It is the Monday after the Super Bowl, so to use an apt football metaphor, I am going to punt on today's column.
For most of the day, I was having computer problems, which will (I assure you) hasten the day when I make the big leap to a new machine. I guess this is also apt, since even the Super Bowl couldn't manage to keep the lights on for the whole game.
Today, had all gone well, would have been "Obama Poll Watch" day, where we examine President Obama's job approval ratings for the past month. This will have to be postponed until Tuesday or Wednesday. Quick overview: Obama held onto the gains he made, and his numbers held steady, not moving much in any direction. More later, of course.
How about those Ravens, eh? Happy times in Baltimore... while I must confess a certain bias on my part, I've always liked the Ravens for the sole reason that the Raven is (to the best of my knowledge) the only sports mascot in any professional league to be named after a literary character. Edgar Allan Poe was a Baltimore resident for much of his professional life, and was buried there. Other cities have literary luminaries, though, but none of them have named a football team after a character in a poem. You've got to love the Ravens a little bit, just on that fact alone.
Other than post-Super Bowl hangovers, though, one bit of news did jump to my attention, so that's where we'll end this sorry excuse for a column, today. A little over a week ago, I wrote an article handicapping President Obama's second term agenda. In it, I wrote:
While the Newtown massacre did indeed shift public opinion dramatically on the overall issue, the biggest initiative is not likely to become law. An assault rifle ban is very important to some Democrats, but the way I read it is that this was included to have something to "trade away" in the negotiations. If Obama gets most of the other gun control initiatives -- closing loopholes on background checks, much better tracking of weapons, and all the other "small bore" (sorry about that pun) ideas -- then he will at least be able to say he accomplished something at the end of the day. Perhaps this is pessimistic, but the mechanics of banning "assault weapons" become very tricky, when you have to actually define what they are in legal language. And such a ban may not get universal Democratic backing anyway, so I fully expect this will be shelved at some point in exchange for support for all the other initiatives. Without such a ban, the prospects for other meaningful gun control legislation get a lot better, though, and I think that a bill will eventually pass.
I fully expected this to happen, but I have to admit I didn't expect it to happen quite so fast. Today, Huffington Post ran an article titled "Assault Weapons Ban Likely to Die So That Broader Gun Policy Legislation Can Live" which starts out with:
Barring an unexpected turn of legislative affairs, a ban on military-style semi-automatic assault weapons will not make it into law, top Hill aides and gun policy advocates say.
The ban will get a vote. But the purpose of that vote will be in part to facilitate its demise. The expectation is that there won't be 60 members of the upper chamber to support the bill's inclusion in the final legislative language.
As I said, I expected this to happen, but not this fast. This could mean that: (1) the Democrats are just backing down on the issue, and won't even use it to trade for other legislation; (2) such horse-trading is already happening somewhat behind the scenes, and the news story today was made public because the deal has already been struck, and/or (3) the rest of the gun legislation is moving along very quickly, and we could see votes in Congress some time in the next few weeks. All of that, I fully admit, is nothing but speculation on my part, so take it with a grain of salt, for now.
-- Chris Weigant
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant