Shotgun News, November 1, 2008, pp. 30-32

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She Can Field Dress A Moose—A Donkey Will Be Easy!

I will confess that before McCain picked Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate, this column was going to be a lukewarm endorsement of Senator McCain, largely because Senator Obama is perhaps the most fiercely antigun Democratic presidential nominee in history. Senator McCain has generally voted with gun owners over the years. He voted to allow the 1994 federal assault weapons ban to expire, for example. He voted for the Lawful Protection of Commerce in Firearms Act in 2005,1 which stopped the absurd “negligent marketing” lawsuits that were threatening to end handgun manufacturing in the U.S.

On the other hand, he continues to support closing the “gun show loophole” 2 which isn’t a loophole at all. Federal law does not regulate the occasional transfer of a firearm by one resident of a state to another resident of the same state, as long as the person receiving the gun isn’t prohibited from possession. States are perfectly free to prohibit such transfers, and a number of states do so. I am also a bit concerned about these private transfers, because there are some people acquiring guns in this way who would probably not pass a background check—but my solution would be a bit more complete and elegant: create a no-cost federal license that would allow anyone to acquire a gun anywhere in the United States without waiting periods or additional background checks. At a minimum, offering this as a way to close the “gun show loophole” would certainly shut up the gun control advocates!

There are a lot of other areas where both conservatives and libertarians have substantial disagreements with McCain—such as his sponsorship of the McCain/Feingold campaign contributions law that effectively silences independent campaigns except in the last 60 days before the general election, and the last 30 days before a primary, and his past support for amnesty for illegal aliens.

Still, McCain looks darn good compared to Obama—who has previously supported a complete ban on handgun ownership,3 and thinks that traditional Americans are “bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”4 Obama claims to support an individual rights view of the Second Amendment—and yet he was on the board of directors of the Joyce Foundation,5 which has become the primary funder of restrictive gun control efforts in America.

Senator Clinton actually sent out campaign materials during the primaries to emphasize how she isn’t as antigun as Obama! I don’t know that I quite believe Senator Clinton’s sudden enthusiasm for gun owners, but when Senator Clinton tries to present herself as to the right of Obama on the gun issue—whoa! That’s quite a statement, isn’t it?

As I have mentioned in previous columns, if even one Supreme Court justice had taken the other side, we would have lost the Heller case about the meaning of the Second Amendment. That’s why it is critically important for gun owners that we get a President who is prepared to appoint judges who understand that the Constitution’s original meaning matters, and that the Constitution is not a living, breathing, constantly mutating creature. I’m prepared to believe McCain’s claims that he will support judges for the bench “who respect the limited scope afforded federal judges under the Constitution” and who regard original intent as the controlling factor in deciding the constitutionality of a law. Still, his past actions as a member of the U.S. Senate suggest that if he understands the importance of this, it is a recent addition to his knowledge base.6

I can be quite sure, however, that I know what sort of judges that Obama will appoint. Obama voted against confirmed Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justice Alito—based on his concern that they would not be sufficiently protective of individual rights against “majoritarianism.”7 And yet Roberts and Alito voted with us on the Heller decision—a clear case of putting individual rights ahead of majority rule in D.C. By comparison, McCain has described Roberts and Alito as “model judges” of the sort that he intends to appoint to the federal bench.8

Of course, they both might surprise us. President McCain might start appointing raving left-wingers to the bench who find that there is a Constitutional right to live in a gun-free society. President Obama might start appointing judges like Justice Clarence Thomas. But somehow, I think it is a good bet that McCain is going to appoint mostly pretty conservative Republicans, and Obama is going to appoint mostly pretty liberal Democrats. It is certainly the most likely proposition.

Now, all of these reasons are good ones to vote for Senator McCain, perhaps with limited enthusiasm, over Senator Obama. But as even many liberal Democrats (such as former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown) admit,9 picking Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska was a home run hit—right out of the park. Even if McCain only picked Palin for Vice President because she was a woman, a surprising number of women who backed Clinton only for that reason took a fresh look at their choices—especially because many female Democrats perceived a whiff of misogyny coming out of the Obama campaign.

But Palin wasn’t “just a woman.” She has an impressive record of taking on the established, and very corrupt Alaska Republican Party—and cleaning it up. She defeated the governor in the primary—and went on to win the general election two years ago. She is also an impeccable social conservative—a faction within the Republican Party that McCain actually has gone out of his way to offend the last few years.

As I’m sure you know, Palin is a Life Member of the NRA, and a moose hunter. When was the last time we had a moose hunting Republican reformer? Why, that would be Teddy Roosevelt—who was originally McKinley’s Vice President, but took office after McKinley’s assassination. (Oh yes: Roosevelt had also served briefly as governor of New York before being picked as McKinley’s running mate.)

