Ask yourself this. In a room full of students and parents of shooting victims, including a man who just lost his 18-year-old daughter – Do you want THE Donald Trump speaking to them off the top of his head?
The Trump presidency warrants many criticisms. Probably more than anything, Trump is criticized for what he says. He speaks carelessly off the cuff, he offends people, and rather than apologizing, he doubles down.
When I saw the snippets on the morning news of Trump’s conversation with these parents and victims, I sighed in relief! Trump actually spent more time listening than talking. He was sensitive (yes, Trump!) He chose his words carefully. Even when it came time for the most controversial part, when he proposed arming school teachers*, he proposed this about as tactfully as anyone could.
So how does a man like Trump manage to conduct himself professionally in such a sensitive situation? He does exactly what Obama did for every one of his great, optimistic speeches – he plans his words. Obama used the teleprompter, while Trump used good old fashioned note cards. A teleprompter wouldn’t have been practical in that setting anyway.
Yet for some reason, Washington Post’s Aaron Blake has a problem with this. In Wapo’s Analysis section (though this would have been more suited to Opeds), Blake claims that Trump’s note cards show a lack of empathy.** Now, if I had a history of saying horribly insensitive things on the spot, and I wanted to show empathy; I’d be sure not to say anything on the spot, and furthermore, to show that I put some serious thought into what I would say. If I had a history of over-talking people rather than listening, I’d show empathy by forcing myself to not fall into that bad habit, and instead, I’d listen for a change!
I know it’s a disappointment to those who enjoy sensationalizing every careless word that comes from Trump’s mouth, every awkward hand gesture, every golf game, and every socially awkward appearance he makes with Melania; but Donald Trump actually handled himself well this time. Like it or not, Trump will almost certainly be our President until 2021, and possibly until 2025. Wouldn’t we rather him do whatever he needs to do to conduct himself professionally and presidentially, than continue to speak off the cuff just because it makes for entertaining news?
But don’t worry Mr. Blake. This is Trump we’re talking about. Maybe next week he’ll insult a girl scout, or bump into an old lady with a walker or something. You can go to town on that.
*For the record, I think arming school teachers is a recipe for disaster, and definitely oppose making this a national policy. I’m mainly worried that in a chaotic classroom, a teacher might forget to lock it, and the wrong student will get a hold of it.
**Though Wapo published this article, they placed a video at the front of it showing clips from Trump’s meeting with these students, and you’ll see a very different Donald Trump in those clips than the one portrayed by the article that follows. It seems Blake is alone (or in the minority) on this issue at Wapo
***Note that I don’t fault Wapo simply for publishing this article, though as I not so subtly hinted above, I think it belongs in Opeds.