No Labels, the two-year-old bipartisan coalition of patriotic pragmatists who just want to "Make America Work!" (nope, nothing creepy about that formulation…), came back with a big re-boot this week, in which co-chairs John Hunstman and Rep. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) have been making the op-ed and talk show circuits extolling the virtues of governmental "problem solving."
As Gene Healy pointed out this week,
Our problems are legion: unsustainable middle-class entitlements, overextension abroad, the world's largest per-capita prison population—and most of them stem from past occasions when "problem solvers" got together in chummy bipartisan fashion.
And as I wrote during No Labels 1.0,
The ideology of the do-something center, permanently encoded as it is in the DNA of political lifers and View-From-Nowhere media institutions, is arguably the single most powerful ideological strain in today's body politic. This is in part because it sells itself as being beyond ideology—hence, more attractive to those who nurture a rational disgust for politicians—and then so readily adheres to the program of whoever is wielding power.
National calamity is to the do-something pragmatist what fire is to the Lodgepole Pine: the essential delivery system for reproduction. When you start seeing quotes like "I don't know what we're going to do, but we're going to do something," you know it's getting hot outside.
But this combination of panicked urgency, will to government power, and maddening vagueness can be pretty comical in practice. So it was when the No Labels Huntsman-Manchin roadshow got pinned down on guns by Candy Crowley this weekend:
MANCHIN: We owe it to sit down and talk, but it has to be comprehensive. It can't be just—it's about guns and guns only. It can't be just about the mental illness or the lack of mental illness care that we have. And it can't be just about the video violence in the media.
I want every NRA member, I want every gun, law-abiding gun owner to know their second amendment rights will not be infringed upon, the same as the first amendment will not be infringed upon. But as adults, we have a responsibility to sit down and have an adult dialogue and try to have a comprehensive package that works.
CROWLEY: […] But the question is […] what is reasonable in terms of gun control when it comes to states who understand the gun culture and how deeply it is embedded in the culture of some of the states?
HUNTSMAN: Well, it has to be a little bit from all of the above. And that's why, you know, you're show…
CROWLEY: Should there be an assault weapons ban?
HUNTSMAN: Well, listen, we've heard from the special interest groups. We're hearing from, you know, one end of the spectrum or that end of the spectrum. But in the end, our duly elected officials get together with an open mind and, then, make decisions on behalf of the people they represent. And that is where getting back to No Labels is so important. […]
CROWLEY: What is—I mean, you have called for reasonable gun—but what is reasonable to you? Is an assaults weapons ban such as the one we are about to get from Dianne Feinstein and Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut, is that reasonable?
MANCHIN: First of all, how do you keep the guns such as assault guns out of the hands of mentally deranged people that should have—should have help? […]
So basically, but that is a huge part. The other part of it is what type of weapons, how registration, how they are getting in hands. So all of that is reasonable to talk about.
There is a premise now in Washington that guilt by conversation. It used to be guilt by association, we've moved on to guilt by conversation. We can't even sit down and have conversations about can you talk about any of these issues whether it is the clips and whether it is registration and whether it is bans on certain military—you can't even talk about it. […]
CROWLEY: […] So the question here is, am I correct in interpreting what you're saying is that, sure, you would talk about an assault weapons ban, but it has to be in a more holistic package than just, here's an assault weapons ban?
MANCHIN: Well, let me just tell you about No Labels and problem solvers […]
CROWLEY: If I can just get a yes or no, possibly, assault weapons only stand alone ban…
MANCHIN: Assault weapons stand alone ban on just gun alone will not in the political reality that we have today will not go anywhere. It has to be comprehensive, Candy, and that is what I have tried to tell the vice president and I've told everybody, it has to be a comprehensive approach.