The wrong button

Yesterday people in Hawaii were minding their own business when suddenly many of them were informed there was an incoming ballistic missile.

According to a timeline released by the state, the alert was triggered at 8:07 a.m. local time when, during an internal drill, an employee hit the wrong button. For 13 minutes it went uncorrected, until the emergency management agency sent an update on social media.

So that was an unpleasant 13 minutes for those people.

Many reported first hearing that the alert was a mistake from the Twitter account of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).

Her tweet went out within about 15 minutes of the false alarm to her 174,000 followers. She was probably the first well-known authority figure to inform the public that there was no need to panic. News outlets picked up that clarification and spread it widely.

Trump, on the other hand…not so much. He was busy playing golf at the time. Three hours later he sent an urgent tweet about how the Fake Media are mean to him.

The White House did release a statement, well after the alert was revealed to be incorrect.

“The President has been briefed on the state of Hawaii’s emergency management exercise,” it read. “This was purely a state exercise.”

Well, they say he was briefed, but actually he was composing that Fake News tweet in his head instead of listening.

Consider his responses. First that statement, which has one obvious aim: To assure the American people that it wasn’t hisfault that the false alert went out — it was Hawaii’s. Then, that tweet, which shows what was preoccupying the president at the moment. Not that one of the 50 states had been briefly wracked with terror after a mistake was made by the people whose job it is to keep them safe. Instead, an insistence to the American people that the media is “fake news,” which was probably a response to the reports that trickled out bolstering a story from the Wall Street Journal that Trump had allegedly paid hush money to a porn star with whom he’d had an affair.

That was the thing that Trump urgently wanted to clear up: The media couldn’t be trusted when it reported on him.

Trump could have tweeted as soon as possible that the alert was a false alarm, sharing that information with millions of Americans immediately. He could have additionally shared information about what went wrong, and assured people that he would work to make sure that no such error happened again in the future. He could, at the very least, have sought to offer some emotional support to the people of Hawaii. He did none of these. He has, as of writing, done none of these.

Why not? Because he doesn’t care. He cares about himself, and that’s it.

Since the beginning of his presidency, Trump has rarely assumed that traditional leadership role of the presidency. He’s always taken a hostile attitude toward those who opposed his candidacy, certainly, but he’s also been apathetic about stepping up more broadly to inform, guide and assure the American public. The primary concerns Trump conveys to Americans are about Trump: About how he’s being treated, about how well he is doing, about the media and his opponents and how he just wants to make America great again. The White House releases statements and, as he did on Friday in recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Trump will read them or tweet about them. But it’s clearly not where his heart lies.

His heart lies with the wonder and glory that is Donald Trump, real estate peddler and liar extraordinaire.

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