Monday, August 5, 2019

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For the Love of Country

Everyone reading this has already paused in the last day to think about those who lost their lives (and their families and loved ones), those who were grievously wounded (and their families and loved ones), and the children in these two communities (and throughout the United States) who are growing up in a country that tolerates more mass murders by far than any other industrialized democracy. 

Pause again now, if you would, to think about all of them. And recognize that we honor their loss and their pain by trying, as a people, to try to keep these types of horrible murders from happening.

My take: 

A. Even if you are a Second Amendment hawk, you have to be concerned about the level and nature of gun violence in the United States. Even if you are a First Amendment hawk, you have to be concerned about the level and nature of white supremacist terrorism in the United States.

If you aren’t interested in contributing aggressively to exploring all possible solutions to these twin problems, you aren’t a serious citizen or legislator – or president.   Put down your tribal instincts.  Don’t worry about the next election. Look at the research, consider the options, form bipartisan coalitions, and take action.

B. Given all that has happened to the NRA in the last year, it is impossible to imagine they are as potent a force as they were for the decades when they were known as the Beltway’s most powerful lobby.  They are surely weaker, but they remain formidable and unyielding.  As do nearly all Republican members of Congress who have long opposed new gun laws and played down the white supremacist threat.

C. Despite (B), these could be the issues on which Trump finally makes a “Nixon goes to China” move.  The president could support a range of gun safety measures that are already on the table, none of which would do anything to infringe the rights of hunters or citizens to access appropriate firearms.  And the president could make that very point in announcing his backing for a package of sensible solutions that could pass the House easily and produce enough support to cause Mitch McConnell to wave a white flag.   

The president could also deliver his most forceful denunciation ever of white supremacist terrorism.  That would also require a Nixon-goes-to-China willingness.

The president really could take both of those steps at his 10am ET announcement this morning.  Will he?

At this writing, I would say rhetoric and proposals that leave the door open to moving in those directions are more likely than concrete steps, as Donald Trump uses his media intake to gauge which way the winds are blowing.

At his White House event, the president will have a chance to talk about both his views of gun control and white supremacist terrorism.  We know what he can say on both; until we see what he says, the political debate is frozen.  Waiting for a unifying, bipartisan moment from Donald Trump has been a frustrating and fruitless enterprise up until this day. 

But the politics of a “Nixon goes to China” moment are actually pretty clear, and the morality of such a move are even clearer.  Trump critics and skeptics surely believe, with ample evidence, that he will again act today like the leader of the Birther movement, who was elected with the massive backing of the NRA.  But there is a chance he will act more like a grandfather and a man who has at times demonstrated an understanding of the tides of history and a belief that his political base will give him leeway.

D. There are some early indications of what could influence him. The New York Post editorial board is cheering Trump on to support more gun safety measures. That is not a typo, although the Washington Post editorial board, in its own way, also cheers on Trump, with a proposed speech he could give on assault weapons, background checks, and hate speech.

The Gotham City Post declares “Gun control works,” and urges Trump to start with an assault weapons ban and move forward with more from there.  The Murdoch-owned paper makes its case on the wood (the tabloid’s cover), which is important real estate for the president.

Also: The Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal’s editorial board wants lowered Trump rhetoric, red flag laws, and a focus on mental health.

E. Per Politico: “Ivanka Trump condemned the attacks, writing that ‘white supremacy, like all other forms of terrorism, is an evil that must be destroyed.’ She also endorsed the call on Twitter by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) for the enactment of so-called red flag laws that give law enforcement greater authority to confiscate weapons from those deemed dangerous.”

F. And there is public opinion. Per the Wall Street Journal: “Broad support exists for stricter laws on firearm sales. A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken in February showed 69% of Americans—including 85% of Democrats and 57% of Republicans—wanted strong or moderate restrictions on firearms, and 55% said they favored policies making it harder to own a gun.”

G. With Congress in recess, GOP members are less likely to speak out and less likely to have an impact if they do, but it is not impossible that some leading Republican Senator with an “A” rating from the NRA comes out for some gun safety measures today. 

The same thing could happen with a Republican Senator, let’s say Tom Cotton or Marco Rubio, giving an interview or a speech warning of the dangers of white supremacist terrorism.

But do not expect McConnell to bend to calls to bring the Senate back into an emergency session. McConnell opposes gun control, any move that could unpredictably put him on the defensive, and a media spotlight that indicts Republicans as a party of racists and racist-coddlers. A special session would risk all three.

Watch for more of this: “Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut…said Sunday that he’d spent the weekend discussing gun control proposals with his Republican colleagues.”

H. The Democratic presidential candidates will continue to get a lot of attention, but their rhetoric on guns and white supremacy is unlikely to produce real change in the short term. 

Biden, Harris, Sanders, and Klobuchar are all scheduled to speak midday Pacific Time at the UNIDOSUS conference in San Diego.

I. So, the people to watch: Trump, Pence, Romney, Graham, McConnell, Rubio, Rick Scott, House Republicans with strong NRA ratings who also care about terrorism, Republican governors, Fox News hosts, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush.

In other news:

The Wall Street Journal on an issue and demographic group that could decide the election: the economy and women voters.

The Squad is reportedly about to be featured in a Republican TV ad.

Yet another Texas Republican congressman, from a purple-ish district, is reportedly poised to retire.

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