Aaron Blake has a pretty good rundown of the bizarre meeting between Trump and a bipartisan group of legislators yesterday. As others have done, he focused on things the president said that were outlandish.
But there hasn’t been much commentary on how Democrats handled themselves in the meeting. One thing that has drawn some attention is the fact that Senators Feinstein and Klobuchar broke out in laughter when Trump suggested that a ban on weapons like the AR-15 be added to the Toomey-Manchin bill. Here’s a quick GIF of that:
Feinstein's reaction when Trump says she should add assault weapons ban to Manchin-Toomey pic.twitter.com/7dlKxwa1KO
— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) February 28, 2018
I don’t fault those Democrats for laughing at Trump’s naiveté. But I will suggest that simply laughing wasn’t enough. Why didn’t someone put this question to the president and/or the authors of the bill: “Do you support a ban on weapons like the AR-15?” Klobuchar simply went on to talk seriously about other proposals she supports, as if we could laugh off what Trump just said and move on.
At another point in the discussion, the president suggested that we drop due process and confiscate the guns of those who are mentally ill, which takes place from about 9:17 to 10:55 in this video.
Reading Klobuchar’s body language, it appears as though on a couple of occasions, she looked around the room to see if anyone else was going to respond. As someone who was the Hennepin County District Attorney prior to being elected to the Senate, she is well acquainted with the importance of due process and the way in should work in these situations. And yet she remained silent.
Overall, the Democrats in the room yesterday were deferential to the president—which is probably the way things have been in the past when the office itself was deemed worthy of respect. But when the President of the United States, who has shown over and over again that he has no respect for our justice system, talks once again about tossing aside due process, it is time for someone to speak up.
This meeting took place in the context of this administration breaking all of the norms that have sustained our democratic process due to their malevolence and incompetence. Staying silent out of deferential respect to the office is exactly how Democrats normalize what’s going on.
Over the last few months we’ve witnessed many in the mainstream media wrestle with their journalistic approach because it tends to normalize this unprecedented presidency. They don’t all have it right yet, but at least they’re asking the right questions. It is way past time for congressional Democrats to do the same.