"I went from VERY successful businessman, to top TV star … to president of the United States (on my first try)," Mr. Trump said, referring to his "Apprentice" TV show and his real-estate empire. "I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!" ("Trump…says he's a very 'stable genius'")
"You have to do something very decisive. Number one, you can take the guns away immediately from people that you can adjudge easily are mentally ill, like this guy. You know, the police saw that he was a problem. … I think they should have taken them away anyway, whether they had the right or not … take the firearms first, and then go to court. … [I]t takes so long to go to court to get the due process procedures. I like taking the guns early. … So, you could do exactly what you're saying, but take the guns first, go through due process second." (President Trump during White House meeting on gun-control policy with congressional leaders.)
At the end of the report last quoted above, Ben Shapiro writes: "So yes, this is Trump just mouthing off. But it proves once again that on matters of governing philosophy, Trump is no conservative." Unfortunately, the notion that President Trump is "just mouthing off" is precisely what gives people permission to react viscerally to his words, with no comprehension of what they imply for the people of the United States, whom he is now supposed to represent.
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When President Trump described himself as not just "smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that," I suppose folks like Mr. Shapiro would say that was also just "mouthing off." But I think that the proof he cites (his very successful money-making career and presidential campaign) ought not to be dismissed. Neither should his consistently shrewd and effective attacks against his opponents during the GOP primaries; or the way his political punchlines appeal to the anger and frustration of grass-roots GOP voters fed up with being betrayed by their party's leadership.
Candidate Trump affected the speaking style and demeanor Hollywood projects as characteristic of the "working class." He still does. But a supremely intelligent strategist might very well conclude that this is exactly calculated to go straight to the guts of the grass-roots folks whose champion he intends to portray. Why isn't the extraordinary victory he achieved, against all expectations, taken as proof that he is just what he claims – a supremely intelligent strategist, with the added ability to mold himself into the instrument required to achieve his objectives?
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If we assume this is so, what objective does he seek to achieve by treating conformity with the U.S. Constitution as a matter of secondary importance, honored in the breach by some after-the-fact legal pantomime? ("Star Trek" fans will recognize that as the formal premise of Klingon justice, where trials take place as a stage show, since arrest alone proves guilt. It's telling that the fictional Klingon government is an imperial tyranny, ruled by whichever leader proves his might in the battle among competing factions.) To answer this question, President Trump's "mouthing off" must be taken seriously. Isn't it sensible, and even necessary, to take potentially dangerous arms away from people liable, willfully or not, to use them to do harm to themselves or others? But who is to make this judgment of liability?
These days many would answer, reflexively, "educated and trained psychiatrists and psychologists." But the temptation to accept their expertise is complicated by the fact that they do not always (ever?) simply agree among themselves; and by the fact that cadres in both professions have been systematically abused by dictatorial governments elsewhere to provide speciously plausible grounds for arresting, confining and otherwise curtailing the rights of citizens opposed to their actions and policies.
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Could it never happen here? In American courts today, people whose religious convictions require them to reject non-procreational sexual relations as violations of God's natural law are being judged for violating the "rights" of those who practice such relations. They are being called "haters" (by the SPLC and others). As such their views are being characterized as a form of violence, justifying the establishment of "safe zones" for the protection of those they allegedly threaten. Their livelihoods, and even their liberty, are becoming the object of judicial, legislative and private corporate persecution.
But if adherence to such views can be stigmatized as violently threatening, don't the people who express them pose a danger to others, whether they intend to do so, or not? Doesn't their mental state come into question, on that account, as a kind of illness requiring pre-emptive action to prevent harmful attack?
This transmutation of dissent into mental illness is precisely the method deployed by dictatorial regimes to deprive dissenters of their liberty and other civil rights, and bar them from voting and other such political activities. Seen in the narrow context of guns, President Trump's disregard for due process may seem like expedient pragmatism. But what if it sets an expansible precedent for abuses here in America, such as have already appeared elsewhere? Is Trump a frankly simple man, thoughtlessly shooting off his mouth? Or, is he a very smart and complex man, whose authoritarian instincts and nearly life-long membership in the society of left-leaning billionaire elitists blind him to the oppressive abuses left- and right-wing socialist dictatorships routinely practice?
Americans who care about our self-government as a people ought to err in favor of assuming intelligent purpose. We ought to stop accepting this, and other aspects of elitist faction demagoguery, as eccentric rants. No matter whether they come from Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mike Pence or Barack Obama, we must reinvigorate what our nation's founders called the "genius" of the American people. We must utterly reject anything that leads to such abuses. As for defending our schools, our workplaces, our malls and our places of worship, the Second Amendment mandates a better way.