All of this would have made me mildly happy, but watching Governor Palin’s speech to the Republican National Convention—wow! This was one of those history-changing speeches. She isn’t quite as polished as Senator Obama—but she comes across as one of the people. She’s obviously very smart, but where Obama gives the impression of an elitist pretending to be one of us, Governor Palin is one of us. A few years ago, she was serving on the PTA. She was a housewife. Her husband is a blue collar union member. She’s not Harvard Law. Her spouse doesn’t get a $300,000+ per year salary because she got herself elected.

The sheer ferocity of the Obama campaign’s attack on Governor Palin, and her family, shows how frightened Obama’s campaign is—and somewhat confirmed what Clinton supporters felt about the misogyny of the campaign. And all this ferocity has quite impressively backfired on Obama. Yes, it is really unfortunate that Governor Palin’s daughter is an unwed pregnant teenager. But I suspect that trying to blame Governor Palin for this is just going to make a lot of Americans whose own daughters weren’t listening say, “She knows what we have gone through. And Obama’s goons are creeps.”

Perhaps the most encouraging sign of how dramatically this effort has backfired is that there is now some possibility that Republicans could regain control of Congress. Democrats now lead Republicans in the generic “who should control Congress” question by only three points—within the margin of error.10

I know that there are some of you reading this column who are going to vote for Bob Barr, who is the Libertarian Party candidate for President. I respect Bob Barr; watching his actions when Congress investigated what happened at Waco really made me realize that I would not want to go head to head with him in any debate. He was a federal prosecutor at one time, and I suspect that he was extremely effective. I respect a lot of what the Libertarian Party stands for; I used to be an activist there. But alas, libertarian ideas only make sense for a society full of smart people who think more than a few days ahead. Somewhere there’s a species this evolved, rational, and intelligent. But it won’t work for humans.

If, on election day, your state is going to go overwhelmingly for Obama, or overwhelmingly for McCain, then it doesn’t much matter for whom you vote. As long as one of the candidates has a clear majority, your single vote won’t much matter. But what is amazing about this election is that even states that should be safely for Obama—aren’t! As I write this column in late September, New York State is now only leaning towards Obama—and there are other states that should be safely Democratic, that aren’t.

I will agree with those who say that Governor Palin is a little light on experience to be President—and it is a real possibility that President McCain may not survive his first term. Unlike President McKinley, whose death elevated the moose hunter Teddy Roosevelt, I’m not worried about anyone assassinating John McCain. But McCain isn’t young, and his time in North Vietnamese POW camps has impaired his health. McCain responded to our nation’s call to duty, and has paid a heavy price for it. Even where I disagree him with him on policy, I can respect him.

Still, Governor Palin has more executive experience running the State of Alaska than Senator Obama does running any governmental entity. If Obama wins this election, he will be going into the most important executive job in the world on January 20, 2009 with less experience than Governor Palin has already. If President McCain dies in office, Vice President Palin will have had months to years to grow into the job—and it is almost certain that she will be elected President in 2012. I’ve taken to calling her “President-In-Training Palin” for this reason. Unfortunately, if Obama is elected, he will also be President-In-Training—and we can only hope that he doesn’t accidentally destroy the country as well as he is destroying his own campaign.

I don’t have a McCain for President sticker on my car. I have a Palin for Vice President sticker instead. And that’s part of how I view this campaign: putting someone in office who will be a heck of a president in several years, with an acceptable president in the meantime.

Clayton E. Cramer is a software engineer and historian. His sixth book, Armed America: The Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie (Nelson Current, 2006), is available in bookstores. His web site is

1 “Senate Vote On Passage: S. 397 [109th]: Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,”, last accessed September 19, 2008.

2 Paul Bedard, “John McCain Still Backs Closing Gun Show Loophole,” U.S. News & World Report, May 15, 2008,, last accessed September 19, 2008.

3 Brian Faughnan, “Did Obama Lie About Guns?” The Weekly Standard, The Blog, April 27, 2008,, last accessed May 25, 2008.

4 Mike Allen, “12 reasons 'bitter' is bad for Obama,” The Politico, April 12, 2008, available at, last accessed May 25, 2008.

5 Barack Obama, Washington Post,, last accessed May 25, 2008.

6 Tom Curry, “McCain woos conservatives on judges issue,” MSNBC, November 16, 2006,, last accessed September 19, 2008.

7 Alexander Heffner, “Obama's Academic Background Could Influence Court Picks,” Scoop08, March 31, 2008,, last accessed September 19, 2008.

8 David Jackson, “McCain: Roberts, Alito are model judges,” USA Today, May 6, 2008,, last accessed September 19, 2008.

9 Willie Brown, “Palin floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 7, 2008,, last accessed September 19, 2008.

10 Lydia Saad, “Battle for Congress Suddenly Looks Competitive,” Gallup,, last accessed September 19, 2008.