An interesting word prompt arrived in my inbox today, one that wouldn’t normally interest me except that I taught an eighth-grade science class this week. The word is “assay.” It’s not used a lot in day-to-day speech, but it should be.

It’s defined as “an investigative procedure [in science] for qualitatively assessing or quantitatively measuring the presence, amount, or functional activity of a target entity.” The word comes from fourteenth century Anglo-French “assai,” meaning “trial, test of quality, test of character.”

For instance, if you wanted to test the character or functional activity of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) — America’s biggest D.C. shindig for conservative Republicans each year — you would investigate who pays for it and who takes the stage.

The National Rifle Association is generally a big contributor to the event, including sponsoring the festive Ronald Reagan dinner. This year, the money behind the dinner is being kept secret.

Also not made public was the big speech by the NRA’s chief executive Wayne LaPierre. As survivors of the latest school massacre made their way to the nation’s capitol to plead for controls on the lethal weapons that murdered their friends and so many others, CPAC made public their schedule of speakers. LaPierre’s appearance was nowhere to be seen. But lo and behold, he’s on the stage as I write.

He’s the GOP’s secret weapon, literally.

Wayne LaPierre speaking to his bought-and-paid-for minions

Republicans may be ashamed or afraid to let the public know that the NRA is paying for and speaking at their conference, but they cannot hide the NRA contributions coming straight into their campaign coffers. That’s how we know that when the man who sometimes sits in the Oval Office in between golf games takes the stage at CPAC tomorrow, he’ll be standing on bales of NRA cash that helped get him into office: thirty million bucks, to be exact.

It’s a pretty simple assay experiment to test the character and “functional activity” of the GOP these days. Even high school students can do it.

 

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