Friday, August 9, 2019

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Reasons to think significant gun safety legislation will pass:

1. President Trump talked to Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer about the issue on Thursday.

2. Mitch McConnell said in a radio interview that background checks and red flag provisions will be “front and center” when the Senate returns in September.  “I think the urgency of this is not lost on any of us, because we’ve seen too many of these horrendous acts,” he said, sounding very unlike Mitch McConnell.

3. A king-sized tealeaf for the Gang of 500, who are very aware of the political savvy of Mr. Scott Jennings and his status as a McConnell Whisperer:

“A close adviser to Mr. McConnell, Scott Jennings, said on Thursday that he spoke with the leader this week and encouraged him to pursue a background check bill.”

“’I think we’ve reached a tipping point,’ said Mr. Jennings, who is based in Kentucky and has advised Mr. McConnell for years. ‘The polling clearly supports that notion, and as long as the president is going to be for something, I think there will be momentum for it within the party.’”

3. Press stories about the dissension in, and new weakness of, the NRA continue to appear, making it more likely that the News-Consumer-in-Chief will be willing to cross his allies.  Trump disrespects weakness.

4. The Nixon-goes-to-China meme is gaining traction, and Trump is a student of the broader strokes of history.

5. “’Guns, overall, is an issue where voters have moved much faster than popular political belief,’ said Angela Kuefler, the senior vice president of research for Global Strategy Group who has done extensive research on public sentiment toward guns. She said public support for an assault weapons ban has consistently hovered in the mid-50s and mid-60s.”

6. President Clinton weighed in with a TIME magazine essay in support of banning assault weapons.  This is a man who knows how to measure the public mood.

7.  Many of Donald Trump’s moderate Republican financial backers, like the ones with whom he will be hanging out in the Hamptons on Friday, are as pro-gun control as the Democratic presidential candidates.  The president will likely get an earful.

Reasons to think significant gun safety legislation will not pass:

1. McConnell is rejecting efforts to bring the Senate back from recess, increasing the chances of the momentum burning off.

2. Negotiations in the Senate could topple over if the Democrats push for an assault weapons ban, which lacks the broad political support of background checks and red flag measures. 

3. History suggests it is not unreasonable to suspect that McConnell and Trump are stalling for time and will team with the NRA to find a PR and legislative strategy to trick gun safety proponents into making the perfect the enemy of the achievable.

A close reading of McConnell’s radio interview suggests this could be the game plan. 

Per the NY Times: “Mr. McConnell told Terry Meiners of WHAS in Louisville, that he is determined to see bipartisan legislation pass, adding, ‘what I want to see here is an outcome, not a bunch of partisan back and forth.’ He also said he expected discussion of an assault weapons ban, which is favored by Democrats but highly unlikely to pass in a Republican-controlled Senate.”

4.  While a handful of Republican elected officials, mostly from Texas and Ohio, has found new religion on gun safety provisions they previously rejected, there is no stampede to the center in the party more broadly.

5. The backlash on the right against Joaquin Castro, the boycott of SoulCycle and Equinox, and the freezing of McConnell’s Twitter account all serve to rally tribal conservatives against anything Nancy Pelosi supports.  All that only escalates the passions on the left. It is one thing for Donald Trump to quietly make a budget deal with the woman conservatives think is the devil; getting a bipartisan agreement on an issue as emotional as guns is a lot more politically challenging in the current environment.

6. Famiglia Trump is divided: “Part of the challenge for lawmakers seeking action is that the White House is divided — as is often the case. The hard-liners and Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who is close to pro-gun activists, are uneasy about angering the president’s heavily white and rural base by pursuing gun control measures ahead of 2020.”

“But others, particularly Mr. Trump’s eldest daughter and senior adviser, Ivanka Trump, are aggressively lobbying the president to take action, according to Republican officials who have been in touch with her.”

7. Nixon would not have gone to China if Twitter, talk radio, and Fox News had existed in 1972.  And Trump rarely moves to the center when he is ambivalent.  Everyone agrees Trump will have to take the lead, unambiguously, for anything to happen. “Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii was even blunter. ‘Unless Donald Trump says here’s the model legislation I want and here’s the White House position, then I think everyone should assume it’s’ not true, said Mr. Schatz, using a far more colorful word.”

8. Michael Bloomberg is going on “Face the Nation” on Sunday.  He has spent tens of millions of his wealth working towards the cause of gun safety measures, in which he passionately believes.  He also is one of the easiest proponents of such measures for the NRA and its allies to demonize in Red America, including in states that have two Republican Senators and a disproportionate influence on public policy related to such issues as gun regulation from Warshington, DC by bureaucrats wearing, in Pat Buchanan’s immortal phrase, “sandals and beads.”  Watch for the right to make hay of Bloomberg’s appearance.

9. The Friday column of the Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel, as is often the case, is a window into the themes and factoids that conservatives will be using among themselves and in the wider world in the weeks to come. 

“The Pew Research Center’s 2017 study of the ‘demographics of gun ownership’ found that 42% of American adults live in a household with a firearm. Some 58% of rural Americans live in a gun household, as do 48% of independents and 41% of suburbanites. Forty-eight percent of white men personally own a gun. A quarter of self-identified Democrats live in a gun household—many in those rural and suburban areas of Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where Hillary Clinton lost and the Democratic nominee will desperately need to win in 2020.”

Her last paragraph taunts Democrats into risking that past won’t be prologue for politicians who take on the gun lobby:

“Mass shootings are a terrible problem, but they won’t be solved with gun regulation. And no competitive politician will be rewarded for offending law-abiding gun owners—and the Constitution—with radical proposals that won’t achieve their objectives. Democrats write off gun-owning America at their peril.”

My take:The New York Times hits the nail right on the head.  Skepticism is still the right posture. “Democrats caution that they have been down this road with Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell before, and it is not clear how sustained Mr. Trump’s attention to the issue will be or how much political capital he will spend to follow through.”

Friday watch list:

Hong Kong, with protesters at the airport.

My take:  This latest action has the chance of engaging an international audience and turning this from a long-running big story to the dominant story of the news cycle, including even in the United States.

Biden gaffe on “poor kids are just as bright, just as talented, as white kids.”

My take: Although his words were unfortunate (the former VP quickly corrected them), the lack of blanket coverage is actually an enormously good sign for Team Biden, since it suggests the “Biden has lost a step” and “Biden is a ticking time bomb” memes are not top-of-mind for the media right now.  Political coverage is driven above all else by polls, and Biden hasn’t had a bad state or national poll for his twin advantages — he’s ahead and he is seen as most electable — in quite some time.

Iowa is game on.

My take: The State Fair has drawn a lot of candidate activity already.  National reporters are swarming. No one has a true leg up here. The entire Big 5 is competing to get a ticket out of the Hawkeye State and onto New Hampshire. 

Let the Democratic Scott Jennings of Iowa, Jeff Link, play us into sports with this high-concept quote from Politico:

“The State Fair is like half time. We’ve had the first two quarters of the game. We have the 3rd and 4th quarters to play still. If you’re a fan of the NBA, nothing happens until the 4th quarter. I wouldn’t be satisfied being ahead at half time.”

Top sports story: Dolphins WR Stills stands by criticism of owner

Top business story: Kraft Heinz’s latest tumble begs question what is value of its brands

Top entertainment story: Facebook to Test Selling Video Subscriptions

Big Four


Biden, Bullock take on Trump, guns at Iowa State Fair.

New Hampshire

On the trail: Gabbard keeps targeting Harris but says ‘it’s not personal’.

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