On Monday morning, Trump called for unity in the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Trump’s remarks were fine. Other than referencing scripture a bit much for my liking, it was the measured response you’d expect from a president in the wake of an unspeakable tragedy. But because it was Donald Trump, pundits felt the need to remind us that his words were appropriate and good.
Moments after the speech, CNN’s John King said there was nothing disputable about what Trump said. Kate Bolduan (on whose show King appeared), said the speech was pitch perfect, and there was no reason to inject politics into the statement.
There has to be some weird psychological reason for this, because it happens almost every time Trump acts or says things according to familiar scripts. Take the widespread praise for his first speech to Congress, when CNN’s Van Jones said Trump “became president.” About a month later, Fareed Zakaria said the same thing on the same network when Trump ordered airstrikes in Syria.
It’s almost as if veteran journalists will take any chance to give him credit because they’re so tired of seeing him screw up. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism for covering this oafish president. Maybe it’s a byproduct of being “balanced” when so much of their Trump coverage has been negative. But that’s overlooking the negativity that Trump has brought on himself. His brief moments of empathy don’t make up for the countless vile things he’s said and done with the platform of the presidency.
Trump injects his politics into everything he says and does, like all politicians. The problem is that Trump is inherently negative and divisive, which make attempts to coax viewers into “leaving politics out of it” all the more puzzling. This is a guy that, while golfing, blasted the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico for criticizing his hurricane relief efforts.
There have been too many “fine people on both sides” moments to gloss over. Trump made some measured remarks today, but as he’s proven before, he doesn’t even need a full news cycle to screw that up. And given his stance on the Second Amendment, you can bet we’ll be hearing soon enough about how this shooting has nothing to do with gun control.
The best predictor of future behavior is past performance. That’s not to say Trump can’t make a reasoned statement from time to time. But rather than reminding us how well he spoke or sincere he seemed, pundits can try to remember this is just what he’s supposed to do.