worked hard to be able to afford tuition at the very elite Sidwell Friends school (alma mater of Chelsea Clinton) that their kids attend and where they’re well-protected.
For another, it’s hardly hypocritical for any parent—up to and including the president of the United States—to do everything he can to protect his own children, regardless of his politics.
Plus, it’s not like the NRA has signaled that it’s even remotely open to even considering the alternatives—background checks, waiting periods, banning assault weapons—that Obama has considered in place of putting more guns in schools. And even if Obama did advocate more armed guards in schools, it’s not like the NRA would put its weight behind raising taxes to do it.
But mostly, the real hypocrites here are the leaders of the NRA—unless they’re saying that from now on, not just during the Obama administration—presidents’ school-age kids shouldn’t have any more protection than anyone else’s kids.
If they’re saying that a future President Chris Christie or a future President Marco Rubio—one of whom could easily be the next Republican president—should send their kids to local public schools without private security or Secret Service protection, then that’s fine. Crazy, but fine.
If they’re arguing, though, that armed guards were OK for Jenna and Barbara Bush, but not for Malia and Sasha, then that’s crazy and also not OK. If they can’t find any common ground with Obama on policy, then they ought to at least respect the sacrifice that the president’s family undergoes during the time that he’s in office.
And the sooner that the NRA and other conservative advocacy groups start focusing on their policy differences with President Obama, rather than cheap distractions like the cost of security, how much it costs him to fly to and from Honolulu or how many times he’s appeared on The View, the better off we—and they—will probably be.