WASHINGTON — The phrase "rope-a-dope" comes to mind when watching President Trump deal with the youngsters' crusade against lethal firearms and the eternal controversy on DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
The term was invented by a sportswriter about 40 years ago to explain how boxer Mohammed Ali defeated a bigger and stronger and seemingly tougher George Foreman. Instead of confronting Foreman in the center of the ring, Ali maneuvered Foreman to the edges and let his attacker wear himself out inflicting punishment not on Ali, but on the ropes.
With DACA, Trump convened a few bipartisan meetings at the White House to "solve" a problem he himself created. President Obama in 2012 gave about 800,00 undocumented child immigrants a kind of amnesty.
Trump last year rescinded the order effective today, actually. Then the one-time game show host made a few preposterous promises he had no intention of keeping, leaving the multitudes swinging in the winds.
Now we are asked to believe that Trump is confronting the National Rifle Association in the wake of 17 murders committed with an AR-15 assault rifle at a Parkland, Fla., high school. The NRA contributed a reported $50 million to Trump's 2016 campaign, out of a total $417 million the NRA spent on the federal election in 2016, according to OpenSecrets.org. The NRA effectively owns the Republican majorities of the House and Senate.
The Parkland massacre seems to have changed the environment – at present – for the NRA and the president the organization helped elect.
Corporations have dropped their affiliations with the NRA, large sporting goods retailers are pulling assault rifles off their shelves and banning firearm purchases to those under 21.
In order to position himself on the right side of the issue – for now – Trump accused Republicans of being afraid of the NRA. At the same time, Trump proposed that the federal government on mere suspicion of mental illness confiscate a person's weapon and let the accused sue to get his weapon back.
It's worth a cable news cycle or two, and a blip on your hand-held device but it is not meant to be taken any more seriously than the president's claim that – unarmed – he would have rushed the Parkland killer. This is classic "rope-a-dope," designed to let the president buy time and make people forget.
Trump's confiscation proposal runs right up against hallowed parts of our Constitution. The code forbids so-called "ex post facto" actions – which means that the government frowns on actions that would make illegal something that was previously lawful. The Constitution bars Congress from passing such laws, and bars the states from passing such laws.
But the charge that the Republicans are afraid of the NRA, which is eminently true, may be turned on some Democrats. While Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has demanded congressional action stop the sale of some 44 kinds of assault weapons, particularly the AR-15 used at Parkland, and last year in Las Vegas, many Senate Democrats are playing their own version of "rope-a-dope" with the gun laws.
Last Thursday, Sen. Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., held a scrum for reporters in which he outlined what the minority wants. No confrontation with the NRA here. Schumer said the Senate Democrats want stronger background checks at gun shows (yawn), laws empowering family to seek court orders to temporarily disarm dangerous individuals (yawn) and a Senate debate on assault weapons.
Banning assault weapons is the issue.
Meanwhile, the 4th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in Richmond a few days ago ruled the sales of 44 kinds of assault weapons which are banned under Maryland law are not protected by the Second Amendment of the Constitution. In a 10-4 ruling, the court said assault weapons are "weapons of war" and not protected by the Second Amendment which guarantees the right of average citizens to "keep and bear arms."