It takes a special kind of douchebaggery to turn what any normal person would consider to be a condolence call into bitterness, rancor, and self-delusion.
EL PASO — On a day when President Trump vowed to tone down his rhetoric and help the country heal following two mass slayings, he did the opposite — lacing his visits Wednesday to El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, with a flurry of attacks on local leaders and memorializing his trips with grinning thumbs-up photos.
A traditional role for presidents has been to offer comfort and solace to all Americans at times of national tragedy, but the day provided a fresh testament to Trump’s limitations in striking notes of unity and empathy.
When Trump swooped into the grieving border city of El Paso to offer condolences following the massacre of Latinos allegedly by a white supremacist, some of the city’s elected leaders and thousands of its citizens declared the president unwelcome.
In his only public remarks during the trip, Trump lashed out at Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, both Democrats, over their characterization of his visit with hospital patients in Dayton.
To quote Alvie Singer, “What I wouldn’t give for a large sock with horse manure in it! “
For a president — any president — to make a trip like this, it requires delicacy and tact, two things this current occupant wouldn’t know if they knocked him down. In the first place, just having the president show up requires all the security and advance teams which in a place that is recovering from a disaster, be it a mass shooting or a tornado, is a huge imposition. Second, the occupant has to realize that politics is going to be a part of the event no matter what, and it has to be dealt with on a level that this narcissist cannot fathom. And finally, they must be capable of discerning the situation, reading the crowd, and knowing just exactly what to say, or more importantly, what not to say.
We’ve had presidents who were clumsy at it but you grudgingly have to give them credit for at least trying; think George W. Bush finally showing up in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina after realizing that his fly-by in Air Force One was seen as careless. But most of them get it. Bill Clinton certainly did after the Oklahoma City bombing. But perhaps the best at it was President Obama after the church shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, at the funeral for Clementa Pinckney.
That is how you heal.