WASHINGTON -- When President Donald Trump said a few days ago that now isn't the time for a debate about gun control, presumably he meant that we should respect a decent interval of time for mourning after the Las Vegas shooting before launching into a political discussion that historically has led nowhere.
If that's how he felt, it would have been easy enough (and sane) to say. But he didn't.
More likely, Trump doesn't want any distraction from (a) his brilliant PR idea to toss paper-towel rolls to thirsty, hurricane-sogged Puerto Ricans (cake to follow); (b) his photo op Thursday evening with leaders of the armed forces and their spouses during which he teased the "fake news" media he had summoned that the dinner gathering with military brass could be "the calm before the storm."
"What storm, Mr. President?" an intrepid reporter queried.
"You'll find out."
Whoa. Mr. Mystery Man has our attention now. Oh, so clever. Are we going to war? Will it be with the Islamic State? North Korea? Iran? Just you wait, fake newsies, just you wait.
Or perhaps he wants to keep the spotlight on (c) his request that the Senate Intelligence Committee investigate the media, without which his military charade would have merely been the world's widest-angle selfie.
No, actually, his absurd (unconstitutional) request was, likely, a smokescreen itself, as was the paper-towel toss, one hopes (surely no one's mind is that inert), and the photo op. Trump has mastered the Art of Distraction, lately to keep our eyes off the firefight within the White House and the ever-obvious fact this administration is staring at an eclipse without glasses and this president couldn't lead a starving dog to a tenderloin buffet.
The revolving door at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is like Saks' at Christmastime. Latest to the lineup is Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Others have included FBI Director James Comey, chief strategist Steve Bannon, chief of staff Reince Priebus, press secretary Sean Spicer, and national security adviser Mike Flynn, to name a few.
Next up, most likely, is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, not only because the president routinely undermines and contradicts the nation's top diplomat but because Tillerson clearly holds Trump in contempt. Most important, Tillerson recently told the truth.
Trump reportedly was furious upon returning from his "diplomatic coup" in Puerto Rico, which he seemed to have thought was a Spanish colony, only to see the face of his secretary of state on all his favorite TV channels.
According to NBC News, Tillerson had said the president is a "moron," which caused most sentient humans to shrug and roll their eyes as if to say, "No, really?" But this slight likely bothered Trump less than the fact that Tillerson's face, and not his, was on all the cable shows.
Trump's fan base, of course, was unfazed by Tillerson's reported insult, knowing that this term could not possibly apply to a president who recently had scolded Puerto Ricans for messing up the U.S. budget and implied that they were a shiftless lot who "want everything to be done for them." No siree. That person would be a genius.
As Americans gnaw their nails wondering which war this way comes -- or when Tillerson will be replaced -- Trump is focused on decertifying the nuclear deal with Iran, continuing to taunt North Korea's Kim Jong Un and trying to convince the rest of the world that he's got everything under control.
Thus, the very last thing Trump needs right now is a political shootout over guns.
Now's not the time, he says. Apparently, however, many if not most Americans -- about 90 percent of whom would support expanding background checks -- beg to differ. If not now, when?
The pessimist notes that if the murder of 20 6- and 7-year-olds at Sandy Hook Elementary School resulted in no sensible restrictions to gun ownership, then the slaughter of 58 country music fans isn't likely to, either. But wait, we have a headline: Even the National Rifle Association has called for regulating (not banning or confiscating) "bump stocks" -- the attachment used by the Las Vegas shooter to essentially convert a semi-automatic into an automatic weapon, the better to kill the most. And Republicans are expressing a willingness to consider restrictions.
You'd think by the reactions -- this is really, really HUGE, editorialists have clamored -- that the NRA decided to support banning from private ownership all semi-automatic weapons, which were created solely for the purpose of killing human beings. But, no. Like Coco Chanel, who always removed one bauble before leaving home, the NRA is offering to eliminate one accessory from a warehouse of gaudy, bloodletting fashions.
Talk about distractions. Or was this the artifice of a deal?