Have things gotten even crazier recently? It’s not just the horrible things Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress are doing, although those are certainly enough to send you into a serious state of depression. No, it seems as if the world has slipped a few degrees more off kilter, that public figures are acting even more unhinged than usual, that signs of responsible behavior by the “adults” are getting really hard to find.
The horrific shooting in Florida last week led normal Americans to grieve and to wonder what could be done to stop the endless string of mass murders. Many of us were heartened by the courage and resolve of student survivors who spoke out, who weren’t intimidated by the politicians who again offered nothing better than “thoughts and prayers” and who started organizing and mobilizing.
Having heard “never again” too many times to count, it’s hard not to be skeptical that this time will be different. But maybe it will because we’ve never seen anything quite like the response of those Florida teenagers. They may actually succeed in moving us off our inertia.
What we have seen before is the mindless rhetoric, empty promises and phony empathy of politicians who seem only to care about NRA donations, see the Second Amendment as the only important section of the Constitution, and believe, based on past history, that this too shall pass. And it will, unless there is a sustained and wider spread adult response.
However, under much more public pressure than these praetorian guards of guns have faced before, some have lost their bearings and gone totally off the rails. As you would expect, the most inane ramblings came out of the mouth of Donald Trump.
The President decided that it was important to his public image to meet with students and parents from the embattled high school. His main task was to appear empathetic, but, as a photojournalist showed the world, Trump needed a cue card to remind him how to feel and what to say. The leader of the free world wasn’t up to showing genuine human emotions. In a presidency chocked full of low moments, this one was right down there.
Trump’s reaction to the shooting was dictated in large part by his determination to keep his base happy and not disappoint the hand-that-feeds him, the NRA. Pressed for a solution to the gun epidemic, he first tried to insist that the problem was primarily the product of people with mental health problems. That he recently signed legislation allowing easier access to gun by everyone including the mentally disturbed did not seem to faze him nor did the fact that his position is not supported by facts or data.
He then danced around the edges of a couple of minor adjustments to gun laws, including looking at outlawing “bump stocks” and raising the age for purchase of rifles from 18 to 21. The NRA looked on disapprovingly and Trump quickly moved on from these suggestions.
His silver bullet, if you pardon the expression, was to arm teachers. The idiocy of this idea is beyond rational comprehension. While gun advocates support any measure that increases gun sales and doesn’t put limits on their acquisition of firearms and ammunition, most of the sane world ridiculed the proposal through words, cartoons and withering explanations of all the supplies teachers do not have.
Arming teachers is not only stupid, it is breathtakingly cynical. Trained marksman don’t always hit their targets. The chaos of an active shooter situation has the potential for a wild west fiasco if multiple people are running around with guns. And exactly where do the guns get stored while the school waits for the next attacker. Trump at one point suggested “concealed carry.” And the list of nightmarish possibilities is almost endless.
I have read some commentary that argues we should ignore the “arm teachers” proposal as merely a distraction. I disagree. Given that the NRA’s reaction to any shooting is more guns for everyone, conservative legislators may well take the proposal seriously and claim they are responding with a real “solution.”
Then, on Tuesday, Trump exceeded the worst expectations anyone could have possibly had for him. After having called the security guard who didn’t go into the school during the shooting a “coward”, Trump–bone spurs and all–asserted that he would have gone into the school even if he hadn’t had a weapon.
In his long career as a public figure, it’s doubtful he has ever said anything more delusional than that. A man with multiple deferments from the military who has never shown any signs of physical courage, Trump’s creation of this fantasy in which he plays a “superhero” suggests self-delusion and self-aggrandizement on a grand scale.
Imagine then what will happen if he ends up testifying before Robert Mueller or, worse yet, a grand jury. His make-believe world would come to a crashing end. That his lawyers are trying to avoid that possibility because they are afraid it might be a “perjury trap” tells you yet again what a weak figure Trump really is. The way to avoid a “perjury trap” is to tell the truth, but that’s clearly beyond Trump’s capacity. As he just showed, he even lies to himself.