His discomfort with showing empathy in public

The Times is cold about Trump’s campaign stops in Dayton and El Paso yesterday.

Trump’s schedule was meant to follow the traditional model of apolitical presidential visits with victims, law enforcement officials and hospital workers after calamities like the mass shootings that resulted in 31 deaths in Dayton and El Paso and that created a new sense of national crisis over assault weapons and the rise of white supremacist ideology.

That plan went awry even before Trump, who has acknowledged his discomfort with showing empathy in public, departed Washington. On Tuesday night, he attacked on Twitter the former Democratic congressman from El Paso, Beto O’Rourke, and as he prepared to leave the White House on Wednesday morning, he went after the former Vice President Joe Biden. Both men are running for president and have been particularly harsh in their criticism of Trump after the two shootings, and Trump rose to the bait.

Because he really is that self-absorbed and callous and out of control. His outraged vanity is vastly more important to him than the agony of people mourning the dead in Dayton and El Paso. It takes a truly vile person to weight things that way.

The result was the latest example of Trump’s penchant for inflaming divisions at moments when other presidents have tried to soothe them, and further proof of his staff’s inability to persuade him to follow the norms of presidential behavior.

Even the most obvious, least contentious norms possible. “Sir, you need to pretend you care all day today. All day long. No breaks. No fight-picking interludes. No ragey outbursts – no sir not even on the plane, because people will still be watching. No ragey tweets sir. Sir…”

Trump himself finished the day claiming success. “We had an amazing day,” he told reporters in El Paso. Of his earlier stop in Dayton, he said: “The love, the respect for the office of the presidency — I wish you could have been in there to see it.”

See – that right there. That’s not it. No no no no no. That’s not what you’re there for, SIR. You’re not there to bathe in the attention. It’s not about love for you, jackass. Nobody needed to be there to see it, because it was not the point.

He was pissed off at Sherrod Brown because of a news conference he watched on the way to El Paso.

Brown, who took an otherwise respectful tone toward the president, suggested that some victims at the hospital had privately complained about Trump’s visit and complained that he has used racist and divisive language.

Trump, who believes he has been treated unfairly by Democrats and the news media despite his remarks on Monday condemning white supremacy and other hateful ideology, reacted with fury. As his plane soared toward a restive El Paso, he bellowed at aides that no one was defending him, according to a person briefed on what took place.

Because that’s all that matters, to him. When the world bursts into flames he’ll be bellowing that no one is flattering him.

Although Biden spoke for many Democrats on Wednesday when he said in a speech that Trump has “fanned the flames of white supremacy,” Trump again denied that before he departed from Washington in the morning. But even as he did so, he repeated his past claim of equivalence between extremists on the left and right.

“I am concerned about the rise of any group of hate,” Trump told reporters before leaving the White House. “Any group of hate, I am — whether it’s white supremacy, whether it’s any other kind of supremacy, whether it’s antifa, whether it’s any group of hate, I am very concerned about it.”

On both sides. On both sides.

In his comments to reporters Wednesday morning, Trump repeated his previous attacks on unauthorized immigrants and called Biden, his leading Democratic presidential rival, “a pretty incompetent guy” who has “truly lost his fastball.”

Sir sir sir sir we talked about this. Remember I said you have to pretend to care all day? That means in the morning, too, even before you leave. Yes sir, really.

The president held back from making any further public statements once he arrived in Dayton later in the morning, visiting privately with families and victims of the city’s weekend massacre as well as emergency and medical personnel at Miami Valley Hospital. But even as his spokeswoman said the event was never meant as a photo op, Dan Scavino, the president’s social media director, posted on Twitter pictures from inside the hospital “The President was treated like a Rock Star inside the hospital, which was all caught on video,” he tweeted. “They all loved seeing their great President!”

Woo hoo! Wheeeee! Awesome!

The White House quickly followed up with campaign-style video featuring images of Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, shaking hands with first responders and chatting with smiling hospital workers.

And in Trump’s case doing the thumbs up sign, just to make sure.

Brown said Trump “was received as well as you can expect by the patients.”

“They are hurting,” Brown said. “He was comforting. He and Melania did the right things. It’s his job in part to comfort people. I’m glad he did it.”

But later on Air Force One, Trump soon attacked the senator and the mayor on Twitter. “Their news conference after I left for El Paso was a fraud,” the president wrote. “It bore no resemblance to what took place.”

Scavino added on Twitter: “They are disgraceful politicians, doing nothing but politicizing a mass shooting, at every turn they can.”

But it was political. He put out a manifesto, remember? The shooter did? The manifesto is political. It’s not Brown and Whaley who are politicizing, it was the shooter who did.

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