If anyone thought that President Donald Trump’s trips to mass shooting sites in Texas and Ohio would proceed with a widely inspiring show of presidential leadership — or something — they were just fooling themselves. Traveling across the country throughout the day on Wednesday, Trump freely and repeatedly rushed to Twitter to offer complaints about those on the other side of the political spectrum, even tweeting at one point — while in between visits to mass shooting sites! — that he was “bored” by leading Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. The New York Times reports that behind the scenes, while these public meltdowns were going on that Trump couldn’t resist indulging in for just one day, he even “shouted at aides that no one was defending him” while on Air Force One traveling to El Paso, where 22 people were killed.
Making this meltdown even more glaringly off the edge, Trump personally used the exact same anti-immigrant rhetoric that the El Paso attacker used. Both of them droned on about a supposed immigrant “invasion” of the United States, but not only did Trump refuse to acknowledge any connection between him giving that ideology credence and the shooting unfolding, he did not stop with his relentless politicking for even the twelve hours required to visit mass shooting victims without the cloud of his platform of hate hanging over the occasion. Instead, he actively recommitted himself to his harsh political line and in conversation with reporters, the false idea that undocumented immigration poses some kind of special security threat to the United States.
He was not greeted with widely open in arms in either El Paso or Dayton, where 9 people were killed hours after the El Paso incident. In Dayton, demonstrators brought out (among other displays) one of the infamous balloons depicting Trump as a crying baby using Twitter. In El Paso, none of the shooting victims still being treated at the local University Medical Center agreed to meet with Trump, and outside the facility, The Times reports that Trump was met with with “a large white bedsheet that had the words “Racist, go home” written on it,” among other displays of fury.
Leaders also reacted with public displays of disgust about the president’s behavior. Biden asserted that Trump had “fanned the flames of white supremacy,” while Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (D) “charged that the president had used racist and divisive language,” in the description of The Times.
El Paso native, former local Congressman and current presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke directly and explicitly called Trump a “white supremacist,” which the president responded to on Twitter by asserting that the public figure should “be quiet.” In other words, there’s not an apparent moment of presidential self-reflection in sight, even as Americans grieve over the loss of dozens of people and grapple with the ongoing gun violence epidemic outside of these two incidents.
Trump has not even committed to any apparent specific plan of action on the federal level to address the rising threat of gun violence beyond the vapid assertion to Ohio leaders that “we’ll get things done.”
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