I’m not used to defending President Donald Trump, and I’m even more unaccustomed to feeling sorry for him. Now I’m doing both because of the raw deal that he got after a recent televised meeting on gun policy with lawmakers from both parties. When Trump gets something wrong, the media and the special interests are quick to pounce. They ought to be just as good at acknowledging when he does something right.
First, Trump deserves praise — especially from the media — for opening up the process and changing how politics is covered. He occasionally invites television cameras into what were once closed-door meetings. It used to be that the president and lawmakers could say whatever they wanted in private with no way to hold them accountable. Then, later, they could say something different to the media. But when the proceedings are televised, everyone is on notice that what they say matters.
Next, Trump should get credit for doing something that you rarely see any Republican do at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue: challenging the National Rifle Association. The president noted that the NRA has a headlock on Congress but insisted that the organization will go along with reasonable reforms. If not, he said, he’s ready to fight it.
Trump is due another round of applause for the fact that — during the meeting itself — he exhibited calm leadership, mature restraint and shrewd negotiating skills.
Unlike the adolescent who doesn’t seem to think before he tweets, the person who chaired the discussion on guns sounded like a grown-up. He also sounded like the father of an 11-year-old boy who plays video games, including some that Trump acknowledges are extremely violent. The president thinks we should look at the effect that such games might be having on young people.
Trump also refused to go along with highly controversial reforms like outlawing assault weapons or requiring all states to honor concealed carry permits. He understands that — while he can signal what reforms he would support — it’s the job of the legislative branch to draft a bill. Besides, he knows what items would be deal killers for each side, and he cautioned the lawmakers not to include them because they could derail the whole process.