Monday Surprise

May 8, 2018

Ordinarily, the Members Meeting that concludes the official business of the National Rifle Association’s Annual Meetings & Exhibits is one of those “check the box” deals. You know, the membership gets together, checks off all the boxes for business - new and old- and moves on toward the next event.

Yesterday’s session, however, was one of those curve balls that caught many of the NRA staffers completely flat-footed. 

Instead of serving his second one-year term, NRA President Pete Brownell announced his decision to leave the position and dedicate his energies to his family business.

To get an idea how big a surprise this was, there’s an orderly succession of officers at the NRA.  The First Vice President steps into the President’s position when the President’s terms (as in two one-year ones) are up.  The Second Vice President moves up one seat and the assembly line proceeds. 

This year was decidedly an unexpected turn, to the point that back-channel whispers indicate most staffers were shocked at the news.

Apparently, so was First Vice-President Richard Childress. To the point that he told NRA management he couldn’t assume the position- even temporarily. Instead, Second VP Carolyn Meadows was named by the Board as interim President. And there’s been no official word as to what Meadows’ interim appointment means to the succession plan- if anything.

Brownells’  decision put the NRA Board in the position of needing someone capable of carrying the colors - at least for the remainder of Brownells’ expected tenure. 

Enter someone who’s carried Second Amendment -and American- colors for most of his adult life: Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, USMC (Ret.). 

In Oliver North the NRA got the best-known “face” in the slot since Charlton Heston. NRA Photo, with permission.

And with his acceptance (after conversations with the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre and Brownell), the NRA landed the biggest “name” in the president’s slot since Charlton Heston. 

The mainstream immediately jumped on the sudden change - focusing on North’s controversial history in the Iran-Contra affair under the Reagan administration rather than his very successful career since then. 

For me, the level of response indicates that anti-gun forces realize they’re facing someone who’s not only accustomed to dealing with their drama, but more than capable of turning it around and using it against them.

During his long tenure at Fox News, North has developed a reputation for straight shooting, and dealing with criticism. 

Having seen him in action there, there’s no doubt he’s more than capable of stepping into the spokesperson part of the role. How he’ll deal with the internal politics of the NRA is anyone’s guess.

It may not be obvious, but there’s a high cost associated with what many might view as essentially an honorary position. In the best of situations, it requires so much time that  normal business is all but shelved.

This past year, however, has been anything but  the best of situations. 

For the three months since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida, the NRA, its members, and, yes, its officers have been subjected to a level of hatred that is almost inconceivable.

It’s been bad for everyone associated with the NRA. Much worse, in fact, than the outrageous behavior reported in the media. 

North, even at age 74, has faced vitriol more than once- and proven capable of dealing with it. 

He is, as the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre described him: “a legendary warrior for American freedom, a gifted communicator and a skilled leader. In these times, I can think of no one better suited to serve as our president.”

We’ll keep you posted.

--Jim Shepherd