- The Conservative Political Action Conference(CPAC), which touts the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Second Amendment, had guns barred from its meeting this year and then hosted the NRA’s leader to give a speech long on scare tactics but strong on gun ownership and nothing but gun ownership.
- It also hosted another NRA spokesman who said mainstream media loved mass shootings at schools because they liked the ratings that come from “crying white mothers.”
- The NRA this week denounced the “rogue leadership” of the FBI.
- President Trump told us he was talking to the NRA and they were going to do the “right thing” when it comes to gun control reform. Maybe the President was saying the NRA would do the right-wing thing? Because the next day, the head of the NRA came out in a speech that was over the top even for him and made clear they weren’t agreeing even to make the age for gun ownership 21 instead of 18 for automatic and semi-automatic weapons and that liberals were trying to eliminate the Second Amendment.
- A senior official for CPAC said former Republican National Chairman Michael Steele was elected because he was a “black guy" and it was a mistake.
- Trump retweeted from @waynedupreeshow who tweeted a picture of himself with the text: “This is what it's all about! It's ok 2 b black, conservative and love America and not vote Democrat! Freedom exists!” Trump’s comment on his retweet was “So true Wayne, and Lowest black unemployment in history!” That apparently was his comment because Mr. Dupree is African-American.
- The student survivors from Parkland’s school shooting were all over the media, mourning while also advocating articulately for stronger gun laws so their school’s shooting would be the last ever. Trump, never one to pass up appropriating someone else’s language for himself, promised these students in a “listening session” that this would be the last such incident. Big promise to make.
- Trump also proposed that we arm a certain percentage of school teachers because then if a shooter enters a school to do damage, he will be killed immediately. Yes, your daughter’s teacher may be packing. So much has been written on this topic that I won’t add much to it other than: It’s a stupid idea and sounds even stupider coming from the President of the United States. Teachers are buying their own school supplies because they’re not sufficiently provided. Who’s gonna buy the guy, train them, pay for the bonuses the President suggested for them, convince the teachers’ unions this is their duty. I know who will pray for those teachers as well as our children if that happens. Us.
- The CPAC crowd, at President Trump’s instigation, booed Sen. John McCain, who has a terminal tumor, because he voted against repealing Obamacare and I guess because he would like to have something to replace it right away. Which, uh, the President promised in his campaign. It was “repeal and replace” not “repeal.”
- Trump addressed or lectured or entertained CPAC, went off script and brought back campaign successes such as chants of “Lock her up!” about his former political opponent, recited again “The Snake,” which he seems to repeat with dog whistles of prejudice against immigrants, explained how he covers his bald spot (in, I think, at an out of character effort at self-deprecating humor) but he did not repeat his “We’re gonna build a wall and…Mexico will pay for it!”
- Trump held an availability where he and his visitor, the Australian prime minister, took two questions each. Trump took questions from this preferred outlets that spend their days praising him. Neither asked about the fact that his former deputy campaign manager at about that moment was pleading guilty to various charges to reduce a term in prison and to turn on others in the special counsel’s Russia probe. The President hasn't held a full-fledged press conference in more than a year.
- Trump said his chief-of-staff would make the decision on whether to cease Jared Kushner’s, Trump’s son-in-law, access to classified material because he can’t pass his security investigation. He also praised his son-in-law in a way that makes it hard for his chief of staff to pull the classified material away from him. Reminder: Jared's portfolio includes striking a deal for Middle East peace, diplomacy with Mexico, diplomacy with China, reforming the criminal justice system, reinventing government.
- The President directed the Department of Defense to organize a Veteran’s Day military parade to show off the United States weaponry. The route would be from the White House, passed Trump’s DC hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue and end at the U.S Capitol. My guess is special seating and higher room with a view rates will be announced shortly by the hotel.
This is some of what happened in the last week:
The last 15 years or so, especially the last year, made me feel hopeless and helpless about our politics, the polarization of our country and our future. Two things the last week improved my outlook.
For horrific reasons, one is the attitude of the “kids” from Parkland, Florida who, even while enduring the shock and tragedy of their last week, have appeared on TV not to get their 15 minutes but to make a serious point – if you adults aren’t going to take action, get out of the way.
