If all you knew about Donald Trump was his remarks in response to the Las Vegas shooting, you might be impressed.
We call upon the bonds that unite us, our faith, our family, and our shared values. We call upon the bonds of citizenship, the ties of community, and the comfort of our common humanity. Our unity cannot be shattered by evil, our bonds cannot be broken by violence, and though we feel such great anger, at the senseless murder of our fellow citizens, it is our love that defines us today. And always will. Forever.
In times such as these, I know we are searching for some kind of meaning in the chaos, some kind of light in the darkness. The answers do not come easy. But we can take solace knowing that even the darkest space can be brightened by a single light and even the most terrible despair can be illuminated by a single ray of hope.
This morning there were no rage tweets—only this:
I am so proud of our great Country. God bless America!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 3, 2017
But that is a very different reaction than we’ve seen from him in the past.
During his campaign, Trump made the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., which was carried out by Islamic radicals, a centerpiece of his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. “I would handle it so tough, you don’t want to hear,” he boasted days after the attack.
And Trump reacted to the shooting at an Orlando nightclub with self-praise, suggesting that the incident was a symptom of weak Democratic policies. “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism,” he tweeted the day after.
This is the same president who, at the Republican convention, said this:
Our Convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country.
Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally, some have even been its victims.
I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored.
He is also the one who, during his inaugural speech, talked about the crime, drugs and gangs that have stolen so many lives and suggested that the carnage stops here and now. These have been themes Trump has focused on since he began his presidential campaign by suggesting that Mexican immigrants were criminals, rapists and drug dealers. Since he came into office, this is the president who set up a special unit at the Department of Homeland Security to support the victims of crime perpetrated by immigrants, but eliminated funding for the group that was countering white radicalization. At a time when Black Lives Matter was raising awareness about police brutality against African Americans, he called for law enforcement to “get rough.”
That is the context in which we have to put the president’s remarks yesterday. Of course the one difference between then and now is that the Las Vegas shooting was perpetrated by a white man, whose victims were predominantly white people. All of the sudden there was no talk of carnage, combined with promises of a swift and sure response. Instead, we hear about a “search for meaning” in which the “answers do not come easy.”
I would actually applaud Trump’s remarks yesterday if I thought for a second that they would be replicated if the shooter was black, brown or Muslim. We have enough experience with this president to be certain that would never have happened. If you want to know what a white supremacist looks like, a pretty good indicator would be the different way they respond to white-on-white violence.