Remember back when, in the Republican primary fight, when Donald Trump vowed that, “After I beat them I’m going to be so presidential, you’re going to be so bored”?
Republicans aren’t bored yet. Instead, they are increasingly terrified as they realize that Trump—a “I was for it before I was against it” sort of guy—just makes it up as he goes along, even during moments of national tragedy.
Here he was in Texas, after the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that left 49 dead and dozens more wounded: “If some of those wonderful people had gun strapped right here—right to their waist or right to their ankle—and one of the people in that room happened to have it and goes ‘boom, boom,’ you know that would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight, folks.”
Later on the Howie Carr Show: “It’s too bad some of the people killed over the weekend didn’t have guns attached to their hips where bullets could have thrown in the opposite direction. Had people been able to fire back it would have been a much different outcome.”
Not only was the real estate titan wildly misstating the party’s position on guns, but he didn’t seem to know that there was in fact an armed guard working security—off-duty Orlando cop Adam Gruler—who engaged the Orlando shooter in a firefight.
In typical fashion, Trump popped off before he knew the facts. That Trump, who party leaders readily admit is not schooled in public policy, just doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Maybe, he was too busy primping his gravity-defying hair to be concerned about what actually unfolded in Orlando. Then too, he doesn’t understand the party’s position on anything, because—in all likelihood—he’s never studied those policy stances. They don’t typically, after all, appear in magazines with his face on the cover.
This time, however, the outrage (though tempered) was immediate and not always from the usual sources. Even NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre—a proponent of “good guys with guns” who wants to arm school teachers—pushed back, joining with rational people to warn about the inherent dangers of allowing “firearms where people are drinking.”
Notwithstanding the NRA’s earlier endorsement of the swashbuckling charlatan, who sometimes pulls an imaginary rifle at his rallies, the organization confronted his latest rantings directly.
“No one thinks that people should go into a nightclub drinking and carrying firearms,” NRA lobbyist Chris Cox told ABC’s This Week. “That defies common sense. It also defies the law.”
While the NRA remains firmly behind Trump, the choice to publicly chastise him sent a clear message to the normally tone-deaf billionaire, who later tweeted, “When I said that if, within the Orlando club, you had some people with guns. I was obviously talking about additional guards or employees.”
Trump’s vacuity has often led to the kind of back-peddling that sends Republicans on Capitol Hill reaching for a bottle of Pepto-Bismo. Sure, there was his apparent turnabout on abortion rights. Later it was climate change and taxation. No big deal, eh? But then came his claim after the Orlando massacre that he, and not Hillary Clinton was the “real friend” of the LGBT community —which, of course, flies in the face of his opposition to marriage equality— and his suggestion that drunken party goers should have the right to carry a deadly weapon into a nightclub.
This time, Trump inadvertently stepped on the messaging of one the most powerful lobbies in all of politics. The NRA has used its deep pockets, lined by gun manufacturers, to buy-off politicians from sea to shining sea. There are few, if any other, interest groups with the ability to influence the Trump campaign that way.
But, don’t expect a man who surrounds himself with sycophants to change. Anyone expecting a “pivot” is in for the belly-ache of a lifetime. It might serve the GOP interests to make a big investment in antacids.