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The Briefing: The consistently inconsistent president

WASHINGTON – If Ralph Waldo Emerson is right and a foolish consistency truly is the hobgoblin of little minds, then President Trump is, as he says of himself, "a real stable genius."

Consistency is not one of Trump's hallmarks, and his lack of it came on full display again Wednesday, in a televised White House meeting with senators from both parties to discuss guns two weeks after a 19-year-old with a military-style weapon murdered 17 people at a Florida high school.

The president praised the National Rifle Association's "great people" – and then talked about a series of gun control proposals that go far beyond anything the NRA would ever accept and far beyond what most Republicans in Congress would ever consider.

Only five days after musing that arming teachers might be the best way to stop school shootings, he talked about unilaterally banning "bump stocks," which basically turn semiautomatic weapons into machine guns. He talked about expanding background checks for gun purchases. He said that maybe the legal purchasing age for assault weapons should be moved up to 21, from 18. He even suggested that Congress may want to vote on an assault weapons ban.

Most stunningly of all, he advocated something that can only be described as gun-grabbing: If law enforcement suspects someone of posing a threat, the president said, officers should confiscate that person's weapons.

“I like taking the guns early,” Trump said. “Take the guns first, go through due process second.”

Hearing this, Michael Hammond, legislative counsel for Gun Owners of America, was gobsmacked.

"If everything talked about in that meeting was enacted, [Trump] would quickly surpass Barack Obama as the most anti-gun president in American history," Hammond told the Washington Examiner.

Gun rights advocates should not have been surprised, though, at what the Examiner called "Trump's one-man 'good cop, bad cop' routine with the NRA."

He's been good cop and bad cop, too, with the "Dreamers," the 800,000 or so young undocumented immigrants whose temporary legal status is now under threat after Trump ended an Obama-era program aimed at protecting them.

Trump said he has "great love" for the Dreamers, and came close to a comprehensive deal to protect them – only to change his mind and rage that the deal would still allow immigrants from (expletive) countries to come to America.

Similarly, on health care, Trump privately floated the idea of Medicare for all before pushing for the repeal of Obamacare.

If you sense a pattern in this lack of a pattern, you are correct. And that's to not even mention the consistent inconsistency in White House staffing, which the Washington Post's Dan Balz detailed in this exhausting-to-read paragraph:

Among top-level appointees, Trump has now turned over a chief of staff, a chief strategist, two deputy chiefs of staff, a national security adviser, two deputy national security advisers, a staff secretary, a longtime personal aide and a deputy assistant to the president who was a foreign policy adviser. He also fired an FBI director and an acting attorney general and saw a Cabinet officer resign in scandal.

So what has Trump been consistent about?

Tax cuts – and he got them passed.

Conservative judicial appointments – which he has made at a rapid pace.

Gutting federal regulations – which he has done at a faster pace than he promised.

There's a pattern here, too. There's hardly a Republican anywhere who opposes tax cuts, conservative judges or gutting federal regulations. So the president didn't really have to practice the art of the deal to get those deals done.

But on stickier issues such as guns and immigration – where, in some cases, Republicans disagree with Republicans – a president lacking in legislative experience and lacking a fixed philosophy seems to personify his party.

He disagrees with himself.

And at times like those, "The Art of the Deal" seems more like a book than a best practice.

Happening today

President Trump has another meeting on school safety, lunch with Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and a meeting with senators ... The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on the president's infrastructure plan ... House Speaker Paul Ryan details what's up next in Congress in a speech before the Ripon Society ... The National Cherry Blossom Festival announces the date when the blossoms will reach peak bloom.

Good reads

The Washington Post details President Trump's threats to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions – and its role in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation ... The New York Times digs deep into the "crisis actor" smear – and finds it dates back to the Civil War...Vox notes that right-wing media has been demonizing "Dreamers" ... The Wall Street Journal details the Senate's little-noticed efforts to trim banking regulations ... And the National Review comes to the defense of Trump's generals.

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