There seems to be a pattern developing. On January 9th, Trump met with a bipartisan group of legislators to discuss a legislative fix for DACA. He ended the meeting by saying that he would “take the heat” and sign any bill on immigration that Congress sent to him.
On January 11th, Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham went to a meeting at the White House to present the bipartisan agreement on DACA they had developed. Trump not only rejected their proposal, it was during that meeting that the president railed about immigrants from “shithole” countries.
We subsequently learned that between these two meetings nativist Stephen Miller had managed to get Trump back on script.
Similarly, yesterday the president met with a bipartisan group of legislators to talk about school shootings. During the course of the conversation, Trump agreed to expand background checks on gun purchases and restricting the sale of some guns to people 21 or older.
Today, the White House announced that the president has back-tracked on both proposals.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Friday morning Mr. Trump now considers a federal increase in the minimum age as likely unrealistic…
On background checks, Ms. Sanders dialed back the president’s stance. He is seeking “not necessarily universal background checks, but certainly improving the background-check system.”
Here’s why that happened:
Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 2, 2018
Chris Cox, the NRA lobbyist who met with Trump last night, took to Twitter to assure everyone that he’d gotten the president under control.
I had a great meeting tonight with @realDonaldTrump & @VP. We all want safe schools, mental health reform and to keep guns away from dangerous people. POTUS & VPOTUS support the Second Amendment, support strong due process and don’t want gun control. #NRA #MAGA
— Chris Cox (@ChrisCoxNRA) March 2, 2018
Of course, the same thing happened last September when, in a meeting with Pelosi and Schumer, Trump agreed to protect the Dreamers in exchange for more border security (minus funding for the wall), only to backtrack on that one almost immediately.
I’m pretty sure that none of this is being done strategically. What we have is a president who is ignorant of the issues and goes off script depending on the circumstances. That is why it is very likely that between yesterday, when he said that he plans to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and next week, when he is scheduled to make a formal announcement, Trump will do another about-face. Who knows? It probably depends on which warring faction in the White House is able to win him over. The point is that you can’t trust what he says from one day to the next.
This cycle of flip-flopping on an issue usually ends when Trump’s ego gets fed by adulation from his base of supporters and attacks from those he considers opponents. Just as he hardened on immigration, I suspect we’ll soon see the same on guns, and eventually on tariffs.