Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Salvi's Flip-Flop on Guns Could Be a Record Gaffe

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Salvi's Flip-Flop on Guns Could Be a Record Gaffe

Article excerpt

IT WASN'T THE dumbest thing I ever heard a politician say. Close, though.

Al Salvi's recent ballistic flip-flop may be a contender, but the superlative - for my money - came from no less stellar an Illinois statesman than Adlai Stevenson, the former U.S. senator.

It was in the 1986 campaign for governor that the ordinarily cerebral Stevenson appeared before the AFL-CIO with a question: Will you support my candidacy? Members of that very-American organization of unions had a question of their own: How come you bought a Japanese truck for your farm? Stevenson's immortal response: "If I'd known I was running again, I wouldn't have done it." Ouch! Paraphrase: You people don't matter to me unless I need your vote. From a public relations standpoint, there may be a worse answer out there, but none comes to mind. On the other hand, maybe Stevenson deserves credit for his painful honesty. What on earth - besides the truth - could possibly motivate such a response? And if he alienated the union members, at least he cultivated the understanding of some foreign car owners. Salvi, however, surely ticked off both sides when he flip-flopped a month ago on gun control. You will remember Salvi as the 1996 U.S. Senate candidate whose kids did snow angels in their upscale suburban Chicago yard in one of his TV commercials, but who did not see the need to limit semi-automatic weapons in the urban yards of some less-fortunate youngsters. "The darling of the National Rifle Association" is what critics called him, which in some reaches of Illinois probably got Salvi extra votes. Opponent Dick Durbin stood behind firearm controls. Well, OK, this is America, a country founded on heated discourse. Then, late in the campaign, Salvi turned himself into a semi-automatic loose cannon. He labeled James Brady, the permanently wounded former presidential press secretary, as a onetime machine gun dealer. You probably recall Brady's tragedy in 1981, when one of a would-be assassin's bullets missed President Ronald Reagan and bored into Brady's head. Brady and his activist wife, Sarah, eventually abandoned the Republicans after finding the Democratic Party a cozier home for their resulting anti-gun crusade. In the '96 campaign, Salvi accused Brady of what I believe is the only true crime in politics: hypocrisy. …

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