Monday, August 05, 2019


Why does NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez have a job? Here's what he said yesterday on All Things Considered in response to a question about a possible White House response to this weekend's shootings in El Paso and Dayton:
But the White House probably needs to take on the NRA. This is an issue. The NRA is a big supporter of Trump, and Trump has been a big supporter of the NRA. He once flirted with going against them after the Parkland shooting, but he kind of backed off. Another issue is that, you know, he has - he is likely going to have to take a more direct push on white nationalism because until now, he has downplayed that threat. Even in March, when reporters asked him directly whether he saw white nationalism as a rising threat, he answered, I don't really, I think it's a small group of people that have a very serious problem. So there'll be more and more questions about that to him.
Um ... no.

Trump "probably needs to take on the NRA"? "Needs" for what reason? To be an effective president? He doesn't care about that. (He cares about being perceived as the greatest president ever, but actually doing his job well doesn't interest him.) To persuade people outside his base that he shares their concerns? He doesn't care about that either.

Yes, he flirted with taking on the NRA after the Parkland shooting:
He expressed openness to raising the age for buying certain assault rifles to 21, supported a background check proposal from Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) that has twice failed in the Senate, and even seemed to express support for an assault weapons ban proposal from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). He said law enforcement should take firearms from individuals deemed dangerous and then go to court. “You’re afraid of the NRA,” he told Toomey when he said his bill didn’t address changing the gun purchase age limit.
But that didn't last:
At the NRA’s annual convention in Dallas, Trump called again for arming teachers and increasing school security to head off future mass shootings like the one in Parkland, Florida in February that killed 17 people. Such measures are supported by the NRA....

Trump made no mention of gun-control proposals he tentatively floated in the past, such as raising the age limit for buying rifles. The NRA opposes that and other limits on gun sales....
It's obvious at this moment that Trump has been urged not to speak impulsively. His team has working been working on a response for him. That means he's being steered away from challenging NRA dogma. (After Parkland, he must have naively believed that doing so would be regarded by his base as a show of toughness.)

And the notion that "he is likely going to have to take a more direct push on white nationalism" is equally absurd. He uttered a few anodyne words about hate yesterday, but then changed the subject:
“Hate has no place in our country, and we’re going to take care of it,” the president said, declining to elaborate but promising to speak more on Monday morning. He made no mention of white supremacy or the El Paso manifesto, but instead focused on what he called “a mental illness problem.”
Every intelligent, well-informed observer of Trump knows he won't take on either the NRA or white nationalists, and if he does somehow make tentative steps in either of those directions, he'll walk them back shortly afterward.

Why doesn't Ordoñez know this? Why do grumbling amateurs like me have to keep explaining this to professional journalists?


UPDATE: Well, for now, Trump is talking about "tough background checks" -- and proposing to trade them for anti-immigration legislation.

So that's the plan his advisers cooked up over the last couple of days: Make him seem responsive (and responsible), but embed gun reform in a politically impossible tradeoff that appears to put the onus on Democrats. (Democrats know they could offer to rubber-stamp Trump's entire immigration agenda in return for a tiny improvement in gun safety and the GOP wouldn't allow the gun law to pass -- but Trump's base and many centrist voters don't understand that, and might fall for the notion that Democrats are too pro-immigrant to back even one of their own gun control proposals.)

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