President Donald Trump was obviously irate with the fact that many in the media blamed him for stoking the anti-immigrant bigotry behind the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. But like the much of the media, Trump can’t help but make everything about himself, as his response to the El Paso slaughter and the subsequent massacre in Dayton, Ohio, has made clear.
Though he didn’t speak publicly on Wednesday when he made the trip to Dayton, he lashed out at Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Mayor Nan Whaley after leaving the city, claiming they misrepresented his visit to the hospital. In fact, they didn’t misrepresent anything at all. All that seems to have happened is that they offered some criticisms of the president and didn’t sufficiently praise his performance at the hospital. He claimed that there was “tremendous enthusiasm” at the hospital.
And shortly after leaving Dayton, the president released a campaign ad-style video of his visit.
Between visits, the president also used Twitter to attack former Vice President Joe Biden and Fox News host Shep Smith.
When he arrived in El Paso, Trump finally did talk to the press. And again, he baselessly trashed Whaley and Brown — saying they shouldn’t be “politicking today.” His main gripe, it seemed, was that they criticized his failure to move on gun control, despite his previous promises. And he repeated the false claim that they misrepresented his visit to the hospital.
And again, Trump emphasized how great a welcome he got at the hospitals. “They couldn’t believe it,” he said. He falsely called Sherrod Brown a “failed” presidential candidate (though he considered entering the 2020 race, he eventually declined to do so). He called Whaley and Brown “very dishonest people” while he was, in fact, lying about them.
“The love, the respect for the office of the presidency, it was — I wish you could there to see it,” Trump told the reporters of his hospital visits in both cities. Of course, it was the White House’s decision not to bring press to the hospitals.
But everything, for Trump, is about him, and how people react to him. “We had an amazing day,” he said of his trip to visit mass shooting victims.
The Associated Press reported that Trump is privately calling senators as he presses for background check legislation, legislation that is almost certain to fail in the GOP-controlled Senate and that the president previously threatened to veto. Trump has toyed with the idea of embracing some gun control measures before after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, but he ultimately backed away from this idea. He doesn’t actually have ideological commitments about gun control or Second Amendment rights, he just embraces whatever ideas he thinks will serve him well in the moment.
As soon as the conversation has moved passed the topic of mass shootings, Trump will drop the idea. Because the point isn’t about what is good governance or what is good policy — it’s always about what is good for Trump.