As the casualties in the Las Vegas shooting rose rapidly, White House officials urged President Donald Trump to show a measured response or Express Empathy : no tweets with speculation, any bragging or bluffing.
The White House chief of staff, John Kelly, encouraged him to send a simple tweet of condolence. His advisers wrote gloomy statements in which Trump quoted the Bible.
Some people in the president’s circle were encouraged to hear him connect with the tragedy on a personal level, a sign that he was capturing the impact of the attack.
Prepping The President
His advisers prepped him to react to the massacre in a human and felt way and reminded him of the problematic history in such delicate moments.
Frequently, Trump has struggled to take on a central role as President for every American, to comfort people who are feeling great pain, regardless of their political affiliation or whether or not they support the White House agenda.
It is a quality that is rarely analyzed or debated during presidential campaigns, but that can shape the way people perceive whether their president is successful or not.
Trump’s difficulties to feel empathy were exposed in full light last week when he responded to two disasters at the same time with very different results.
Ultimately, in Las Vegas, the president adhered to the speech prepared in advance, thus avoiding controversy and assumed the role of national consolatory.
President’s responded to the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. There, the president attacked the mayor of San Juan, urged officials to say positive things about his government and threw packages of paper towels to people in a relief center as if throwing shirts at a sporting event.
This version is based on conversations with 11 White House aides and others who spoke to the president during the last week.
Presidents are Remembered for their Response in Difficult Times
Bill Clinton’s speech following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 helped him straighten out his troubled presidency.
The speech that George W. Bush gave over a loudspeaker on top of the wreckage of the World Trade Center helped the country heal after the Sept. 11 attacks.
But Bush’s presidency never fully recovered because of the poor response from his government to the disasters caused by Hurricane Katrina, which left many with the perception that he was far removed from the suffering of the victims.
In the early days following Maria’s passage into Puerto Rico, Trump was more focused on his dispute with NFL players that kneel during the performance of the national anthem.
As images of the devastation in Puerto Rico began to appear more frequently on television, Trump’s assistants began to give him more reports. However, the president complained about the island’s debt and focused on criticism towards the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, according to three White House officials and external sources.
Trump decided to respond via Twitter, against the advice of Kelly and national security adviser Tom Bossert.
The Public is Watching
Only 32% of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, while 49% disagree, according to a poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.