Last night I wrote a brief post about President Trump’s visit to a Florida hospital which treated some of the students injured in the Parkland shooting. I said that Trump’s effort wouldn’t satisfy progressives and sure enough the Washington Post published a story last night which reads less like straight news and more like an opinion piece comparing Trump unfavorably to former President Obama:
President Trump, as he often does while responding to natural disasters, mass shootings or unfolding crises, spent much of his time congratulating the responders instead of memorializing the victims of Wednesday’s school shooting during a visit here Friday…
Trump said he saw victims at the hospital — he was not seen doing so — and even described one woman who suffered bullets to her lungs. That anecdote, though, quickly became about the officers, who responded within 20 minutes and saved her life…
He did not give an emotional or rousing commemoration to the victims — like President Barack Obama’s after a mass shooting at a Charleston, S.C., church — nor did he publicly greet any families whose children were killed in the attack. Speaking at a funeral or a large vigil was not on the agenda. There were no calls for American resolve. There were no tears…
His critics and even some allies say he should look at changing laws after this latest mass shooting, and he probably would have been greeted by protesters had he visited a larger and less controlled setting, aides conceded…
The victims and those present at a vigil who called for tougher gun-control laws did not see the president.
All of this was in reaction to Trump’s one-minute long press availability at the end of his 35-minute visit to the hospital. A big focus here is what Trump didn’t do and didn’t say and even the protesters who didn’t show up but might have wanted to. The writer also uses the classic ‘some say…’ formulation to make the pitch for gun control Trump hasn’t promised. The author even makes a point of saying that no one saw Trump meet with the victims as if that might be in doubt. But Trump posted photos on Twitter after the visit, two of which showed him in the room with one of the victims.
Today, a Washington Post editor praised the paper’s “dispatch” on Twitter (h/t the Hill):
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) February 17, 2018
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders took issue with that.
Actually @PhilipRucker it’s not very nice, but it is very misleading. @POTUS spent private time w/ victims of the shooting & their families. Out of respect for them he didn’t bring media into their hospital rooms but don’t let the truth get in the way of your anti-Trump narrative https://t.co/APx9ZSbpEh
— Kayleigh McEnany 45 Archived (@PressSec45) February 17, 2018
Here’s the bottom line. Donald Trump is not Barack Obama. Clearly many people, including some journalists and editors at the Washington Post, are disappointed by that. What they want is a grand, Obama-esque show of emotion, complete with tears. And, if we’re honest, they want that to be followed by a commitment to more gun control. They aren’t getting what they want from Trump because it turns out, he’s not Barack Obama.
There’s no doubt Obama was exceedingly good at capitalizing on tragedy. People naturally tend to rally around the leader when something awful happens and Obama was good at quietly making himself the focus of that attention, not just after shootings but after natural disasters of all kinds. I personally found that a little creepy and emotionally manipulative. I don’t really like the idea of a president who helps collate our emotions except maybe when the nation is at war. Other people feel differently and it’s perfectly fine to complain that Trump’s response is not as emotionally satisfying as Obama’s response to similar events. Even the Post’s journalists are free to feel disappointed about all of this, but they should either save it for the opinion pages or just stop pretending they’re offering straight news stories.