Is Shep a big Second Amendment guy? I know he’s from Mississippi but I thought he was a down-the-line liberal. I’m not complaining, mind you. He’s 100 percent right on the merits here. I’m just saying, this would be like Bush/Cheney fan and strong national-security hawk Sean Hannity suddenly becoming friends with Julian Assange.

Which would never happen, of course.

Maybe Shep’s more a big due-process guy than a Second Amendment guy … although that would still put him out of the liberal mainstream when it comes to guns. Liberals don’t care about taking guns away without due process from people on the no-fly list even though they’ve been convicted of nothing. If you watched that CNN town hall lynch mob a few weeks ago featuring the Stoneman Douglas students, the vibe you got was not one suggesting careful attentiveness to the rights of gun owners before seizing dangerous weapons. Shep’s going his own way here.

A third possibility: He’s not so much a big Second Amendment guy or a big due-process guy as he is a big anti-Trump guy. If POTUS is going to say something obnoxious about seizing guns without giving gun owners their day in court first, Shep will happily take that opportunity to club him over the head as “un-American” whatever his personal feelings about guns are. I think that’s the likeliest explanation for these comments (which, admittedly, isn’t very fair to Smith), although maybe that’s because I’ve spent the past 24 hours watching Democrats unload on Trump over his new tariffs. I’m old enough to remember when the left was the protectionist wing and Reaganite Republicans were stalwart free-traders. When I see liberals pummeling Trump for his new trade-war policy, my gut reaction is to assume that they’re anti-Trump, not anti-trade-war.

But that’s not very fair either. Plenty of polling has been done over the past 10 years about where the two parties stand on protectionism. One is consistently more receptive to policies like tariffs than the other, and it ain’t the Democrats. That, maybe more than anything, explains how we ended up with Trumpmania in the primaries in 2016 amid a field of dogmatic conservatives.

Exit question via Rich Lowry: What was Trump thinking with that gun-control display during the bipartisan summit at the White House on Wednesday? Consider what would be required of him if he meant what he said at the time.

If Trump were truly serious about following through on his gun-control statements, he’d have to be willing and able to find serious partners across the aisle; defy part of his political base; cajole and bully Ryan and McConnell; make a veto threat for any bill he considered inadequate; be willing to lose if it came to that; and work this issue intensely without his usual allies on Capitol Hill doing any of the heavy lifting. How likely is any of that?

Was it a buck-passing strategic gambit? I.e. he wanted to sound centrist on guns on TV, while people were watching, knowing that Ryan and McConnell wouldn’t go along and he could later blame inaction on them. That would also explain his weird, fleeting centrism on immigration at the last televised White House summit. Or is he really so eager to ingratiate himself to his audience that he instinctively takes the position he feels will be most popular in the room he’s in at any given time? It’s baffling.