On Wednesday, Donald Trump castigated his fellow Republicans for being “petrified of the NRA.” Last night, the group attempted to bail him out of a jam. After a private meeting with President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, the executive director of the NRA’s lobbying group announced that everything was back to being copacetic.
Until the next open-access meeting, that is:
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 (@ChrisCoxCap6) March 2, 2018
Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, confirmed the Oval Office meeting with a tweet of his own. Vice President Mike Pence was also present.
“We all want safe schools, mental health reform and to keep guns away from dangerous people,” Cox tweeted.
There was no further information on what was discussed or promised, but Cox said in his tweet that Trump and Pence “support the Second Amendment, support strong due process and don’t want gun control.”
The reference to “due process” was an apparent effort to recast Trump’s comments Wednesday in support of flouting the rights of gun owners who are flagged by their families or law enforcement.
The White House began its walkback yesterday morning on the disastrous meeting, with Trump acknowledging that some of the ideas raised were “not so good” … like, say, ignoring due process and seizing firearms. This looks more like a runback, especially with it coming under the auspices of Pence, who tried to pull Trump from the brink of disaster in the meeting with lawmakers earlier.
It might seem a little charitable for the NRA to help out in this manner, but what choice do they have? The Left has come after them in full attack mode, while part of the Right wagged its finger and said we told you so when Trump appeared to turn on them. Cox is smart enough to deploy the most effective strategy: be the last person to meet with Trump and flatter him immediately afterward. Ben Sasse made a derisive reference to Trump’s malleability on Wednesday after Trump’s remarks, but Cox just used it to his advantage, with a big boost from Pence.
And … it seems to have worked:
Trump’s smart enough to realize that the NRA provides him a real link to his base, while the Left will not warm up to him even if Trump roasted NRA merchandise in a Rose Garden fire pit. Attacking them — and fellow Republicans for the same affiliation Trump himself has trumpted — makes no sense at all, either in the short term or the long term. Cox and Pence probably used last night’s meeting to make that point abundantly clear.