The big winner in Thursday's surprise budget announcement may have been Assemblyman Tim Donnelly. The news that he was stopped trying to carry a loaded gun in his luggage through airport security in Ontario was pushed off the front pages, at least briefly.
Of course, while the budget proposal was unpleasant and dull news, Donnelly's story is anything but. The gun and its owner, a conservative Republican known for shooting from the hip and the lip, offer us so many lessons there's no time to list them all -- so here are five:
5. Power still has its privileges.
Donnelly was cited and faces charges -- he says he forgot the gun was in his bag -- but he was allowed to board the next flight. News reports say other travelers who did the same thing were taken into custody.
4. People still fly out of Ontario.
The inland Southern California airport has been losing flights and traffic (articles.latimes.com/2011/dec/16/local/la-me-ontario-terminal-story-20111216), in the face of deep economic trouble in its region and fierce competition from other LA-area airports. Good for Donnelly to keep patronizing.
3. Your enemies move fast on the web.
Within a few hours of the news breaking, someone was tweeting mischievously as @TimDonnellysGun.
2. Illegal immigrants are a terrible excuse.
If there's anything worse than Donnelly's handling of his gun, it's his explanation of why he needed a loaded gun: illegal immigrants. Donnelly said that his opposition to the California Dream Act, via an attempted referendum, had produced threats against him.
Even if that's true, this was not the time to bring it up. Stay classy, Assemblyman.
1. This wasn't bad politics.
Fearless predictions: this won't hurt the assemblyman much politically, if at all. That's because a gaffe in politics is when you do something dumb that's unexpected -- and contrary to your image. If U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein -- a committed supporter of gun control -- had tried to take a loaded gun through airport security, that would have been big news, and a major problem for her.
But Donnelly is an acknowledged gun nut. He's also known for taking gratuitous swipes at undocumented immigrants. So nothing about this is terribly surprising. It will only reinforce the image that people already had of him.