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Politics & Policy

Trump’s Gleeful Free-Association at the NRA Convention

President Donald Trump addresses the National Rifle Association (NRA) Convention in Dallas, Texas on May 4, 2018. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

President Trump was his usual self — animated and in good spirits — at the NRA’s annual meeting in Dallas, Texas, Friday.

Trump addressed an enthusiastic crowd with his usual off-script, free-associating, meandering yet often entertaining style. He boasted of the country creating 3.2 million new jobs, the unemployment rate dropping to 3.9 percent, and how Kanye West has helped double his support among African Americans. Trump also touched upon “the phony Russian witch hunt,”  how Paul Manafort “was a nice guy but he worked for me, for like, what, a couple of months,” the danger of “phony polls,” and how his administration is “decimating Obamacare.”

“I don’t know if the folks in Texas are going to like this, we got ANWR for Alaska, you might see that as competition,” he said with a smile. He turned to foreign policy, declaring, “We’re really doing well with North Korea,” and the president imitated a terrified Obama-era diplomat: “Don’t talk! If a terrible statement is made about the United States, don’t talk! Don’t say anything!” He mocked the Iran deal, asking, “Who signs a deal with somebody saying, ‘death to America’?”

Twenty minutes into his remarks, having addressed a wide variety of topics foreign and domestic, Trump asked, “So let’s talk about guns, shall we?”

Once Trump did focus on the issue of gun rights, he offered what was, at least by Trumpian standards, coherent and articulate arguments. He talked about how absurd it would be to attempt to ban cars, trucks, and vans in the aftermath of terrorists using vehicles to commit attacks. He described a hospital in the heart of London that resembled “a war zone because of horrible stabbing wounds . . . blood all over the floors of this hospital! Knives! Knives! Knives!”

“We recognize a simple fact,” Trump said. “The one thing that has always stood between the American people’s Second Amendment right and those who want to take away those rights has been conservatives in Congress willing to fight for those rights. And we’re fighting . . . The Constitution cannot be changed by bureaucrats, judges, or the United Nations. That’s why we are appointing judges who will interpret the Constitution as it’s written.”

But it didn’t take long for Trump to get sidetracked again, returning his attention to his signature issue. “We have the worst immigration laws in the world . . . We’re going to start defending our country, and we’re going to start defending our borders. We have laws written by people who truly could not love our country.”

Then he fumed against Jon Tester’s allegations against Ronny Jackson, White House physician and former nominee to be secretary of Veterans Affairs, and Democratic senators who voted against “Kate’s law,” a bill to increase the penalties for deported aliens who try to return to the United States. He talked about the greatness of the Dallas Police Department, and how the NRA’s leadership are “great Americans with great heart.”

Discussing the Parkland shooter, Trump said, “There has never been a case where more red flags have been shown . . . They’re cowards. He did all of his damage and slinked out of school. They are cowards, they know when there’s guns inside, they don’t want to go in.”

Trump described “very good political people” who told him that speaking at the NRA convention might be controversial. “They told me, ‘some people might not like it.’ I said, ‘Bye bye, gotta get on the plane.’”

The roughly 10,000 NRA members in attendance ate it up with a spoon. Any mention of the NRA’s top legislative priority in Congress, concealed-carry reciprocity among all 50 states, would simply have to wait until another day.

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