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Parkland shooting reveals Trump's deepest flaws

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters."When ...

Posted: Feb 25, 2018 2:21 PM
Updated: Feb 25, 2018 2:21 PM

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters."

When then-candidate Donald Trump raised his hand to imitate firing a pistol, he couldn't have known that a mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school would turn his bravado into shame. Today his bragging performance -- something no thinking candidate would ever say and do -- is a haunting reminder of his failure as a politician, a president and a human being.

At other moments he stressed that he was so rich that he couldn't be bought by campaign donors, which meant that only he could act on the nation's behalf without yielding to special interest pressure.

Now, in the days after Parkland, when a response -- independent of special interest pressure -- is greatly needed, the President cannot deliver. Were he really the man he promised to be during the campaign, he would have been free to advocate any policy. However, during the campaign, he benefited from help by the NRA to the tune of $31 million - nearly $11.5 million to support Trump and almost $20 million against Hillary Clinton -- and voters who listen to the organization supported him. Thus, when he sat down with grieving survivors of Parkland and other shootings, he was burdened like any other politician who tries to make common cause with ties to a special interest group. With dry eyes, and little apparent emotion, Trump offered the idea of adding more guns to schools, by arming teachers.

Trump won a job that requires some of the virtues he advertised and many more, including the ability to set ego aside to unite a diverse and disparate people. At his first opportunity to do so -- his inaugural speech -- Trump showed he didn't possess this quality as he claimed to be taking office at a time of "American carnage" and appealed only to the loyalists who he thought would let him shoot someone on Fifth Avenue.

With his first serious order, which attempted to close America's borders to people coming from certain Muslim majority countries, Trump showed he would use his special powers -- independence and the strength of his base -- to pursue unpopular ends through means that many, including some federal judges, found questionable.

Time and again, Trump demonstrated that his do-it-my-way ego, and not some special gift for leadership, was driving his presidency.

- Faced with a planet-threatening environmental catastrophe, he pulled out of the agreement that binds every other nation on Earth to a plan to slow climate change.

- Confronted with the fact of Russia's effort to influence our election and degrade our democracy, he has cozied up to Vladimir Putin.

- Challenged by a troubled immigration system that has left many so-called Dreamers in limbo, he created a crisis by moving to end DACA and then failing to craft a real solution.

- Given the opportunity to bring America's infrastructure up to snuff, he hasn't been able to make any real progress.

With every challenge, Trump has had the opportunity to fulfill his promise to be the president he promised to be. Time and again, he either refused or failed to understand the actual power he possessed. In between the ceremonies where he signed documents with a flourish, Trump could have fashioned bipartisan majorities to enact policies most Americans favor. Nowhere is this more true than it is in the area of gun violence.

Repeated polls have found that a majority of Democrats and Republicans supports background checks for every gun purchase, barring people on the no-fly list from purchasing guns, a federal database to track all gun sales and a ban on assault-style rifles.

The 17 people killed at Parkland were shot by a gunman wielding the overwhelming power of an assault weapon. The same type of firearm was used in recent mass murders in Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Texas, Orlando, Florida, and San Bernardino, California. The same weapon was used in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012.

Sandy Hook, where 20 first graders and six adults were killed, was supposed to change everything, but it didn't. Politicians captured by the donations and voting power of the National Rifle Association blocked the kinds of laws most Americans favored and the killings continued.

The independence Trump claimed was supposed to make it possible for him to use common sense to solve serious problems. He was, as he told me once, "the people's billionaire" and this meant that he had a kind of superpower that would enable him to defend the nation, heal partisan divides, create coalitions, and generally Make America Great Again.

But by forming an alliance with the NRA, President Trump would have to rely on some other qualities to act with the kind of strength he claims to possess. Unfortunately, even he seems to know that he is deficient.

Study the notes written on a card the President held, which a photographer captured, and you see he wanted to remember to at least demonstrate that he cared. At the top of the list was, "What would you want me to know about your experience?" At the bottom is written, "I hear you."

The empathy Trump's notecard stressed that he practice has come naturally to most presidents. In similar times of crisis, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and others have instinctively shared in the grief of victims and been moved to act. The fact that Trump needed a written reminder to show sensitivity, curiosity, kindness, compassion, courage and conviction is a pathetic and ultimately unsettling sign that even after a year he can't quite do his job.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 28770

Reported Deaths: 1092
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds224739
DeSoto144216
Madison124234
Jones109149
Neshoba97070
Lauderdale89479
Rankin86012
Forrest82942
Harrison79410
Scott75715
Copiah58016
Leake56519
Jackson55716
Holmes53641
Wayne52212
Lee51816
Oktibbeha51625
Washington5129
Yazoo4786
Leflore47449
Warren46317
Lowndes45912
Lincoln43734
Lamar4317
Grenada3965
Pike39312
Monroe37529
Lafayette3684
Attala35523
Newton3329
Sunflower3216
Covington3175
Bolivar29813
Panola2956
Adams28018
Simpson2713
Chickasaw26418
Tate2648
Marion26311
Pontotoc2616
Jasper2516
Noxubee2478
Pearl River24532
Clay24410
Winston2446
Claiborne23910
Marshall2123
Smith21111
Clarke20424
Coahoma1906
Union1819
Walthall1794
Kemper17614
Yalobusha1667
Lawrence1621
Carroll16111
Humphreys1309
Itawamba1308
Tippah12711
Webster12610
Calhoun1244
Montgomery1242
Hancock12313
Tallahatchie1153
Jefferson Davis1074
Prentiss1003
Greene968
Jefferson963
Wilkinson929
Tunica903
Amite842
George753
Tishomingo731
Choctaw724
Quitman690
Perry634
Alcorn601
Stone541
Franklin392
Benton270
Sharkey270
Issaquena81
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 41362

Reported Deaths: 983
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4532143
Montgomery3875102
Mobile3797134
Tuscaloosa210739
Marshall162210
Lee124537
Shelby110923
Madison11047
Morgan10203
Walker87123
Franklin86314
Dallas8419
Elmore83614
Baldwin7359
Etowah64413
DeKalb6415
Butler60727
Chambers60027
Tallapoosa57269
Autauga55312
Unassigned50724
Russell5030
Lowndes45820
Lauderdale4576
Houston4464
Limestone4290
Cullman4114
Pike4075
Colbert3775
Bullock3649
Coffee3592
Barbour3331
Covington3327
St. Clair3192
Marengo29911
Hale29621
Escambia2936
Wilcox2848
Talladega2827
Calhoun2805
Sumter27912
Clarke2686
Dale2620
Jackson2522
Winston2373
Blount2181
Pickens2176
Chilton2152
Marion20613
Monroe2052
Choctaw19212
Randolph1889
Conecuh1866
Greene1788
Macon1778
Bibb1761
Perry1541
Henry1303
Crenshaw1243
Washington1027
Lawrence1000
Cherokee797
Lamar711
Geneva700
Fayette671
Clay612
Coosa571
Cleburne301
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