Thursday, March 01, 2018

Believe Him.

I know, I know: President Trump's meeting Wednesday with approximately 11 Democratic and Repub legislators about gun control probably will will mean little if anything, similarly to his "send me a bill and  I'll sign it meeting on DACA. We know how that turned out.

Meetings with so many participants rarely accomplish anything, anyway, so it is relatively insignificant that he excluded black members of Congress.  Whatever buy-in Grump could have achieved in the grand photo-op would have had virtually no impact, given that the House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader were conspicuously absent, uninvited.

It's unsurprising that reactions to such  an event varied substantially.  Crooks and Liars' Karoli Kuns took a conventional leftist approach, snarking "Yes, the man who took tens of millions from the NRA to get elected wants to pretend he's not owned by them (and) his sudden embrace of age limits for purchase is precious, given that after Wayne LaPierre told Trump to stand down on them, he stopped talking about them. "

Noting Trump's favorable remarks about gun control measures, the provocative and insightful Steve M. had an intriguing take, arguing

You have to remember where Trump comes from. Here in New York City, even tough law-and-order guys are pro-gun control. Rudy Giuliani was when he was mayor in the 1990s. So were all Giuliani's police commissioners....

In New York during the Giuliani years, gun control at the local and state levels and support for nationwide gun control were seen as components of a law-and-order approach to governing, in a Trumpian way. Giuliani and his police commissioners talked about "getting guns off the streets." A big part of that was stop-and-frisk, until its decline started (under court order) late in the mayoralty of Mike Bloomberg. Bill de Blasio, a stop-and-frisk opponent, is mayor now, but I'm sure Trump looks back most fondly on the Giuliani years. The mayor was a hard-ass and a racist, but he was anti-gun. That's what Trump is remembering when he advocates gun control. 

SM is one of the best but this view is contrary to the Politico report on Wednesday that

Trump received a concealed-carry permit from New York City and owns handguns, according to a 2012 interview with the Washington Times, but he hasn’t emphasized it since taking office.

Trump told reporter Emily Miller in the 2012 interview that he owned a .45 caliber Heckler & Koch sidearm and a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver. “The way I view it, if nobody has guns, then only the bad guys have them. And they aren’t giving up their guns,” he said at the time.

Trump told a French magazine in 2016 that he “always” carries a gun, adding that he would have tried to stop the shooters who attacked the Bataclan nightclub in Paris in 2015.

Some gun owners are sympathetic to gun safety measures, but a reading more consistent with the Law of Parsimony would suggest that the President was not sincere in the remarks he made Wednesday supporting expanded background checks, keeping guns from mentally ill individuals, restricting sales of some firearms to young adults, and slamming lawmakers "petrified of the NRA."

But the parallel drawn between the "law-and-order" approach of former New York mayor Giuliani (to a lesser extent, ex-mayors Koch and Bloomberg) and Trump's own perspective rings true.

As SM notes, "the disregard for due process on gun seizures should be a tell. Trump appreciates gun control, but not in a liberal way."

He appreciates it in an authoritarian way.  Two days after the 2016 election, Russian-born journalist Masha Gessen wrote

Most important, Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat—and won.

I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now:

Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable.

The President didn't mean all of what he said to the assembled members of Congress. And he will quickly pivot from his statement "I like taking the guns early.... But take the guns first, go through due process second."   But the statement is beyond controversial.  It's advocacy for extra-judicial confiscation of weapons and, were it made by a President Obama, would be met with prompt, vociferous calls for impeachment.

Of course, Barack Obama never said such a thing- and neither has any liberal/progressive President or member of Congress, however much they were attacked for being "gun-grabbers."  Yet, it now has been advocated by a guy who has proclaimed "I'm a Second Amendment person." Intimidated as usual, he'll retract or amend his statement. Still....

Despite his seeming ignorance, incompetence, and mental or psychiatric deficiencies, Donald Trump has plans. These are not plans for his first term. However, in the remote event he survives a first term politically and wins four more years, Americans probably will be sorry we didn't heed Gessen's warning:  Believe the autocrat. He means what he says.

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