...not to make the same stupid mistake he did in underestimating gun owners.
Former President Bill Clinton warned a group of top Democratic donors at a private Saturday meeting not to underestimate the passions that the issue of gun control stirs among many Americans.
“Do not patronize the passionate supporters of your opponents by looking down your nose at them,” Clinton said.
“A lot of these people live in a world very different from the world lived in by the people proposing these things,” Clinton said. “I know because I come from this world."
Clinton dedicated a substantial portion of his 40-minute address in front of a joint meeting of the Obama National Finance Committee and a group of business leaders to the issue of guns and gun control, saying that it was a test-case for President Barack Obama’s grassroots movements. (POLITICO was given a transferable ticket by an invited member of the committee.)
But, Clinton warned, the issue of guns has a special emotional resonance in many rural states— and simply dismissing pro-gun arguments is counter-productive.
While some polls show that the public by-and-large supports several proposals for increased gun control, Clinton said that it’s not the public support that matters — it’s how strongly people feel about the issue.
“All these polls that you see saying the public is for us on all these issues — they are meaningless if they’re not voting issues,” Clinton said.
And Clinton said that passing the 1994 federal assault weapons ban “devastated” more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers in the 1994 midterms — and cost then-Speaker of the House Tom Foley (D-Wash.) his job and his seat in Congress.
“I’ve had many sleepless nights in the many years since,” Clinton said. One reason? “I never had any sessions with the House members who were vulnerable,” he explained — saying that he had assumed they already knew how to explain their vote for the ban to their constituents.
But he said that he understands the culture that permeates a state like Arkansas — where guns are a longstanding part of local culture.
“A lot of these people … all they’ve got is their hunting and their fishing,” he told the Democratic financiers. “Or they’re living in a place where they don’t have much police presence. Or they’ve been listening to this stuff for so long that they believe it all.”
Clinton closed his remarks with a warning to big Democratic donors that ultimately many Democratic lawmakers will be defeated if they choose to stand with the president.
“Do not be self-congratulatory about how brave you for being for this” gun control push, he said. “The only brave people are the people who are going to lose their jobs if they vote with you.”
He couldn't refrain from the patronizing, himself, there at the end: "Or they've been listening to this stuff for so long that they believe it all." Probably said that with an eye-roll and a sneer. So you see that, although "Bubba" comes from that sort of rural tradition, he really has little in common with it.