The empathy deficit

What does Trump’s List of Things to Say to Kids Whose School Was Just Shot Up tell us about Trump?

Mr. Trump’s use of notes, captured by news photographers who covered the extraordinary listening session with parents, students and teachers who lost loved ones in the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., was not unusual.

But the nature of Mr. Trump’s written prompts was atypical. Composed beneath a heading that read “The White House,” they seemed to suggest that the president needed to be reminded to show compassion and understanding to traumatized survivors, an impression that Mr. Trump has sometimes fed with public reactions to national tragedies that were criticized as callous.

The Times, being (according to the Times) the Paper of Record, hedges everything. “Seemed to suggest,” “an impression,” “sometimes,” “were criticized as.” The written prompts were both horrifying and laughable because they underlined what a callous brutal narcissist he is.

[C]onsoler in chief has been a role that the president has been slow and somewhat reluctant to embrace — especially in contrast to his predecessor. Images of Mr. Trump hurling rolls of paper towels at hurricane victims in Puerto Rico last year and grinning broadly for photographs with emergency medical workers from Parkland have illustrated the challenge.

To put it mildly.

Samantha Fuentes, who was shot in both legs during the Parkland assault, said she had felt no reassurance during a phone call from the president to her hospital room last week.

“He said he heard that I was a big fan of his, and then he said, ‘I’m a big fan of yours too.’ I’m pretty sure he made that up,” she said in an interview after being discharged from the hospital. “Talking to the president, I’ve never been so unimpressed by a person in my life. He didn’t make me feel better in the slightest.”

Ms. Fuentes, who was left with a piece of shrapnel lodged behind her right eye, said Mr. Trump had called the gunman a “sick puppy” and said “‘oh boy, oh boy, oh boy,’ like, seven times.”

The account of the call was reminiscent of the last time Mr. Trump drew public scrutiny for his reaction to a tragedy, with his private condolence call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, one of four American soldiers killed in an attack in Niger.

In that case, in October, Ms. Johnson said she had been deeply offended by Mr. Trump’s words and tone, saying that he had not referred to her husband by name, calling him only “your guy,” and had upset her by saying that Mr. Johnson “knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway.”

Mr. Trump quickly lashed out on Twitter, saying he had spoken respectfully to the widow.

I wonder if he’ll lash out at Samantha Fuentes today.

On the other hand the father of Meadow Pollack says he was great.

Mr. Pollack, who brought his wife, two sons and Meadow’s longtime boyfriend, said Mr. Trump signed his son’s white and gold “Make America Great Again” trucker hat and spoke at length with the family. The president insisted that he and his family, who had not planned to attend the listening session, accompany him through the iconic White House colonnade and into the event.

Fair’s fair. He doesn’t treat everyone like a representative of the peasantry.

But another participant in the White House session, Samuel Zeif, an 18-year-old student at Stoneman Douglas High School who survived the shooting and spoke tearfully at the White House on Wednesday of the experience, said Mr. Trump had done little to comfort or console him.

He said he had been particularly stung to see pictures of the notecard after it was over.

“Everything I said was directly from the heart, and he had to write down ‘I hear you,’” Mr. Zeif said in an interview. “Half the time during that meeting, his arms were crossed — I kept wanting to say, ‘Mr. President, uncross your arms.’ To me, that is the international sign for closemindedness; it’s really just a big ‘no.’”

At least when Trump does it it is. He does it in combination with that scowl, and it does indeed look like the international sign for “fuck off.”

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