The second was a focus group convened for “60 Minutes” and moderated by Oprah Winfrey, a focus group of adults who demonstrated the polarization of our politics but also the desire to get along.
I’m sure all of you have seen those Parkland teenagers on camera the last few days. Whether YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter made them media-ready or, more likely, the seriousness urgency of their mission – to make theirs the last mass school shooting in our country – they were as impressive a group as I’ve seen in a long time.
To even have the presence of mind to start organizing protests, marches and web pages, in the aftermath of watching their friends murdered, is amazing. To articulate themselves as they have is unbelievable. Which gives me hope.
“60 Minutes” did a focus group a few months ago where they brought seven Trump voters and seven non-Trump voters together to talk about their differences. That was a good show. But what happened after the show is what brought Oprah and CBS’ cameras back:
Those 14 people stayed in touch, debated things on a private Facebook page and got together for activities, church or other reasons. They got closer and began to understand each other a little better. Not the politics so much but to see that those people they dislike so much – be they Trump voters or non-Trump voters – are people just like they are, with a different outlook on our society and our politics but with the same hopes and dreams for our country and their families.
One Trump guy even said at one point “we disagree on 80 percent of things but that means we can find common ground on 20 percent.” Would that our Congress adopted the same outlook. A non-Trump voter said the aim isn't to "denounce" Trump, the aim is to get adult leadership and not the Tweet-first-and-learn-the-facts-later approach we all live with now.
Whether those Parkland kids get what they want – common sense gun control and safe schools – now isn’t really the measure because they still have to convince the “adults” in Congress to take action. The measure is when they get to be voting age and their generation is in charge, things just may change. And I haven’t felt that way lately.
But now, I have hope.
(The scene, Veteran’s Day 2018. The location, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. We’re about to watch the military parade presented to us by Donald Trump, who turned all the opposition to the parade into support simply by calling it support and now will display the country’s weaponry just as any despotic country’s leader would. All pretense of it being to honor the troops has been abandoned.)
The camera focuses on the gold framed box where the VIPs sit. And, to the music of “Hail to the Leader” (the words have been changed from “Hail to the Chief”) out walks Leader Trump, in his white uniform with gold epaulets and a chest full of medals created especially for him. (The medals include one for having “the best bone spurs the world has ever seen” and one for “having the biggest button in the world.”)
“Ladies and Gentleman,” the parade announcer intones, “Your Leader, the man whom we worship, the ultimate voice on everything we need to know, the determiner of the truth, the Emperor of the United States, Donald J. Trump.”
The Emperor does a royal wave of his hand to all sides with a big smile on his face. He looks down at the Defense Secretary and proclaims, “Let the parade begin.”
Huge applause, cheering and clapping commence (because anything else would be treasonous.)
The Emperor has never smiled this broadly, not since he fired, or really embarrassed, his Attorney General to leave office and a new one, his son Donald Trump Jr. took over the Department of Justice. In Trump Jr.'s first speech accepting the appointment, he fired the deputy attorney general, the FBI director and the special counsel, announcing, “Our Leader is now free of being concerned about this witch hunt and now can truly focus on his job. Imagine how even greater things will be now that he has that witch hunt behind him and he can 100 percent focus on you (aside to his siblings, "that should do it)!”
Huge applause, cheering and clapping commence (because anything else would be treasonous).
Back at the parade, tanks are rolling from the Capitol to the White House. If they were elephants minority men and women with shovels would be following them to pick up the messes. But there are fewer minorities in the country now. Instead, trailing the tanks is an army of Washington, D.C., maintenance workers, laying new blacktop because the tanks are eating up the roadways.
As the tanks roll in front of the reviewing stand, Trump rises again to clap, as does everyone else in the VIP section because they don’t want to be charged with treason.
Huge applause, cheering and clapping commence (because anything else would be treasonous).
(And thus it could be not too many months from now unless our elected officials stop enabling Trump and speak out.)
B. Jay Cooper
B. Jay is a former deputy White House press secretary to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He also headed the communications offices at the Republican National Committee, U.S. Department of Commerce, and Yale University. He is a former reporter and is the retired deputy managing director of APCO Worldwide's Washington, D.C., office.