I was happy to contribute to Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s piece at The Washington Post. Here is a taste:
Trump’s speech mimics a long American tradition of using religion to address a national tragedy.
“We expect our president to address evil and calm fears in this way,” said John Fea, a professor of history at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. “There is nothing in the United States Constitution that says the president must do this, but we still expect it from the man or woman who holds the office.”
Trump’s speech on Thursday closely followed a familiar presidential script, according to Daniel K. Williams, a professor of history at the University of West Georgia. The speech showed how Trump, who is unlike his predecessors in so many ways, conformed.
After the Charlottesville protests last year, Williams said, many Americans expected a speech to follow these categories, but Trump got into trouble for not delivering one and instead suggesting that there was blame on “both sides.”
Trump used the word “evil” in his speeches last year after the mass shootings at a church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., and during a concert in Las Vegas.
Read the entire piece here.
Here are some additional thoughts about Trump’s speech today:
- The reference to prayer is pretty standard fare for presidential speeches in the wake of tragedy, but in Trump’s case it seems like pandering to his evangelical base. As an evangelical, I believe in prayer. It is necessary in times like this. But as many are saying on social media (and have said in the wake of other shootings), prayers aren’t enough. We need to take action on guns. Even the court evangelicals believe that the purpose of government is to protect its citizens. Yet don’t expect them to condemn the pro-NRA politicians any time soon. The court evangelicals need the NRA lobby to help them get the right candidates, with the right views on abortion and religious liberty, into office.
- Trump’s reading off the teleprompter makes him sound like he lacks emotion and empathy. I am reminded of when Obama started to cry in the wake of Sandy Hook.
- Trump says: “Answer hate with love, answer cruelty with kindness.” I am thinking about this phrase in light of Trump’s immigration and “America first” policy. I thought the same thing when he said “we must embrace a culture…that embraces the dignity of life.” The same could be said of his call to create “deep and meaningful human connections.” Trump can’t really mean this. His policies and policy programs have cultivated division and disunity. This is empty rhetoric, not the words of presidential leadership.