We’ve all been watching the Trump Show for four years now. But a lot of folks, and a shocking number of journalists, still haven’t caught onto the rules.
Trump will promise any policy he thinks works to his political advantage in the moment. He loves generating headlines for those proposals that break with GOP orthodoxy, but he will eventually revert to the Republican norm.
Trump has no regard for truth or consistency. Yet the media unaccountably fail to report the essential context: That that the president is often full of shit. So people come away believing the Trump is open to universal healthcare, wants to protect the Dreamers, would raise taxes on hedge fund billionaires, or — in the wake of mass shootings — is open to expanding background checks.
It’s no mystery why Trump seeks the political benefits of sidling up to these policies — they’re extremely popular. (Universal background checks poll at close to 90 percent.) And because bullshiting is so on brand for our presidential pitchman, Trump never pays a real political price when he later reverses himself. All evidence suggests these flip flops work for the president — low information voters hear what they want to hear (Trump is for what I’m for) and disregard the rest.
Trump was back on his bullshit in early morning tweets on Monday, responding to the massacres in El Paso and Dayton. “Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks,” Trump wrote. He then appeared to propose the contours of a grand bargain, getting the GOP to move on gun control if Democrats were willing to deal on The Wall. “Perhaps marrying this legislation,” Trump continued, “with desperately needed immigration reform.”
The tweets generated credulous headlines:
Axios: Trump suggests tying gun background checks to immigration reform
CBS News: Trump calls for “strong background checks” and blames media for “anger and rage” in U.S.
New York Times: Trump Wants ‘Strong Background Checks’ After Mass Shootings but Ties Them to Immigration Laws
The huge-if-true Twitter proposal came just hours in advance of a live address by the president. And wouldn’t you know it? By the time the president delivered his teleprompted address on the shootings in Texas and Ohio, the proposal for background checks had vanished.
In its place were hackneyed Republican talking points, blaming the shootings on a broken mental health system, violent video games, and inattentive social media companies, building to a call by Trump to streamline the death penalty for mass shooters.
The GOP orthodoxy was re-asserted.
What’s particularly egregious about this particular bait-and-switch is Trump ran the exact same con in the wake of the Parkland massacre. After meeting with student activists, the president made a call on Twitter for background checks…
Whether we are Republican or Democrat, we must now focus on strengthening Background Checks!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2018
… only to walk back that commitment after a White House meeting a week later with the NRA, which backed his 2016 campaign with an unprecedented $30 million:
Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 2, 2018
The House passed a bill that would implement universal background checks earlier this year. It’s currently languishing in the Senate. To give majority leader Mitch McConnel cover for inaction, Trump has even threatened to veto the legislation.
It’s time to stop treating Trump as a would-be iconoclast or maverick. We know who Trump is. With exceptions on trade and talking to dictators, Trump is mainstream Republican who says the racist parts out loud. And he’s an incorrigible liar.
If you think today’s side-bar denunciation of white supremacy should be taken seriously, let me recall another tweet about background checks from Trump’s birther days, when he was demanding that the first president of color produce his long-form birth certificate to prove he wasn’t an illegitimate foreign usurper:
Isn’t it ironic that President Obama, of all people, is pushing for ‘universal background checks?!'
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 27, 2013
If Trump fooled you once on sensible gun control in the wake of a mass shooting, shame on him.
If he fooled you twice, shame on you.
If you’re a journalist enabling Trump’s favorite brand of fake news, you’re naive, complicit or both. Wise up.