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With less than 11 months until Americans go to the polls to elect the next president, and early primaries and caucuses underway, the prospects for “hope and change” are not looking promising. Certainly plenty of promises are being made, but those promises, and the politicians making them, are long on brag and woefully short on substance or credibility.

While I represent a single-issue organization and use the right to arms as a primary litmus test of any politician’s qualifications, I also look at broader issues, beginning with understanding and support for the rest of the Constitution, understanding of liberty-based economics and their ability to effectively express their understanding and support of these things in such a way as to engender confidence and garner support from the voting public. Obama has proven that his qualifications in that regard are limited to saying things that elicit support from certain segments of the population (most notably mass media), but virtually all of his policy positions and personal values are in conflict with my own beliefs and the vision of our Founding Fathers. Unfortunately, the choices on the Republican side fall seriously short as well.

My brother and close collaborator, Chris Knox, and I have been hashing through the candidates, their philosophies and histories, and likely election scenarios for months now in hopes of finding a candidate to whom we can, in good conscience, offer our endorsement. There isn’t one. All of the candidates we have examined have glaring flaws in their records or beliefs that we simply cannot endorse.

It was probably Mark Twain or Will Rogers who observed that the office of president is too important to ever give to someone who actually wants the job. The truth of that sentiment can be readily recognized when you look at the candidates and evaluate their motives for running. Seeking the office requires advanced narcissism or an almost messianic level of commitment to a philosophy or agenda – or both. A review of the current crop of candidates reveals a lot of narcissism and very little commitment to ideals. There is much more wanting to be as opposed to wanting to do.

Obama is the personification of an agenda-driven narcissist. In his case, the narcissism is dominant and the agenda is in direct opposition to the philosophy of the founders. Anyone who cares about the Second Amendment and the Constitution at all must reject him and all he stands for. While some gun owners and conservatives, frustrated by the “bigger government – less freedom” activities of the Bush administration, cast a hopeful, and perhaps excusable, vote for Obama in 2008, Obama’s performance over the past three years has proven beyond all doubt that those hopeful votes were a tragic mistake, and that only political reality in Congress has kept him from completely gutting the Second Amendment and more of the Constitution.

Among the Republican candidates, we see plenty of narcissism with very little principled commitment to constitutional ideals. Gingrich, Romney and Perry, while they display some differences on policy matters, are, above all, political animals running to be president and have demonstrated a willingness to shift their policies and agendas as needed to advance their political ambitions. Bachmann and Santorum likewise show strong narcissistic aspirations, but with a bit more consistency regarding “social conservative” issues. Their dedication to those issues, however, suggest a willingness to place the Constitution behind their own religious and social preferences – acceptable on a personal level, but not in an official capacity.

Of all of the candidates, the only one who could be characterized as being agenda-driven for restoration of the founders’ constitutional principles, and with personal ambition being a secondary, or even tertiary issue, is Ron Paul. Paul has a long and consistent record of unwavering support for, and defense of, the Second Amendment and the Constitution. The problem with Paul, however, is that his agenda is perceived as too aggressive, and there is significant doubt about his ability to put all of the pieces together to make it work. A president has only limited power, and even if Paul exercised that power to its utmost, there is much to his agenda that would require support from the Congress – support that he simply would not get. As president, Paul would face constant resistance and undermining from not only Democrats, but from Republicans as well, along with opposition from the media and, perhaps most significantly, federal bureaucrats. Another challenge for Paul would be finding qualified people to serve in his cabinet who agree with his agenda and have the knowledge and experience necessary to be effective. The thought of an administration full of libertarian college professors and students with no government experience does not inspire confidence.

In the end, we find that all of the candidates are, in fact, human, possessing all of the foibles and frailties of the rest of us. What history has shown us is that presidential success or failure is extremely unpredictable. Much depends on the people with whom a president surrounds himself, who he listens to and what external events he is faced with. Presidents either rise to the challenges of the office or they don’t. The only way to find out is to put them in the position and see what happens.

For those of us with specific agendas of our own, this means that the best we can do or hope for is to elicit promises and assurances from the candidates and then do our best to hold them to those commitments.

In 2012, one thing we know for sure is that our nation is at a tipping point and another four years of Barack Obama and his cronies will be far worse than anything we could expect from any of the Republican challengers. While Chris and I have some preferences among the pack, we are not impressed with any of them enough to offer an endorsement in the primaries. We will continue to push all of the candidates to make specific promises regarding the Second Amendment, the Constitution and the appointment of judges and justices who have so much impact on those. When a nominee is finally determined, we will do our best to get them elected. In this election, more than any we have ever seen, we are confident that the devil we know is far worse than the devil we don’t know.

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