School shooting response, Trump versus Obama

Presidents Trump and Obama both had occasion to respond to major school shootings. The Washington Post‘s opinion section assembled a video contrasting their actions day by day.


I personally find the music annoying and heavy-handed. The two presidents’ responses speak for themselves, and we don’t need musical hints to cue what what feelings we should have about them.

Our reactions are also inevitably going to be influenced by what we think of the presidents in question. If you’re a fan of Barack Obama, you’re likely to find his response to the Newtown shooting far more appropriate and what we tend to think of as “presidential” in comparison with Trump’s words and actions following the one in Parkland.

If you’re a fan of Donald Trump, my guess is that you won’t so much think that he handled it better than Obama as believe that the Post must be treating him unfairly.

To me, the music on the soundtrack helps justify that interpretation, but in the end it’s clear enough that Trump’s response wasn’t what most decent people would think appropriate. I’ve honestly tried to look at this objectively, and Trump’s behavior is just strange. The most charitable thing I can say is that he might simply not feel things the way most of us do. But given Trump’s success as a salesman and as a TV star, it’s hard not to wonder why Trump isn’t better at this. I wasn’t a big supporter of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush either (though I admit I liked them more than I do Trump), but both did a vastly better job of fulfilling the president’s role in the wake of tragedy, that of a head of state. It’s apparent the people around him are trying to help, and when he delivers formal remarks in a controlled setting he’s OK. But almost always he soon spouts something offensive or just odd, as when he came to the defense of openly racist nuts in Charlottesville or did a lot of the things referenced in video above.

I suspect many of his supporters would say that he shows a refreshing willingness to speak and tweet in an unfiltered fashion, without regard for political correctness or public opinion. I can see this to an extent, and surely it’s why a lot of people in opinion polling have rated Trump more “honest” than, say, Hillary Clinton: because he doesn’t come across as scripted the way many other politicians do. Fair enough. The problem is that unfiltered Trump is pretty disturbing. And there’s more to honesty than openness. I can’t see applying the word “honest” to someone who lies so casually and often.

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